January 31, 2022

Are Musical Narratives Taking a Path Less Travelled Through a Creatively Accessible Playground?

Sonic Bothy Ensemble Claire Docherty | Sonia Allori | Claire Docherty | Adam Green | Nichola Scrutton | Ali Robertson | Andrew Robertson | Allan Wright | Jen Martin | Jim McEwan | Matthew Walkerdine | Eluned Charnley | Karen Pritchard | Max Rosenthal McGrath

FilmVerbaaaaatim, 2021

What if accessible working was central to, and radically shaping, new music creation in Scotland?

When accessibility is not treated as ‘bolt-on’, but is deeply inherent within creative processes, the shape of ideas and artistic languages tends to shift. Centres of power can shift. Verbaaaatim is Sonic Bothy Ensemble’s commission for BBC Tectonics 2021. Born of the ensemble’s long-standing committed attention to details of inclusion and accessible environment, a decade of experimentation with disabled artist co-led processes, pandemic circumstance and appetite for play; Verbaaaatim is a timely work, documenting art-making during the pandemic, and asking fundamental questions of the nature of ensemble playing; hearing and listening, embodied experiences, sonic memory, reproduction, communication and player intimacy.

Accessibility is vital within Sonic Bothy; in Verbaaaatim simultaneously treated as the highest uncompromising priority and with Dada-inflected playfulness. During this commission, the intimacy of the existing collective embodied ensemble language was profoundly impacted by geographical separation necessitating remote working technologies, and the simultaneous changes in members’ hearing. Prioritising accessible digital working led to the engagement of music-describing captioners, word painting the free-improvised music while hearing impaired musicians responded to the live text. These described texts became reproduction scores, forever distancing from the original improvisation.