Blurring the Boundaries have teamed up with the National accessArts Center in Calgary to develop a series of workshops.

Watch and listen to a collaborative piece developed in week 2:

Play along with the video using an embedded instrument:

Play along using this interactive instrument:

Aimee Louw and Gift Tshuma discuss movement with guests Karine-Myrgianie Jean-François, Barak adé Soleil, and Leroy Moore.

This episode resonated particularly strongly with us!

Lead artist Gift Tshuma appeared as part of an online discussion hosted by The Walrus on the 29th October. Scroll down to check out the video and transcription! But first, some context:

E-flyer text: The Walrus Talks at Home: Inclusion (Part 2)


Creating access and opportunity through community, design, and the arts
Four speakers on how the arts, design, and community-building in everyday society can foster opportunities and promote accessibility

Featuring five-minute talks and Q&A with:
-Sarah Jama, community organizer
-Darby Lee Young, principal accessibility strategist, Level Playing Field
-Gift Tshuma, musical artist
-Dorothy Ellen Palmer, writer


The Q&A was facilitated by Aimee Louw , TD fellow on disability and inclusion, The Walrus (and also co-host of Accessibilize Montreal’s #CripTalkCorner podcast).

Find out more about Gift’s practice on his artist page here. Our research and development sessions were supported through the New Conversations programme by the British Council, Canada High Commission in the UK and Farnham Maltings, with travel and access supported by Canada Council for the Arts.


Captions are not currently available for this video — please see the transcription below!

Hi, my name is Gift Tsuma. I’m an artist from Blurring the Boundaries based in here in Montreal. And today, I’d like to talk to you about creating access to music. And how do we do that practically you may be wondering.. Well, I think it’s important to, to look at the following questions like: are we identifying or creating space to create access within the music scene, whether it’s in the design of instruments, or the music technology being used? And also, another question that is very important is: what are disabled artists already doing out there with material that they have?

This actually makes me think of a disabled artist based in the UK, his name is John Kelly. He actually designed an electric guitar called the Kellycaster. And he designed it in a way that was actually accessible to him, where he’s able to strum the guitar with these right hand, and to change the chords, he uses the keyboard to do that, and he did that with his team. So Blurring the Boundaries, which is a collective of artists based in the UK and Canada, tries to blur the boundaries when it comes to design phase of musical instruments, and music technology. And our collective is actually based on the famous slogan, Nothing About Us Without us, Nothing About Us Without Us.

Photo of a room full of musicians in a studio: Gift Tshuma, Miss Jacqui, John Kelly, and Robyn Steward (with support bat Henry). All are playing digital instruments, ranging from keyboards and computers to cardboard boxes with arcade buttons. In the middle of the room, the vibrotactile artist David Bobier is enthusiastically shooting a video on his phone. A cartoon black and white background contains the words: “nothing about us without us”.
Blurring the Boundaries studio session at Hampstead Music and Voice Studios: Miss Jacqui, John Kelly, David Bobier, Robyn Steward, Gift Tshuma.

It is really important that those who have a disability are involved within the design phase, that they actually be innovators. And it is very important that we dismantle the hierarchy that often exists between so called experts, and the subject or the artists involved. We do this through an improvisation process, or when we do musical technology and design, one, some of the important variables that are dear to us are that the tools that are being used to make an instrument accessible, have to be cost efficient, and open source…or at least free. We all like free stuff, right? So if resources are open source, then people have the option to actually customize the tools and the resources to their own needs.

And just to bring them back again, in terms of the goals, we want to identify the barriers. We want to identify the strengths and to identify the resources. Once you’ve done that, then we’re able to create a community. And last year, last year in the fall we were able to meet a great community of artists in the UK, and we were able to have R&D sessions (research and development sessions), where we created instruments and software. And there was no hierarchy between experts and innovators. Everyone was in an equal playing field.

To do that successfully, it requires a certain level of openness .. what do I mean by that? Well, we like to take a jazz approach, meaning improvisation. And when we’re designing something, we do not have an expectation on end result. But we want people to have an open mind to explore different things, because you’re actually able to reach results that you may not have thought of before. And that’s what we base our our workshops on. It’s actually an open contract to getting an end result for that. And honestly, when it comes to music, it is about community building. It is about connecting with people and expression. And that’s what we try to do. If that’s something that interests you, get in touch with us at blurringtheboundaries.org and you can also check out our social media as well: @blurtheboundary

We’d love to connect and make some music with you.


Find out more about John Kelly and the Kellycaster here!

Watch the rest of the event on the Walrus YouTube channel:

Montreal-based disability activists Gift Tshuma and Aimee Louw are establishing a new platform to discuss various angles around access. #CripTalkCorner is presented by Accessibilize Montreal in collaboration with Cinema Politica Concordia.

The video of their first online event is available here:

Posted by Accessibilize Montreal on Monday, May 4, 2020
An orange e-flyer with a black triangle showing a symbol for ASL interpretation.  Text reads: Join Gift Tshuma and Aimee Louw on various discussions around access, because we need each other now more than ever!  

