giving voice to the 75% grid coverI have mentioned FAWM a couple of times in previous posts so I wont explain what it is here but will talk about my experience this year and what I produced.

Rather than the 14 pieces in the month of February, which is the standard challenge, I set myself the personal challenge of 16 pieces. This was in recognition of the 16 people that die by suicide in the UK each day and is the area of my current research. My intention was to use the month of February to explore the data I have collected as part of my research to tease out potential methods/approaches/sounds that will form the basis of my final project output later in the year.

FAWM is a song writing challenge and although there are people who create instrumental pieces the majority of the works could be considered traditional in nature. A risk in doing my pieces was that they were going to be so far away from what people expect that they may not ‘get it’. In an attempt to counter this I wrote quite a detailed biography on the FAWM site explaining what I was doing and that the material was going to be very different from the norm. I have partaken in FAWM for a few years and know that the community is supportive so I was very interested to see what they would make of this new direction.

So, how did I get on?

Well, I managed to complete the 16 pieces, which has given me some great material to review and work with for my final project. I have been able to review the material with my University tutor to discuss what works and what doesn’t. I have also received some wonderful feedback from the FAWM community, some who have personal experience of the subject and found pieces that moved them in certain ways. Overall the experience was very positive.

There is always a certain amount of anxiety when sharing a piece for the first time, I never know how it will be received and, probably like many creative, suffer from low self-esteem. Producing material in this topic area greatly increases that anxiety due to the risks posed by exposing people to the subject. When posting material online it is not possible to vet those engaging with it and I am very conscious that I have to produce material that would not make the situation worse for someone in a crisis. This is very difficult because to really expose the data and explore the subject it is necessary to bring things to the fore that could be triggers for some. I try to contain a positive message within all my pieces (although this is not always achieved) and I find that all the pieces require the support of explanatory notes with warnings where appropriate.

I have also found that working with this material intensely over a period of time is draining and emotionally challenging. I need to ensure that I take sufficient breaks from the subject and recharge and regenerate emotionally in order to protect my own well-being.

All the vignettes that I produced during FAWM 2017 can be found in this youtube playlist:

Here are a couple of pieces from that playlist as a taster.


Next time: Kittyhawk and our evolving folk scene