This March, I attended the International Festival of Innovation at Leeds College of Music . The conference brought together several strands of research and practice, including Popular Music, Classical Music, Leeds International Jazz Education Conference, and the International Festival of Innovation in Music Production and Composition. In previous years, these strands have been run as separate conferences, and I have been involved with the Leeds International Jazz Education Conference for several years. To my mind, bringing together these events was an inspired move: scholars and practitioners from each field were able to network and share ideas, and delegates frequently found there was more in common between the disciplines than they had previously thought. Dr Zack Moir (@zackmoir) and I got talking at a coffee break, and ended up having an impassioned discussion about new methods of teaching music. We agreed that practical musicianship can be informed by theoretical and historical understandings, and vice versa.
Earlier this year, I was asked to run a workshop on ‘Communicative Improvisation’ for the University of Edinburgh as part of their ‘Innovative Learning Week‘. I have led many workshops on improvisation in the past, some focussed specifically on jazz, some on pop/rock, some on free-improv or improvisation for dance, for example, but never on ‘communicative improvisation’. To be honest, I wasn’t sure of exactly what this meant or how I would approach it. Also, when I agreed to do it, the only information about the participants was that they could could be from anywhere in the whole university (not specifically for music students) and that they may not even have any previous practical musical experience. As it turned out, the group comprised a range of people who had never played an instrument before , people who were professional musicians and everything in between.
Everyone who enjoys music knows it can make them feel good. They recognise the welcome of an old favourite, or the excitement of hearing for the first time something they know they’re going to love. Musicians and healthcare professionals have long been aware of the potential for music, played or heard, to affect our health; the earliest applications of music in clinical settings in the UK date back more than a century (1). More recently, research interest in these links has burgeoned across the life sciences, particularly here in Scotland. On June 23rd, the new Scottish Music and Health Network brought together more than a hundred researchers, musicians, clinicians and patient group representatives from around Scotland (with a few from further south) to discuss how to build the evidence for music as a means to improve wellbeing.
Viewing landscapes “employs the mind without fatigue and yet exercises it; tranquilizes it and yet enlivens it.” That quote is from pioneering American landscape architect Frederik Law Olmsted. But it could apply equally to music listening. It’s well known that music encourages a mood, can support a sense of well being, and associates with place. But many environmental specialists and health researchers claim similar benefits from natural environments.
Thinking About Music is a new multimedia blog for people who are interested in the academic study of music, in the widest and most inclusive sense of the term.
The ethos behind this site is one of communication, collaboration and exploration. It is intended to be a hub for academics and practitioners interested in the study of music to present, discuss and develop ideas – a place to share new and interesting work in an informal setting. This is particularly valuable as, on one hand, it affords the opportunity for contributors to explore new ideas, report on work that may be in its early stages and to receive feedback from colleagues and other readers who may not typically engage with such work. On the other hand, this site will prove to be an interesting repository of information for those interested in reading and getting involved in discussion about new research and practice in music.
Posts will take the form of video presentations and text-based articles and will cover many varied and diverse topics and, importantly, content will not be limited to any specific areas of musical study. Our aim is to be informative yet entertaining, scholarly yet accessible and, most importantly engaging. Please comment, discuss, support the authors and spread the word. Also, if you have something that you’d like to contribute, then let us know.