Date: May 4th 2020
Time: 7:15 PM to 8:15 PM ET

For more details check out:
https://www.facebook.com/access4mtl/
#CripTalkCorner eFlyer

If you haven’t encountered Aimee’s work before, we highly recommend her 2019 article: Where is the Disability Beat in Canada? You can find out more on her website https://aimeelouw.com/.

We were interested to hear Propeller Dance’s Liz Winkelaar discussing some related issues in this article and video clip.

Gift has also co-founded a new podcast called the Unashamed Truth with Terry Chase and Dwight Chase. In this first episode, they talk informally about Black identity in the wake of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, various manifestations of systemic oppression, and joyful music:

https://www.facebook.com/100195655037661/videos/375516353380613

We have been taking some time out to rethink the project while our surroundings change rapidly. While this is a difficult time for us all, we are clearly entering a new age of remote collaboration – a topic very close to our hearts. Please watch this space for further updates.

For the time being, you can join Gift Tshuma for a live discussion of the film When We Walk alongside Aimee Louw and the director of the film Jason DaSilva. This event was originally scheduled as a Cinema Politica event last month, and is now being hosted online.

Watch the film here until the 6th of April: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/whenwewalk/

And find details for the livestream Q&A on the evening of the 6th April here: https://www.facebook.com/events/679143069500659/

When he’s not hanging out with us jamming with light sensors and debating accessibility of music technology, Gift organises a Montreal-based group called the United Tribulation Choir. The group has been going since 2007, and brings together gospel with a broad range of styles.

To celebrate Black History Month this year, UTC will be performing alongside Rivers Edge Community Choir on the 22nd February, 8pm at 5567 Chemin de la Côte-Saint-Antoine.

You can check out some rehearsal footage here:

Robyn, Gift, John, and Jacqui jamming in the studio with various acoustic and electronic instruments.

Here are some images taken at our recent workshops in the UK and Canada in October/November 2019, starting with our launch with Drake Music at Graeae Theatre. We are grateful to acknowledge support from the Canada Council for the Arts for travel to the UK, in addition to our #NewConversations funding..

Watch this space for videos and descriptions coming soon!

With special thanks to Drake Music DMLab and Hampstead Music and Voice Studios in London, and MilieuxMake/Education Makers in Montreal.

This image shows a poster for the event: the text is in the body of post.

What? Music + Access workshop
When? Tuesday the 26th of November from 5:30 – 8:30pm (doors open at 5:00).

Where? Participatory Media Cluster (1515 Ste.-Catherine West, EV 11.655)
What you will do? Create a prototype of an accessible musical instrument to be played by two people.
Who will facilitate? Charles Matthews (maker in residence at #MilieuxMake), Gift Tshuma (guest musician), Houda Jawhar and other Education Makers.

If you are curious about how engaging with accessibility can change how we think about musical instruments, this workshop is for you. 

If you wonder what a musical instrument played by two people in equal partnership could look like, we can imagine it.

Seats are limited. Please send an email to makercultures@gmail.com with your name, and mention anything we could do to make this workshop accessible to you. The venue is wheelchair accessible (including gender neutral accessible washroom).

You want to know more? Check these related links: http://www.educationmakers.ca/project/music-access/ 


Can you imagine a musical instrument designed to be played by two people at the same time? How could it remove any barriers to making music that you experience? What kind of interesting restrictions could it create?

Leave your suggestions for a collaborative instrument in the comments below, or send us a tweet at @blurtheBoundary with the hashtag #HackAndBlur. We would love to see and hear anything from one sentence descriptions to drawings or a videos explaining what you would like to see us make!

Your ideas will help us to shape our first workshop with Education Makers in Montreal next week..and we’d love to find ways to collaborate in the future!

Suggestions

So far, the suggestions we have received include:

A belt worn by two people, covered in bells that jingle as they move— Robyn Steward, London

A musical game of snakes and ladders: something that injects elements of chance into playing the music — Adrian Lee, London

We are setting out to work with a limited set resources on the day, with a focus on digital instruments that sit in the physical world. It will be interesting to see what we can do to represent these ideas, and how they change as we make them concrete.

Background

In the digital age, the definition of a typical instrument has expanded for many people to incorporate different kinds of movements and sensory feedback. As musicians engaging with accessibility, we are particularly interested in the creative use of these tools to disrupt conventions, while breaking down barriers to participation.  We believe that engaging with access can radically change the aesthetics and message of art, music, and the instruments themselves. 

So, what would a collaborative instrument look, sound, and feel like to you? How could the challenges of coordinating with another player start conversations about equality and accessibility both for players and an audience?

This idea has developed from our recent trip to London as part of the #NewConversations programme. More about this soon, but for now, here are some brief clips of our R&D activities based at Hampstead Music and Voice Studios:

We are excited to announce that we will be launching as part of Drake Music’s next DMLab event on the 29th October.

If you a Disabled artist involved in developing technology, movement, music, or theatre, we’d particularly like to meet you! This event is free.

Please visit this link for event info and booking:

Audience clapping at a DMLab event
DMLab August 2019, Courtesy of Drake Music
Accessibility