Enabling Creativity : a study of inclusive music technology and practices at The Drake Music Project Northern Ireland

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... The proliferation of widely-accessible, increasingly mobile and low-cost interfaces for musical composition and performance have been used to pose challenges to established norms and power structures by de-centralising the means of learning skills, creativity, production, performance, consumption, (re)distribution, and funding for music projects (Bowers, 2002;Katz, 2004;Théberge, 2004;Born, 2005;Waters, 2007;Prior, 2008, Butler, 2014Taylor, 2014;Samuels, 2015Samuels, , 2016. While acknowledging the asymmetrical distribution of such effects across different cultures and communities, in this paper we present two case studies from each of our interdisciplinary work with music and ethnography. ...
... As Michelle's comment indicate she was hesitant to place too much emphasis on the role of the affordances of technology in inclusive music making. Similarly, Samuels (2016) found throughout his ethnography that for the workshop participants, who have a broad spectrum of abilities, it is through the dynamic interrelations between all the musicians and the music technology interfaces in the workshop environment that inclusive musicking emerges. Next we will turn to an example of this kind of musical emergence drawn from Samuels (2016) ethnographic study. ...
... From this theoretical standpoint, concepts often assumed to be stable and static attributes belonging to an individual or a piece of technology, such as "disability", "enabling", "exclusionary" can be viewed as relational, performative and enacted. Thus, Samuels (2016) argues that inclusion in music making at DMNI is able to be enacted through the dynamic interrelationships between people, things and their environment. At the same time, ability is performed and exclusionary social attitudes and assumptions are performatively challenged and deconstructed in DMNI workshops. ...
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This paper discusses the potential of digital media and live interfaces in musical composition and performance for subverting exclusionary structures towards inclusion. Coming from backgrounds in electronic music and ethnography, the authors present two case studies that investigate music making practices with live interfaces. These case studies explore the relation between musical experimentation and the use of digital media in catalysing new forms of practice that move beyond restrictive categorisations and limiting boundaries constructed as a result of historical, social, and political processes. While the cases are differentiated in their approach, they converge in their emphasis on the inclusive potential of the digital media.
... happy. (Samuels, 2016: 31) 209 ...
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Across the UK, a growing number of charity organisations, social enterprises, academic researchers and individuals have developed music technology-based music workshops and projects using Accessible Music Technology (AMT) to address the issue of access to music making for people with disabilities. In this article, I discuss my ethnographic study of The Drake Music Project Northern Ireland (DMNI), a charity which provides music workshop opportunities in inclusive ensembles at the community level. My methodology of participant observation involved undergoing the training necessary to become an access music tutor for DMNI, attending workshops and conducting interviews with people throughout the organisation. Key findings were that consumer music technology devices that were not designed to be accessible to a wide spectrum of users could be made accessible through adapting them with other devices or different sensor interfaces more suitable for people with unique abilities and specific needs. Throughout my study, I found that it was not in the design of music technology devices that made them accessible. Rather, meaningful music making emerged through the interrelations between the access music tutors, workshop participants and the music technology interfaces in the workshop environment. The broader implications of DMNI music making activities and effects on social inclusion are also discussed.
In this article, the research group Performance without Barriers reflect on the process of collaboratively designing a custom guitar-inspired instrument with Eoin Fitzpatrick, a physically disabled musician from the Drake Music Project, Northern Ireland. As part of a longitudinal ethnographic case study designed to uncover factors that contribute to the longevity of custom assistive music technology, the authors monitored Fitzpatrick using this instrument over two months. The findings of this study inform a reflection on the social, technical, and environmental factors that the provision of such technology a reality. The authors make suggestions for ways to achieve long-term, sustained use. Custom technologies, seemingly unique on the surface, may well utilize similar underlying hardware and software components. Those involved in its design, fabrication, facilitation, and use could benefit from a concerted effort to share resources, knowledge, and skill as a mobilized community of practitioners. In such a pursuit, the authors recommend that practitioners consider strategies for managing the inherent complexity of digital technology. Fostering shared mental models within open-source communities can result in improved efficiency in the development of accessible music technology.
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