Week 7: Music Makes Waves

Wednesday 15 Mar 2017 at University of Birmingham

Synopsis of Symposium:

What makes music a social science and a tool for therapy? How and why does it touch the human spirit, both individually and collectively? How do science and technology influence the way we engage with music and each other? The Music Makes Waves Symposium will host trailblazing speakers from the worlds of music, art and science, examining the role that music plays in our everyday lives – looking at its social and neurological impacts and how it contributes to wider culture.

Everything about this description attracted me. Following a tip off from Lyle Bignon, I skipped official MA classes (as it unfortunately fell on a Wednesday) and attended what was sure to be a room full of interesting people with a shared passion for music. The speakers, attendees and organisational staff didn’t disappoint, and it proved to be an invaluable day of networking and learning, which has contributed already to my MA by practice. Art and Science merged as researchers and developers from all over the world showcased their innovative projects, all with music as the central theme.

A 300-year-old supernova remnant created by the explosion of a massive star.

  1. Stefano D’Alessio – composer and new media artist from Vienna has developed interactive soundscape projects using technology to create performance art direct from the audience.
  2. Martin Clayton – Professor of Ethnomusicology at Durham University examines music interaction and entrainment (to be in time with each other) and synchronisation by looking at different cultures’ musical patterns and interactions, both with musicians and audiences. He largely uses footage of African drumming and South Indian music.
  3. Tasawar Bashir, Scott Wilson and Afia Masood – the pioneering Qawwali Shrine project has been mapping physiological, psychological and emotional responses to Qawwali music and exploring whether states of enlightenment and feelings such as spiritual bliss can be experienced, measured and artistically represented through new technology.
  4. Dr Remee Timmers from Sheffield University has been analysing the other sense used when listening to music other than auditory, in particular relationship to synaesthesia (whereby people can taste or visualise music.
  5. James and Baladino – from Birmingham Conservatoire discussed Music Interaction Design at Integra Lab – for creating interactive audio
  6. Alan Wing, Prof of HUman Movement, School of Psychology, University of Birmingham has been carrying out a scientific investigation of the pecking order of musicians in a group

This was an invaluable experience and chance to meet people with similar interests, but working in totally different fields, as well as hear some groundbreaking pieces of research and development.

The Qawwali Shrine Project was really interesting in relation to my project. They have been doing ‘listening tests’ on elders and carried out questionnaires, surveys and interviews in the early stages of their research. Although our projects differ, there were some overlapping elements and similarities and it was really useful meeting this team, particularly Tas. Their project had elements of archive, heritage, personal history and education which were both fascinating and enlightening. The live demonstration incorporating new media with traditional Qawwali music to build unique soundscapes was my favourite part of the day. The Dome at Birmingham University was the perfect acoustic setting for this (albeit brief) interdimensional musical journey, and I’d love to follow this project further, as well as the others mentioned.  Check out some of these links if you get the chance:



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