Drake Music Scotland has been shortlisted for a prestigious Royal Philharmonic Society Award in the Learning and Participation category. The RPS Music Awards are the highest recognition for live classical music and are for outstanding achievement in the UK during 2012.
Oliver Searle, one of Scotland’s most exciting composing talents, was commissioned by Drake Music Scotland to write Technophonia to explore the creative potential of a range of inclusive music technologies. These innovative instruments such as the Soundbeam, Brainfingers and Skoog enabled the talented young disabled musicians to perform alongside their peers from the City of Edinburgh Music School who played more conventional strings, piano and rock instruments.
The soloists in the Technophonia ensemble were: Chris Jacquin,18, who has musical talent in abundance, but without specialized technology would not be able to play because he has cerebral palsy. His instrument is the cutting-edge Brainfingers system, which allows him to control the music independently via a headband. Also taking part were: Antony Swift, 16, from the Royal Blind School on the Soundbeam – a movement sensor that he plays with arm and hand movements – and Stephanie Forrest, 17, a pupil at Braidburn Special School, whose instrument is the Skoog. This is a sensor developed by a team from Edinburgh University, that lets her play different instrumental sounds very expressively.
Oliver Searle worked with Drake Music Scotland Artistic Director Pete Sparkes and the three young soloists to develop ideas inspired by the unusual textures and rhythmic possibilities of the technology and his observations of the way musicians in general produce and control musical sounds.
“These tiny movements and processes, many of which are only barely noticeable, or completely invisible to the human eye, are like microscopic dances between our neural processes and motor skills,” he explains.
The resulting work was premiered in Scotland and then performed at the PRS Foundation New Music 20×12 Festival, part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad, letting the young players display their musical talents to a worldwide audience and successfully demonstrating how musicians with disabilities can be included and perform on an equal footing with their peers.
“A brilliantly conceived fusion of the technology-based instruments played by Drake Music Scotland’s young musicians with the conventional ones of the City of Edinburgh Music School pupils.” Review, Ken Walton, The Scotsman