Participatory Song-Making

This page shares examples of participatory song-making projects: Tolka Chorus (2015), Chatham Dockyard Chorus (2022), and a live score for Pierre Clémenti’s La Revolution n’est qu’un debut (2018)

Within these projects I collaboratively compose songbooks with groups of participants. I curate archival material (maps, literature, oral histories, etc.) and share these with the participants, as starting points of lyrical content. I lead the group in a series of vocal improvisation exercises and share techniques for sound composition and musical games. I then work with the group to produce a series songs for publication in a songbook to be performed live.

Tolka Chorus

Tolka Chorus invited residents of County Meath and County Dublin to participate in a series of choral workshops at the river Tolka as part of the Tolka Nights project in 2015. Led by John D’Arcy, the workshops explored a range of musical strategies for listening, composing, performing and improvising. During the workshops based at Mulhuddart Community Centre, participants used their voices to recreate the sounds of the river, its communities and its localities.

Participants were led through a collaborative process to curate local history and literature into lyrics for their own musical compositions. Together they developed their own methods of vocal improvisation and verbal notation to produce a group performance based on an imagined journey along the river Tolka.

The participants in the Tolka Chorus workshops were Adrian Kennedy, Áine Cody, Bronwyn Bolton-Warberg, Esther Gray and Una Lee.

Sharing the songbook with the public audience at Tolka Valley Park, Tolka Chorus invited all curious listeners to add their voices to these songs of the river.

The video below shows the group using maps as graphic scores during one of the workshops:

The video below shows excerpts from the live performance at Tolka Valley Park:

The video below shows the animated map-score projected at the time of a live choral performance led by John D’Arcy. The soundtrack to this film is a recording of live performance during workshops.

Chatham Dockyard Chorus

Chatham Dockyard Chorus was created on 28 October 2022 as part of the Sonic Cartography conference at University of Kent. I led a collaborative song-making workshop about the social history of Chatham Historic Dockyard, sharing the creative approaches for text, sound and music composition in response to archival material related to the dockyard.

The workshop shared a range of local textual and cartographic archival materials and invited participants to select and erase aspects of their choosing. The participants were then led in a performance of their chosen archives, using techniques and strategies in sound poetry, vocal improvisation and musical games.

Live score for Pierre Clémenti’s ‘La Revolution n’est qu’un debut…’

In 2018, I collaborated with Isobel Anderson and HIVE Choir to produce a live score performance for Pierre Clémenti’s La Révolution n’est pas qu’un Début. Continuons le combat.

The live score contained found texts related to feminist movements, amplified with megaphones and augmented with sounds from handheld radios.

Performed with Isobel Anderson and HIVE Choir at Uprising: The Spirit of ’68 for Belfast Film Festival and BFI Film Audience Network.