PledgeMusic is not only home to numerous straightforward musical projects like new albums, EPs, videos and tours, but we’re also thrilled to partner with organisations like for-wards, an inventive new endeavor that brings music and place together in a compelling new way. Artistic Director Bobbie-Jane Gardner graciously agreed to pen a guest blog for us to help explain for-Wards, its relationship to Birmingham and how the vision grew to this point.
Do you know the song “Passin Me By” by The Pharcyde? Well, realising for-Wards has been a bit like the sentiment of this song. For some time it felt like it was on the borderline of coming to fruition but never quite.
All these missed opportunities and failures have, on reflection, been great sources of learning. Basically the conditions were simply not right for for-Wards to come into being, but what was great was that I was able to persevere as I truly believed in the project idea.
So what is for-Wards?
It’s a two-year programme which creates new music inspired by my hometown of Birmingham. It involves and ask communities what does it mean to live in your area? It also asks them to collaborate with leading musicians from the city to write music together. Ten composers will work in the 10 constituencies (or districts) which comprise Birmingham and four community groups from four wards, which make up each district, will work with each musician.
Each composer and community group will share stories of what it means to live in their area. They’ll go out, listen and record sounds which they think best represent their area, which all serve as compositionally starting points for the creation of new music. Each composer will deconstruct their compositional process and involve the community in the writing of the piece. The communities will gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a composer.
It was whilst living in London that I realised I knew more about the geographical make up of the capital and its 32 boroughs (which are better signposted) then my hometown and its 40 wards.
Armed with this knowledge I began fascinated with the artistic possibilities of Birmingham’s 40 wards and, consequently, for-Wards initially began as a vanity project. I was aiming to compose 40 pieces of music about every single one of Might Brum’s wards as a compassion project. On reflection, I realised how incredibly time consuming this endeavor would be, and also I did not feel confident that I would be that knowledgable about each area as I had only grown up and lived in a few wards myself.
I also learnt about Sufjan Stevens’ failed 50 states project and decided to rejig the idea. What would happen if I got bored half way through? What would happen if I started to feel claustrophobic carrying out such a feat? How long would it take me? Questions and doubts appeared.
Over time the project has morphed into what it is now, which is a music programme reflecting the diversity of the city. All 10 composers will be selected by a team of artistic partners who all champion and support the creation of new music in Birmingham. This model means I simply can’t select my mates and strives to select composers representing the diversity of the city.
In year 1 of the for-Ward programme, we have Birmingham Conservatoire (Birmingham City University), Access to Music, mac arts centre, capsule, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and many more.
Year 1 composers are:
1. Working in Edgbaston district and selected by our artistic partner mac arts, are Pram (known for their use of unusual sounds including the incorporation of Theremin, toy instruments, other-worldly samples and analogue electronics) and are the first to join this ambitious project.
2. Juice Aleem has been selected by Kalaboration to work in Perry Barr district. Juice has long been acknowledged as one of the finest MCs the UK has ever produced. In addition to his work as a member of the groups New Flesh and Gamma, Aleem has also worked with Coldcut, Hexstatic, Evil 9, Adam Freeland, Mike Ladd, Si Begg and many, many others. He is also the voice of Alpha Prhyme, the MC featured on the very first Big Dada single, “Misanthropic.” In 2009, he released his first solo album, once again via Big Dada, entitled “Jerusalaam Come.” (Nina Tune Records)
3. Working in collaboration with Rowen Coleing in Hodge Hill district, renowned Birmingham composer, singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer Justin K Broadrick will be working with us as the named composer to musically reflect the district of Hodge Hill. Justin was selected by our artistic partners Access to Music.
Justin has forged a long career exploring grindcore, industrial and electronic soundscapes with bands such as Napalm Death, Godflesh, Jesu (band), Final and JK Flesh. Many of these internationally renowned and influential projects were actually initiated right here in Birmingham. Justin has also maintained a parallel career as a producer, creating records and remixes for groups such as Pantera, Killing Joke, Mogwai and Pelican, to name just a few.
4. In collaboration with Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, we are pleased to announce Percy Pursglove will be working in Northfield district. Percy is a renowned freelance jazz musician/composer/arranger/recording artist (Trumpet/Double Bass).
5. Selected by Birmingham Conservatoire and working with communities in Selly Oak district is yours truly, a composer and arranger who has been commissioned by the likes of LSO discovery, Grand Union, mac arts, Punch Records, Vivid Projects and more.
In order for this project to be fully realised we need your support, the crowdfunder we have created with Pledgemusic supports the delivery time each composer has with the community and realisation of the local performances which take place back in each district.
So please support and help us to move this project for-Wards!