Event Review: The Dowsing Sound Collective


More of this, please!

Me and Puffles rocked up to the Corn Exchange for a musical extravaganza by the Dowsing Sound Collective. It was a fundraiser for a new local charity, The Dosoco Foundation.

Dress codes – how to help people to dress to them?

As with the Footloose Dance Orchestra event I went to earlier in 2013, although the event clearly invited people to ‘dress to impress’, not everyone did. I overheard one conversation between a couple of women, one of whom said that she didn’t have anything that was ‘glamourous’. This got me wondering: Was this due to affordability, availability, fear of stepping outside of their comfort zone outfit-wise or something else? Thus we had this strange mix of people who were in jeans and polo shirts sitting side-by-side with those of us in dress shirts, dinner jackets and/or cocktail dresses.

This made me think about the idea of pre-concert events for those people that for whatever reason don’t have but would like to dress up for such occasions. The challenge is how to make it fun and accessible. This for me is where bringing together groups and organisations that complement each other could work. For future events, could say the likes of Vintage Cambridge team up with the charity shops and the various Meetup.Com groups in Cambridge to put on their clothes fairs and link them to events where the dress code is more formal or specific? Again, I’m thinking along the theme of bringing people together, making things that little bit more affordable, supporting the idea of ‘rethink, reuse, recycle’ and helping make more events and organisations that little bit more sustainable financially too.

‘Superstition ain’t the way’

I didn’t actually look at the programme throughout, so was pleasantly surprised by the thumping start covering Superstition by Stevie Wonder – which sounds a million times better when performed live compared with the studio recording. Then they flew into this number

– something I’d ***love*** to get a group of us to play with in a dance digital video.

Getting that balance right

It’s never easy with what was essentially a music variety performance as far as styles and genres were concerned. I felt they got the balance right, with just the right amount of upbeat, sombre, fun and festive tracks respectively. The other thing that I tend to pick up on is the use of harmonies. In part because during childhood I seldom heard them ->> This being my musical journey.

The one criticism I have is the lack of dance floor. If you want people to dance, they need dance-floor space. People generally are too self-conscious to ‘dance in the aisles’ (unless hammered, and this wasn’t that sort of an event).

It wasn’t by any means a technically flawless performance, as a couple of people remarked. My view is that’s not what you come to see at performances by musical collectives. I’d rather see art, drama and music that has energy, passion and emotion rather than something that is purely technically correct. Perhaps that is something that applies to the public policy world. We might have all the technical expertise in the world, but what’s the point if it’s not emotionally connecting with the wider world?

Hence why several years ago I was moved by the words of Sir Roger Norrington at the 2008 Proms:

“Music brings us joy and love; music deepens feeling.

Music feeds our hearts and minds.

Music brings us healing.

Music can be so profound, but music can be fun.

Music quickens all our lives.

Music makes us one.”

To their shame, the BBC have blocked the original spoken performance and now it’s nowhere on the internet. Again, the performance of the spoken word in front of thousands of people is far more powerful than the text on a page.

Which is why The Dosoco Foundation makes for interesting reading too

Now, in public policy technocratic-speak, this is applied community empowerment policy. If you were sitting in one of the Whitehall offices that me and Puffles used to inhabit. But we don’t anymore. We’re here, in Cambridge. Which makes it all the more interesting for me and my community. The reason being that I can’t think of any organisation inside the city that has had the vision to launch an organisation with the aims that it has – see here. They’ve picked four themes:

  • music therapy,
  • music access,
  • music education and
  • the innovative use of sound and music for social good.

Music therapy I’m interested in on the grounds of fighting my own mental health demons. My childhood musical journey was a cause of the problems, therefore music of some sort has to be part of the solution. Although in my case I wouldn’t want to label it as music therapy. The reason being is that it has too ‘clinical’ a feel to it. I tried art therapy under the NHS nearly a decade ago in clinical surroundings and it didn’t work for me. Actually, the small group environment probably did more damage to me as did the small room with a tiny ceiling-height window.

Music access and music education interest me

And from a variety of different directions too. For a start, what made the Dowsing Collective have such an impact for me is its size. It’s massive. When you have all of that musical passion, energy and talent thrown at you, an understandable response is: “I wanna be part of that!” This is what I mean by trying to make Cambridge greater than the sum of its parts. We’ve got lots of little things going on all over the city and beyond, but hardly anyone seems to be doing anything to bring them all together so we get impact of scale. The thing is, solving the access and outreach issues cannot come from the musical communities alone. It’s got to come from far beyond it. That means being clear about what you want to achieve, clear on your organisation’s shortcomings and pro-actively open to people who might be interested in taking part but who may need that little nudge to persuade them. The question the team at Dosoco will need to answer is: “Who and where are the communities that you want to reach out to?” (There’s also one around establishing what Cambridge’s ‘musical baseline’ already is – what’s already out there & where are the gaps?)

Music education – schools are important but can we take the exams out of it?

In this, I’m drawing from another blogpost from two years ago – this one. I take the late Ted Wragg’s view about exams: If you want to destroy a child’s passion in anything, set them an exam on it. Given the over-emphasis of exams in music (something that the exam boards have a vested financial interest in), how can you deliver an inspiring and exciting musical education outside of any exams’ framework? How do you measure a person’s progress. Do you need to?

What would I like to see Dosoco do?

In a nutshell, have a sister to the Duxford Workshop but in central Cambridge. Bring together music teachers and talented musicians interested in this and challenge them to make this happen. Duxford already have the framework set in place. No reinventions of wheels needed.

Beyond that, who knows?


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