ONe_Orchestra New, 8PM, 14 April 2023, Vortex, Gillett Square, London


Starting points

Distinctions between people are too often used to justify unequal treatment. The source and foundation of our music is that our equality springs from our shared humanity. We’re all different, but we’re all human beings and therefore of equal worth.

We can say that all instruments, all musical educations/cultures, and all sounds are different, and fundamentally of equal worth. Our improvising together is what transmutes our histories and sounds into music.

We can say that the trumpet, violin, or saxophone is not automatically the prominent front-line instrument; the drum is not automatically the instrument that produces rhythms for the group, or the piano the one that provides harmonies. We have all learned roles and rules that apply to types of instruments or people, but we don’t have to stick to those roles.

We can start trying to shape the evolution of the music differently, at times escaping from conventional trajectories such as the gradual crescendo, or volume associated with intensity….

Dynamics: be aware of the different dynamic range of each instrument/player.

Space: allow space for each and all.

Sounds: seek out and nurture sounds that are small, unexpected, “ugly”, misplaced, forbidden … the sounds that are “wrong”.

Performing: seek different ways to be in and share spaces and sounds.

October 2022: At Finch Café we opened with musicians in separate groups, in different parts of the space. Members of each small group improvised with each other, quietly, conversationally. This was our first performance with dancer Lu Greco, who led a piece: when they moved we were silent, when they were still we played.

Why do we make, why seek, unfamiliar sounds or noises? To destabilise, heighten, explore and enlarge… jump the tracks, court disaster!

June 2022: We tried all playing together, but as little as possible (surprisingly effective for building a sparse collective sound, and for keeping a flow going for quite a while). Then we did some conversational improvising, where we all played (nine people) but each listened and responded to one other person at a time. We also revisited creating a collective sound that is very sparse, by playing widely-spaced short sounds, quite distinctly/loudly, and all TOGETHER…

April 2022

Music that was lost, damaged or never made/heard.

As a group made up of people who have experienced forms of oppression in music making and/or life, what is our aim when we make music among ourselves? Do we just recapitulate existing power structures, but try to place ourselves at the top? How deeply ingrained in us are these musical approaches?

Should we consciously aim to avoid those oppressor-created structures and hierarchies (how?) and make new ones? 

Can we choose to let go of power (loudness, “skill”, profuseness, traditional roles of instruments) without feeling constrained?

Can we be true to who we are, and to the instruments we play, without drowning out other musicians and their instruments?

Improvising: a way of accessing music in ourselves that is not part of an external system? But this doesn’t happen by itself, requires searching…

How can we play together as a large group and ALL be heard…. how can we respect each other, and be respected?

What is it like to play from silence? From sound?

Getting away from neo-liberal constraints on the concepts around music and musicians: Should we draw on art that is related to what is called the “domestic” sphere (references – pottery, needlework, work-songs, “folk” or traditional musics)? Escape from the idea of what is required of the “professional” musician? How? Is the notion of “ritual” relevant, or is it oppressive?

How do we unite in playing, and how do we play together and maintain our separate identities? The tension between leaving space and filling space…

SPACE, COURAGE, LISTENING and CONCISENESS are essential to large-group improvisation…

How do we make the most of our difference… in how we pay attention, in our ways of listening and uttering? How far can we go into difference?

What is it like to do the “wrong” thing?