“we live in a multimodal society that makes its meanings through the combined use of semiotic resources (e.g. spoken and written language, visual imagery, mathematical symbolism, sculpture, architecture, gesture and other physiological modes). Multimodality refers to the fact that all texts combine and integrate diverse semiotic modalities.”(Wu,2014)
The Making of a Proposal
After completing our introductions, we were organised into small teams of five or six students -our first task was to identify ourselves to our fellow students and then to pinpoint the skill sets of our group, which would naturally differ from group to group.
Our group, the Paisley Foundlings, consists of:
2 musician/songwriters, including myself-Jim McCulloch, Linzi Clark
1 script writer/editor – Amanda Johnston
1pr/communications student- Lucia Lobont
1 filmmaker/digital art student- Rui Weng
1 sound production student- Heather Sannachan
Three of our number are also foreign language students, which may or may not impact on the effectiveness of the group communication of ideas/concepts. Time will tell.
We looked at various organisational team management systems to determine our strengths and weaknesses and therefore identify any gaps in our arc of skills which could be addressed-or perhaps affect the direction our collaborative project would take.
After completing the Belbin diagnostic tool, we found that our group had strengths in the role of the “Plant”- ideas people, who generate concepts and original ideas, and also “Company Workers”-who basically listen and build relationships and who have a keen interest in the social aspects of interaction within the team.
Our weak areas appear to be in the Complete/Finisher and Monitor/Evaluator areas. This essentially means that we have to be aware that we deliver on time and be cognisant of the fine detail of what is required of us.
The proposal we are to work on concerns Paisley Abbey, a Medieval edifice in the centre of modern day Paisley. Or more specifically the Great Drain of the Abbey, which was silted up for many hundreds of years. The drain has now become the focus of archaeologists keen to discover more about life in medieval Scotland, and our remit is to focus on and explore the significance of the finds from the excavations, as well as the relationship of the Drain to the Abbey itself .
We have been joined by a new group member, Harini, from Chennai, India. Harini`s field of study is also Digital Arts/Film making.
The project itself is now in the formulation stage. Our preliminary strategy is to put together a proposal for a sonic/video installation in the Abbey itself.
This will include a mixture of ambient soundscapes and also more defined music – perhaps 2 musical works, combining with abstract visuals and also more concrete documentary-style footage relating to specific historical evidence and creative/poetic extrapolations of the Monastic life in the Abbey`s pre-Reformation history.
Linzi was this week`s Chair and she drew out the various roles that we will be occupying to kickstart the project off.
To this end it was agreed that we should have a day trip to the Abbey on Monday 28th of January to view the Abbey and drain in situ- enabling Heather our sound production student to record found sound onsite and Cindy our photographer to visually record our field trip for the installation.
Being mindful of the fact that we have an initial assessment for the group proposal next week, I thought I should move forward and start writing material for the others to get their teeth into.
I have come up with a song structure/melody and basic lyric for a chorus-
“I found meaning, I found form I found beauty I found warmth
Silent notes tremble and spring into life,
Float over the rooftops and into the night”
This is in reference to inscribed slates of polyphonic music found in archaeological digs in the Great Drain itself-the earliest examples of which ever found in Scotland.
My concept is built around the fact that this music has lain undiscovered and un-played for over 600 years, with the unearthing bringing them back to life, like the watering of a long-dormant seed.
As Kreutziger-Herr points out, “Unlike all other historical artefacts and remnants of material culture, music is irretrievably lost when history progresses…a musical artefact is only present when it is completely gone.” (Kreutziger-Herr, 2009)
I have passed this embryonic song on to my fellow songwriter Linzi and Heather our sound producer to reflect on, to critique and to feedback on.
Over all there was great interaction in the group, although I was conscious of the fact that 3 of our number-the foreign language students- were pretty quiet. Perhaps the Scots in our enthusiasm were speaking too fast for them to keep up? We will need to bear this in mind when our group gets together.
Week 3 -Field trip to the Abbey and preparation for Assignment Proposal
I have now completed my song lyric and Heather has booked studio time for recording. This will be on Monday February 11th.
We congregated at the Abbey around 1.30 and proceeded to document our visit. The accompanying photos highlight some of the invaluable preparation work we accomplished here.
As my song was now complete, we decided to record an acoustic version in the main body of the Abbey to capture the tremendous natural reverb of the great stone space to incorporate into Heather`s “found sound” ambient collage. Linzi and I also sang a section of my work a cappella, using the wordless Gregorian/Cluny melismatic tradition to draw together and highlight the differences and similarities between Medieval and modern singing traditions.
“A melisma occurs when more than one note is sung to a single syllable. Melismas are common, for example, in Gregorian chant where a florid sequence of pitches is associated with a relatively small number of syllables.” (Johnson, Huron and Collister, 2014)
We then relocated to a local coffee shop to piece together our proposal and work out who would present which areas of our collaborative plan.
Our presentation in front of our fellow course members seemed to be well received. I think we presented our proposal well, with all members of the group participating.
It became evident that there are 2 other collaborative groups looking to present their project in the Abbey , and it was pointed out that perhaps we should look to combining our output and so come together in the Abbey space on the same day. This would obviously be beneficial for everyone involved-primarily to minimise disruption for the Abbey trustees and also maximise audience potential for the 3 collaborative groups, as well as realising the benefits of pooling our resources for technical equipment, publicity/pr and logistical needs.
Finally we can start on the recording! My song contribution is called “Found”, and over the next 2 weeks or so Heather and I will endeavour to record and mix it. I will be using Heather`s skills as a sound engineer but also her talents as a keyboard player to augment my recording. Linzi will also be involved as she has agreed to sing backing vocals , especially to highlight the chant effect in the instrumental breakdown of the piece.
