Equality in Creative Music-Making

Hannah from Soundcastle blogs about our recent project with St. Mungo’s Broadway, and how equality in creative music-making can enhance well-being.

In February 2015, Soundcastle participated in Fantastic February, a programme of activities at a St. Mungo’s Broadway shelter near Kings Cross. We delivered a series of music workshops during which we were able to see the positive effects of creative music-making in action. Fantastic February consisted of a range of activities from music to art, furniture painting, aromatherapy and self-advocacy workshops. For residents, who had recently left an isolated life on the streets, these experiences were stepping stones, a chance to adjust to communal situations before venturing further out into the wider community, a daunting and stressful prospect.

Mental health problems are a major contributor to homelessness. Following the variety of communal workshops in Fantastic February, participants who regularly experience auditory hallucinations reported that during the four weeks they found that their inner space was quieter. It has long been acknowledged that music has the power to reduce stress. A few years ago, researchers found that music releases dopamine, a chemical in the brain that has a key role in setting good moods. During a study, levels of dopamine were found to be up to 9% higher when volunteers were listening to music they enjoyed.

IMG_0707  ukes

To create a safe space and thus combat levels of stress in our music workshops, we approach music-making using the Soundcastle methodology.* Creating absolute equality in the room is vital, therefore it detracts from the quality of the process to think of these people as vulnerable adults. In many ways, we, the Soundcastle facilitators had far more to learn from them than they did of us. Their life experience is so far beyond ours and their knowledge, opinions and feelings are vital to creating captivating new music. Bearing this in mind, we approached the sessions as a dialogue, an ongoing conversation, not just creatively but also structurally. It was a time to recognise the importance of a cup of tea, a warm sofa and a good chat. With accessible instruments nearby, such as ukuleles, balafons, drums and iPads, our conversations soon turned to music. With the emphasis placed on experimentation, trying something new with no right or wrong way, we could respond entirely in the moment, building up looping beats and grooves based on the natural ideas that flowed from their own personal sound experimentations. The idea was that if you try something new, it can be adapted by a group to create something bigger and better than you had ever anticipated. Experiencing this through music, participants had the added wellbeing effects, reducing the potential stress of taking their first steps back into communal activities.

What do you think? Is music a big part of your happiness? Have you experienced equality, free from hierarchy in music making? We would love to hear your comments.  Click here to join the conversation: http://soundcastle.co.uk/equality-in-creative-music-making/#comments

* The Soundcastle methodology is a process of creative facilitation which stems from the people we are collaborating with and the unique moment in time that we have all come together. The methodology promotes equality and strength through collaboration, ensuring that everybody’s voice is heard and acknowledged. Read more here. For more information or to learn about training opportunities visit www.soundcastle.co.uk/research/