Spotlight: Musicians without Borders

Musicians without Borders

Musicians without Borders

As you may know, my profession (as of this writing) is web development and my passion is music. (This, of course, is an oversimplification, but it maps neatly to this Venn diagram.) It’s time to take a look at something music-related that also relates to OIRED’s work in international development.

One of the teachers of the week-long workshop I attend each summer is active in the organization Musicians without Borders (MwB). As it says on their website, they are a “global network organization using the power of music for healing and reconciliation in areas torn by war and conflict.” I’ve written before about the science behind music’s power to build social connections between people, so I have no surprise that someone should try to use it in this way. But to use music to build toward such an audacious goal as “world peace” is, to me, a bold and inspiring enterprise. (more…)

A Modest Request of Major-Label Musicians

I recently experienced a few days of more concentrated pop-music exposure, and at the tail end of it I had a realization I found a little surprising. Subconsciously, I’ve been holding the music that makes it to places like the radio and the grocery-store background soundtrack to certain minimum standards.

Understand that I think of the Music Industry as being as much about music as agribusiness is about a nice meal. In the end, the music (or the meal) is what the end-user consumes, but the business of it is all about generating massive revenue from people’s need for the end-product. Not a good environment for fostering the production of the highest-quality food (neither music), but it’s here and it’s in our faces and we have to figure out what to do with it. (Topic for another day, perhaps.)

My point is, I don’t expect really profound music from the Music Industry. But it does have musicians in it. Instrumentalists (including singers), composers, arrangers. There’s somebody in the machine that’s responsible for producing the commodity on offer. (more…)

Expanding Your Freedom by Limiting Your Choices

I’m mainly thinking of my fellow improvising vocalists as I write, but this can probably apply equally well to any improvising musician, or any vocalist, or any other instrumentalist, or any artist if you want to stretch it. If you’ve ever felt like “everything I do is pretty much the same…” (in some way that you’re discerning) “…I wish I felt like I had some new/different/better ideas,” here I speak to that. (more…)

The Daily Song Project

There was one lesson that everybody—teachers, fellow students, staff, random passers-by—seemed to want me to take home from this year’s Circlesongs workshop with Bobby McFerrin et al*. And that was:

Stop talking. Start singing.

At one point the lesson was delivered by a chorus, right on my face. I was trying to describe one of the things I could maybe show people, maybe it would be helpf… “Stop talking! Start singing!” Okay then! (more…)

Dream a Little Dream

Life is trying to teach you something.
Life is trying to teach you something.

This isn’t necessarily about music, but it is for me. For you, it can be about… whatever it’s about for you. Join me for a little thought-experiment.

Suppose for a moment that it might be the case that if all your dreams were to come true, you wouldn’t actually feel any different on a day-to-day basis.

It would be like this: your ship comes in. You hit the lottery, or you find true love, or your novel gets picked up by a publisher and tops the best seller list, or your long-lost great-uncle bequeaths his working, debt-free organic farm to you. And you discover, once you’ve settled into your new life (more…)