Global Sound Movement Win Times Higher Award

November 24, 2016
Mark Lochrie

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Last September we launched a small internal funding call we dubbed ‘RAPID’. The rather incongruous acronym – fuelled largely by the academy’s love of acronyms – stands for Research and Project Innovation Development.

A little over 12 months later and one of the beneficiaries of the RAPID funding – the project team who founded The Global Sound Movement – are worthy winners of the 2016 Times Higher Award for innovation in Arts.

It’s an amazing project led by two equally amazing colleagues in the College of Culture and Communication here at UCLan. Phil Holmes and Paresh Patel share a passion for music. They’re transforming the idea of ‘classroom’ teaching. And they’re driven by a deep desire to do something worthwhile, enthusing and energising the students, researchers and their communities along the way.

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Launched in 2015, The Global Sound Movement (GSM) is a unique digital arts project bringing together a multidisciplinary team of staff and students in an innovative and highly collaborative teaching, learning and research process.

The GSM team collaborate with musicians in remote villages to record rare and exotic musical instruments. The high quality recordings are uploaded to a digital sample library, enabling creatives to expand their sonic palette with rare sounds. The project travels to international areas where music is intrinsic to the communities’ individual culture; often where hand-built instruments are constructed from locally sourced materials forming the basis of the unique sound of that location. Recording takes place within the environments where these instruments are usually experienced so that the ambience of the location becomes inherent to the sound.

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RAPID funding enabled them to further their work appointing two recent music graduates – Oliver Halstead and Jack Davenport. Specifically, they’ve been funded to develop a standalone application that will actively encourage musical composition. The sounds that will be available on this new platform will be taken from the growing library of instruments recorded internationally by the GSM.

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The GSM showcases UCLan’s entrepreneurial ethos. It is an exemplar of its vision for ‘classrooms of the future’ with teaching and learning taking place ‘in-the-wild’.

The project is also an example of high quality practice-based peer-reviewed research recently rated at 4* by external REF assessors.

From its original foundations GSM has grown to include other academics and students from the BA (Hons) Music and BA (Hons) Fashion Brand Management courses as well as research staff at UCLan’s Media Innovation Studio. GSM is a model for the development of new learning experiences across the College and will become a staff/student Community Interest Company in future.

The ever-expanding sample libraries are being sold online to the international music community of composers, music producers, post-production houses and DJs. All monies received are transferred to the musicians/communities responsible for performing the tracks or constructing the instruments. Refinements to the economic model are under consideration. Inspired by initiatives such as ‘Humble Bundle’, the team ensure that revenue is evenly distributed across the entire network so that all artists receive a portion of income.

GSM is generating international interest, featuring on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme (see accompanying documents) and BBC World Service’s ‘News Day’ amongst others. Music industry publications/websites covering the project have included Sound on Sound, FACT and Mixmag.

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There’s not much more to say other than congratulations. Projects like this don’t come along everyday. When they do we need to celebrate them, holding them up as the highest example of what can be achieved through education and collaboration. Here’s to the future of the Global Sound Movement – I sense this is only the beginning.