Reflections on the New Music Collective Collaboration experiment.

Event: Six performances of the music-visual arts collaboration.

Who attended: 13 OCA Students and tutors plus 4 external visitors. I attended with my music collaborator Deborah Johnson.

Venue: Toynbee Studios, Whitechapel, London.

Date: 20th July, 2019

Location setting and atmosphere:

  • Excellent venue in terms of size, acoustics and aesthetics.
  • Excellent access points via tube; wide range of amenities, particularly wine bars, very close by.

A minor -ve point: It is hidden away so finding it was not straight forward.

Example of the work:

Montage of the day’s events by Stefan Schaffeld.

What we presented:

Deborah and I had worked on our content on the Tuesday after my exhibition opening event. As Deborah was leading this collaboration, she suggested that we base it on the poem One Year. On the stage, Deborah and I would sit either side of the prison wall which would be made up by 4 members of the audience: Deborah would represent the inside of the wall and I the outside. We would use the following taken from my exhibition: the dandelion overcoming the granite prison wall image; an extract of the recording dealing with Ian’s account of all the changes he had to make before being settled at Dartmoor prison; the music Deborah had composed for the recital of the poem; the video One Year: Doing Time.from my exhibition.

We changed our minds several times before we settled on the final version which was this: the title slide would open the show followed by the music and a black screen for about 40 seconds. The out of focus dandelion image would come on & then start coming gradually into focus with the music still playing and being fully in focus by the end of the performance; the human wall carrying the maple leaf banners from my exhibition would waft on as the recording of Ian’s account started playing; when the wall was in place, Deborah and I would start reciting the poem. As the poem finished with the line “… and seasons mumbled their good-byes.” the human wall would waft off and the film One Year: Doing Time would play the performance out. The entire filming was done before the performance and the only ‘live’ parts were our recital and the wafting wall.

What went well with our performance: It engaged the audience enough for questions to emerge after it.

What could have gone better: We should have rehearsed the timing of the wall coming on and our recital of the poem.


  • The best part was seeing how well the pairings did given the limits person-to-person access we all had to one another.
  • I loved meeting everyone in person.
  • The debrief at the end of the day was a good time to reflect on what had happened and what had been successful and what had not.
  • In terms of performances, I enjoyed Carla & Caroline’s presentation best because I learned so much from it: the trust that the two performers had of each other allowed them to take more liberties than if they had not known each other and had not worked with one another before.

What I took away with me about the work and experience:

  • There was a great variety of expression and approaches to the task.
  • For my liking, we should have practised the timing of the wall’s appearance because, as it turned out, the start of the last element, the video, was missing.
  • Audience participation was excellent.
  • It is a good idea to develop a collaborating cross-discipline partnership with someone so that experimentation and improvisation can be freer and can, therefore, allow a more creative relationship to develop.

What I took away with me about me:

  • I must be more confident about my work and what I am trying to achieve. For example Sarah-Jayne took a very firm control when she needed to practise her choral piece and the result at performance was superb. Had we rehearsed the ‘wafting wall’ beforehand, the outcome of our piece would have been better.
  • I knew the poem off by heart but, in the heat of the performance, I felt that I had to read it – bizarre!
  • I enjoy impromptu question & answer situations.

Photos of our collaboration performance taken by Stefan Schaffeld – with many thanks:

The wall finding its feet with the Maple leaf drapes.
Quick instructions.
Actions speak louder than words.
I was very grateful to Kym for filming our performance.


  • It was a brilliant idea from Carla & Caroline to have these cross-discipline collaborations.
  • Deborah and I are collaborating on another piece for the student and tutor online publication Edge-zine.
  • I found working with Deborah a very stress-free experience because she has super inter-personal skills.

Next steps:

  • Send Deborah the full length penny-in-the-pond video for her to experiment with a 60 second section of it to go with her music.

4 thoughts on “Reflections on the New Music Collective Collaboration experiment.

  1. A really good day and I enjoyed seeing how the collaboration was working between yourself and Deborah. Amazed too at how you managed to fit this in as well at the time you were also creating an Exhibition.


    1. Thanks, Catherine. I am glad you managed to get there. It was an experience out of my comfort zone but well worth the effort. I think you need to get to know the person you are working with before the art really starts flying. See you soon.


  2. it was great to meet you and have experienced your collaboration with Deborah. Although, you had a clear agenda due to your show, your stepped into a new terrain with giving Deborah space for her ideas. The performance on site was touching. Keep it up


    1. Those are very kind words, Stefan, thank you. It was good to meet you too – you are always so cheerful and understanding, not to mention switched-on artistically in any medium = great characteristics!

      Liked by 1 person

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