• Unite the Beat

If you go down to the woods today.....

If you go down to the Woods today….

You may find a group of strangers brought together by Unite the Beat experimenting with sound. Why don’t you consider joining them? Here’s why I’d recommend it….

I first heard of Unite the Beat when Co-Founder Emily contacted me to say that she had set up her own business and invited me to attend a Workshop. The news did not surprise me as having been Emily’s  University Tutor during her MA, I was aware of her endless curiosity about life, her innovative ideas and her creativity.

Having said that, I did have some initial reservations about going out into the woods, with a group of total strangers, to create sounds from natural materials. However, these initial reservations were eclipsed by even greater doubts about the next part, which seemed to involve sitting in Emily’s house with the same strangers and playing instruments together. There are no musical genes in my family and apart from some fairly disastrous piano lessons when I was a small child my musical ability is about the same as my ability to water ski up a mountain. I was a bit suspicious of what might occur during the sessions and worried about making a complete fool of myself.

I did, however, want to lend my support to this innovative new idea and when my teenage daughter offered to accompany me to lend moral support I decided I’d give it a go, particularly as I had been experiencing a very difficult time which had led to a general inability to switch off my ever worrying brain. 

The session started off on a sunny Sunday morning, with a friendly greeting from Emily and Malik and general introductions from our party of six other participants. Everyone seemed friendly and pleased to be there. After, an initial game where we shut our eyes and were led through the woods by our partners, thereby helping us to become more aware of the sounds, we were set free into a woodland glade to see what other noises  we could discover amidst the branches, leaves, assorted bits of detritus and even a rusty old bike. As we rattled and clattered and jangled our way through the clearing, Emily and Malik diligently recorded all our sounds. After about twenty minutes in the woodland glade we then progressed down to a lake which seemed to suddenly appear like magic, where we splashed around in the water and used a series of impromptu containers to make watery reverberations.

As Emily rounded us all up for lunch, I realised that I had not been worrying or thinking about anything apart from what sorts of sounds I could make, for the entire hour we had been in the woods.  This had been an opportunity simply to play and to lose myself in that experience … Surprisingly, I was enjoying myself!!

After a break for lunch, we began the second half of the day with more initial trepidation about what it would involve.  However, yet again, as the afternoon wore on, my anxieties disappeared, replaced with a child- like curiosity as to what sounds I could make and accompanying admiration at some of the noises that others were making on all  manner of weird and wonderful instruments. After a welcome break for cupcakes, we all shared a creative writing exercise and Emily and Malik began the process of mixing the day’s jangles and clanks into a bespoke piece of original music.

I left the day feeling rested and energised in equal measures. It had been a wonderful way to simply ‘play’ creatively with other people in a shared space that perhaps paradoxically  removed embarrassment rather than creating it and lacked the pressure to ‘make conversation’ or do anything other than experiment alongside one another.

A week later our music arrived, accompanied by a wonderful upbeat video full of the smiles and joy we had shared together that day. From my initial anxieties, I had moved to a place where I would definitely do this again….I recommend it and can only say that if you share these anxieties, give it a go -  if you go down to the woods  you really are sure of a big surprise! 

Guest blog from workshop participant.

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