Why link nature with music?
Bringing together music and nature, for some, may seem like an odd pairing, why not just make some beats on a computer and be done with it? Well, think about what you hear when you take a walk in the park, beside a river, or sit in your garden for five minutes. And what you take away from this. These are the sounds of nature; the sounds that have the ability to calm stressful times, help relaxation and enable a clearer perspective on life’s incredible possibilities. The Nature Beats course is a unique opportunity to enjoy creating and learning about sound and music from a natural perspective, and in settings which offer more than a traditional classroom (or even music studio). There is the opportunity for expression, through activities that heighten the senses; inspiration from the sights, sounds, scents and feel of the natural world, and creative collaboration with other participants (and staff) while on the six-week journey.
Being outdoors opens out the possibilities of music making to take in an entire woodland as your instrument; allowing ‘sound’ to be explored and then brought to life as a very real and interesting part of any piece of music or ‘track’. The unique sounds collected and created by each individual young musician while in the woodland, informs their overall feeling and experience of the course from the first to last week. Whether it is a Buzzard flying overhead recorded and turned into a soundscape, water splashing in the brook or leaves rustling used as percussive rhythms, or the crackle of the fire, one listens back to the track created containing these sounds, and you are transported back to this inspirational safe space.
Music practice linking to transferable skills in life
The practice of music making as part of Nature Beats; recording, playing or jamming with others isn’t simply all about the end sounds that everyone hears, it is about the process. And of course, there are lots of other benefits tucked away within this process: real-life skills! As a music leader (and recording engineer) who has worked on many collaborative projects over the years, I can confidently say that I have developed personally and seen many life skills develop in young musicians first hand through being a part of collaborative music making. Here a just a few examples:
Interpersonal and collaboration skills are built through communicating across a drum circle and playing in sync with a group; peer learning/teaching often comes into play when the good nature to help others kicks in, enabling the whole group to perform better and enjoy the whole experience that little bit more; when things don’t work quite right away and the beats are a bit messy, dedication and focus helps young musicians eventually get to the point where the groove is good, and the proof can be seen in smiles around the circle when everyone knows something is working because of the group effort; for those wanting to take a basic idea and run with it into interesting territories, applying a little creativity and trial and error to a recording session often returns some impressive (and unexpected!) results, not to mention building confidence in musical ability, making experimentation all the more exciting the next time round; and lastly, nothing beats good old perseverance and hard work when it comes to getting a track finished or taking some time to learn a new production or playing technique. Hard work not only gives a great impression to others but will help build a solid set of transferable creative skills even quicker. Never underestimate the power of collaborative creative activities!
As a music leader and sound engineer, the opportunity to support the development of so many young people is constantly energising, both during sessions and in beyond the programme. Creating activities that help others collaborate and learn creatively in itself is a real buzz. But a great thing is, this buzz has continued into my wider interest in and passion for sound and music. Spending time in wild and woodland spaces, talking, listening, cooking and recording wild sounds, all leaves ideas whizzing around my mind following Nature Beats session. In light of this, I have developed my own practice that brings the outdoors into my life more often than once a week, something which continues to provide inspiration and clarity on the many projects I am working on. Early mornings are often the best times for this; I’ll take a camera or my sound recording kit, or just a coffee, and walk up onto the hills before the world is awake and demanding my attention. This is a special time for me, and as is the case with Nature Beats, I do this throughout the year, appreciating every season in its rawest form while soaking up inspiration; the dawn chorus in spring, cracking ice underfoot in winter, ripping winds and breaking branches in autumn. Working with Wild Earth has inspired this practice, and I am always happy to feed my inspiration and ideas back into the Nature Beats program to complete the cycle.