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Hall Green District – Initial Ramblings

January 31, 2018

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My name is Grandmaster Gareth and I’ve been commissioned to work with four local community groups across the Hall Green District. After emailing and meeting with the group organisers, I shall be collaborating with The Springfield Project, The Ashiana Community Project in Sparkbrook, All Saints Youth Project in Kings Heath and Robin Hood Academy in Hall Green.

I’ve been writing songs and music since I was 9 and somehow have managed to turn this into my job. I have an 8 piece band called Misty’s Big Adventure who have been going for 22 years. We have toured all over Europe and released numerous albums. I also compose music for computer games, TV and theatre. When not touring, being a composer is quite an insular profession. Much of my time is spent in my studio making odd noises in the early hours of the morning. Part of what appealed to me about the for-Wards project was getting to work with people outside of the music bubble! When discussing which local groups to approach, I was keen to not work with people who were already musicians. I felt it would be far more interesting to hear the ideas of people with no previous composing or performing experience, and also to hopefully give them an opportunity to see making music is something anyone can do. These days anyone with a computer is a potential producer and composer, all you need is creativity.

A number of years ago I did a Peel Session, and I came up with an idea for it which involved recording people individually making sounds into a microphone for three minutes to a click track. The click was the only thing they heard, so it was totally up to them what they did. The only thing that mattered was they were vaguely in time. I recorded 24 different people and then unmuted all the tracks and played it back. It was incredible! Mouth percussion, gargled singing, hand clapping, belly slapping, whistling, screaming, beat boxing and some other very strange noises combined to make a piece of music I could never have written, and at times featured harmonies and rhythms I hadn’t really heard before. In a good way! I have been meaning for a long time to explore this idea in more depth, and this is what I shall be working on with the groups. Alongside this we shall be making field recordings of the local area to include in the pieces based on their suggestions and local knowledge. And finally a session where we look at making sounds with homemade instruments such as rubber bands, coke cans, vacuum cleaners, cutlery etc. I really want to encourage those taking part to create their own instrument out of things they might have in their home, give it a name and then to bring it along and record it to the click track.

If I may be pretentious very briefly, what I like about this way of composing is the way initially it’s about the individual doing whatever they like, but then the group sounds coming together that actually makes the piece work. And what I hope to do with this project is bring all four group pieces together at the end to form one whole piece and thus represent the whole district. It is exciting and also scary having no idea at this stage what the pieces will sound like! Sessions commence in a couple of weeks, so I am currently putting together a plan for each session and how to communicate my ideas to the groups. And most importantly how to give them the creative freedom and confidence to contribute and truly make it a collaboration. And for it to be fun!