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November New Works: Premieres and Publications

November’s been a fruitful period with a number of projects essentially started during lockdown reaching completion and release. It’s been great to see two collaborative publication projects finalised and a great joy to perform in the Surge New Works concert last week.

Surge New Works: Friction Arts at the Edge 25/11

Sid Peacock continues to transform the musical landscape of the UK through innovative projects with social justice at their heart. The Surge New Works project is one strand of Sid and Surge’s programme of projects:

Surge New Works, our composer talent development programme, is delivered in partnership with Friction Arts. Each year we work with a cohort of diverse composers to create brand new work for an ensemble of musicians from Surge Orchestra with varying line ups and themes…

The 2020 composers were Alicia Gardener-Trejo, Natalie Mason and Xhosa Cole.

Unfortunately, due to lockdowns the 2020 compositions were never performed with the event last Friday at The Edge in digbeth the long awaited opportunity to premiere the works by 2020 composers plus an additional new work by Ryan Trebilcock and assorted creative works.

In addition to marimba duties within the larger scale orchestral pieces, I had the opportunity to perform a marimba solo (come duo) composed by Xhosa Cole entitled Eulogy. Xhosa’s incredibly eloquent explanation of the piece (as a ‘framework for contemplation’) captured the intentionality of this work and related to the chorale like style. Xhosa joined me on the bass end of the marimba, adding some ‘rumblings’ and texture. I feel like, and hope, we created the right environment for reflection…

I also performed a short set of tabla duo works with Mendi Singh, drawing upon our experience of a long partnership of performances and workshops. Mendi’s sound is rich, detailed, precise, dynamic and soulful; always inspiring to learn from him and have the opportunity to explore the tabla tarang. Huge thanks to Sid and the awesome musicians of the Surge Orchestra - it’s always a privilege to work with you.

Academic Activism Special Issue: BCU Cultural Theory Roundtable - Article Publication

Back in 2020 myself and colleagues from the BCU BCMCR Cultural Theory group presented a roundtable discussion on academic activism in a contemporary context. Our starting point was a revisiting of Edward Said’s ‘Representations of the Intellectual’, with roundtable members providing their own perspective on how these representations corresponded to our own experience and praxis. The session was a success and we decided to look around for opportunites to publish. Coincidently the journal of Philosophy and Theory in Higher Education had a call out for a special issue on Academic Activism which seemed like a great fit.

Developing the piece with Kirsten Forkert, Zaki Nahaboo, Poppy Wilde, Esther Windsor and Eugene Nulman was a great education; all such thoughtful, experienced and passionate educators and thinkers. I learnt a lot about editing and preparing a piece for publication as well as modestly contributing to the discussion. The piece can be accessed directly here

The piece’s abstract:

In this roundtable discussion, we revisit Edward Said’s Representations of the Intellectual (1993) as a departure for examining how and where academic activism can take place. This is situated both within and apart from existing public struggles, including #BlackLivesMatter (BLM) and other current movements. Academic activism will be explored as an intellectual project that may at times problematise notions of the public, the intellectual, and the activist. We will examine how academic activism contributes to activist projects, while also interrogating how “public” representational claims are made. This includes important questions: who is responsible for publics that are not yet constituted as such? What voices are not yet heard, seen, or understood? And what is the role of academic activists in relation to these? This in turn raises ethical questions of how to represent and be accountable to the disadvantaged and/or subaltern. In addressing these issues, the roundtable will explore activism both inside and outside the classroom, offering various figurations of academic activism. The discussion will draw on the participants’ experiences of university teaching and popular education within local contexts, as members of staff at Birmingham City University in the UK.

The Industrialisation of Arts Education - Book Publication

Similar to the Academic Activism publication, this project came out a smaller scale project which provided the starting point for this book project. In 2021 I was part of a seminar entitled the ‘Industrialisation of Arts Education’. The event was hosted by Leeds Arts University in collaboration with University of Derby and speakers were prompted to present their perspective on the theme and how this related to their own area of practice. Once again, it was a success and sparked lively discussion leading to the idea to publish. Professor Sam Broadhead composed the application and attracted Palgrave Macmillan to publish.

The book’s description:

This book comprises the responses of a group of multi-disciplinary writers/ researchers/practitioners to the proposition that arts education in the twentyfirst century has become industrialised. Historical and contemporary examples of how arts education prepares students for working in industry are discussed to show how the expectations of educators, students and industry representatives do not always concur. The extent to which arts pedagogies have been informed by the agendas of the cultural industries as well as wider neoliberal ideologies are also considered. This leads to questions about the function and value of arts education. The debates expose tensions of producing students who are ‘industry ready' in an educational context that must, at the same time, consider other issues such as sustainability and widening participation. Writers, educators and researchers in vocational education, creative writing, jewellery design, animation, fashion branding and popular music investigate the complexities relating to this topic from their own diverse points of view.

My chapter, entitled ‘‘Performance’ measures as neoliberal industrialisation of higher education: A policy archaeology of the Teaching Excellent Framework and implications for the marginalisation of music education’ explores how neoliberal ideology is imbued within key HE policy making, creating/cementing/confirming conditions for ‘common sense’ competitive marketisation of higher education to the detriment of music education.

‘Policy Archaeology’ is a method introduced by James Scheurich (1994) to interrogate the social conditions for the emergence and visibility of policy problems and the range of acceptable policy solutions. Through the passing through of four ‘arenas’, policy analysts are required to critically question how policy is reflective, and reinforcing, of a grid of social regularities and to what extent policy seeks to confirm or subvert dominant discourse, action and behaviour. Most importantly policy archaeologists are required to problem pose why and what power (re)distribution is preferable through policy enaction and what this says about society and it’s ‘regularities’ (and regulation).

The piece’s abstract:

Instrumental measures pledging to assess the ‘quality’ of education represent the latest turn in the unabating neoliberalisation of the UK education sector. As the proliferation of league tables, accountancy measures and ‘common-sense’ rhetoric around ‘value for money’ become normalised, the education sector continues to transform into a site of battle; a hierarchical competition of economic Darwinism. Higher education has not been immune to this seemingly irresistible cultural hegemony, embracing its own system of valuation, validation and competition through adoption of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). Conducting a Policy Archaeology (Scheurich, 1994), I seek to show that the TEF embeds a neoliberal governmentality, aimed at entrenching marketisation and industrialisation at the expense of teaching excellence. Through exploration of the policy’s inception, the TEF can be viewed as an apparatus of industrialisation and represents one within a consort of educational policies which seek to devalue music education.

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