Midnight -I know what I`d wish for- a full moon to carry me home
It`s a new day and fingers of sunshine start feeling their way to the dawn
Highrise and motorway junctions float by me so graceful and sleek
Silvering rivers of concrete are tracing the Ancient reborn
I found meaning I found form I found beauty I found warmth
Silent notes tremble and spring into life float over the rooftops and into the night
Tears shed my patience rewarded from past tense to present again
All my dreaming and longing will resonate deep in the heart of the song
I found meaning I found form I found beauty I found warmth
Silent notes tremble and spring into life float over the rooftops and into the night
The university studios can be booked in 3 hour blocks, so this 3 hour window means we had to be laser-focused on what we planned to achieve in the time available. It was therefore my intention to record and double-track the main rhythm guitars, a double-tracked high guitar part, a main vocal and backing vocals, with special emphasis on the instrumental break of 16 bars in which I wanted to conjure up an chant-like atmosphere using vocals on very sparse instrumentation.
Listen to it on its own here-
The Trouble With Deadlines
So a month has passed by. A quick update is probably long overdue. Heather has finished constructing the 10-minute sound collage which integrates two finished songs, a spoken word poem and “found” sound recorded on our field trip so many weeks ago.
She passed this along to Amanda who has combined it with visual footage and photography captured on several visits to the Abbey by Harini and Rui. We have now reached the point of reality setting in, as the Abbey performance/exhibition will take place on April 3rd-next week- in conjunction with two of the other student groups and in agreement with the Abbey trustees.
Our personal levels of engagement in the Project have ebbed and flowed as our other academic/professional/personal responsibilities have jostled for attention, but I reckon now is the time for focus.
” There are inevitable conflicts that arise because of different philosophies and
goals, differing levels of experience, and ownership questions “(Strand, 2006)
Strand stresses the “dynamic nature”(ibid) of the curriculum-of how it is affected by the changing relationships between teachers`implementation and students` engagement.I suggest that the above quote which refers to teachers could equally apply to Masters students involved in collaboration and working towards a set goal!
There has been a lack of engagement from some members of our group which I think may in some part be due to the language barriers I mentioned earlier. However, even on our private group chat it`s been hard to elicit a response from some members, which I am finding frustrating .
Heather Sannachan designed our wonderful e-flyer…
I contacted the manager of the CCA in Glasgow, Kenny Christie, to see if we could borrow a white projector screen and stand, to which he graciously agreed to. This I picked up yesterday and this morning, along with Heather who had the projector and sound bar, we made our way to the Abbey.
It was a cold damp morning in Paisley, the air was full of biting sleet – slightly out of character for the time of year.
In the Abbey we started to set up and the rest of our group began to arrive. We found the 10-foot screen to be too large and cumbersome –the frame was difficult to set up as the white plastic screen would not attach properly due in part to the cold atmosphere in the Abbey. As can be seen from this photo, another issue was that external light was causing visibility issues with the darker segments of the film.
Blane, our Module Co-ordinator, had arrived by this point and suggested we try projecting without the screen which we did, onto a pillar next to the minor lectern… By 11.15 we were good to go and ready for the public.
This seemed to be a more satisfactory way of displaying. The picture was much clearer, and the installation made a lot more sense. Thankfully, there were no issues with the music and the Abbey cloisters resonated joyfully with our recorded performance.
I think we just about overcame the logistical difficulties (electricity points especially) of setting up a modern installation in a Medieval space . The actual film will be uploaded to YouTube and integrated with the footage that we filmed on the day.
Here it is without today`s footage:-
As this project is being assessed at both an individual and collective level, there has been a need to work on different planes- to pursue our own disciplines to the best of our abilities and also to interact and combine with students in other creative fields to produce something that is new, interesting and surprising that didn`t exist before.
As stated by Yong et al, when our interests converge then that makes for a harmonious experience- “when team members are incentivized collectively, perceptions are more similar than not.”(Yong, Sauer and Mannix, 2014) Was this then perceived as a successful collaboration?
From my point of view, I felt that I learnt and achieved a lot from this project. Writing to a set brief is something that I enjoy doing and I am good at it. My song response, “Found”, was a personal artistic success.
Working within a culturally-diverse multi-disciplinary team , however, was a real challenge and at times I felt thwarted by the challenges that that brought.
Problems of logistics, of people struggling to find their role within the group, or of team motivation would burst into life like little bush fires and have to be dealt with collectively within our group chat. There was a strong sense of camaraderie which was great to see, but I felt that within the group there could have been a stronger ethos of constructive critique which would have ensured our project being more developed and more focused .
There were missed opportunities to strike the balance between being unremittingly positive about everyone`s contributions-and the fear of causing offence by critiquing their input- which could really have taken the Project to another level.
It`s possible that having a bit more experience working in Arts-based situations has given me more insight than some of my colleagues as to what constitutes a successful project, and I sincerely hope that they haven`t felt that I was steam-rollering through the collaboration.
I also think that the issues I flagged up at the beginning of this Blog- the language and cultural barriers- may have impinged on our progress despite our efforts to be more inclusive.
Gassmann asserts that “in multicultural teams a clear sense of direction must be established at the beginning of the conceptualisation phase” otherwise there will be “a drop in team morale; communication problems, and different styles of working and decision-making”. I totally get this, but I also recognise our field trip to the Abbey at the end of January was important not only to collect audio/visual materials, but as a team-building exercise that was “successful in stabilising team morale at a high level”.(Gassmann, 2001)
Perhaps if we had been less insular from the perspectives of our own disciplines and developed a more holistic approach, then this could have been a truly internationally collaborative experience.
“Cultural diversity can lead to totally unexpected impulses of creativity and innovation.”(ibid)
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