Community Music Spark (CMS), mobile phones, songwriting and a Zombie video!

Community Music Spark (CMS) is Sage Gateshead’s community music training programme for young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities. Here is a short a short account of a journey of ideas that resulted in a song and video arising from conversations about mobile phones.  

A member of the CMS group XXX said they found comfort from using their mobile phone when they were feeling uneasy in ceratin situations. When in CMS sessions XXX did also acknowledge that this can lead to disengagement from what is going on in the room. Group discussions around this empowered XXX to talk about tis and led to the group creating an original a song called ‘e-zombie’. XXX took a lead role in lyric writing, and directing and starring in the music video.

Dean Moulding. Project Leader for CMS gave me this account ...

'In Community Music Spark we try to create an environment where all of our young people can flourish by understanding their complex needs and building our planning around this. Some of our participants use their phones during sessions, the reasons are quite complex, but some that stand out are that it enables them to feel relaxed, reduces anxiety levels and acts as a coping strategy. Naturally, there are down sides to using their phones in sessions and this has to be managed, but for some it would have had too much of an adverse effect if we had simply adopted a no phone policy. By using song writing as an engagement tool we can go with the energy and bring a spotlight to what needs to be managed in a positive way. Why do people seem to be using their phones so much these days? How does it feel to be having a conversation in person when they are on their phone? What do we miss when we are glued to the screen, what is happening around us?

This topic resonated with our participants, with some saying they wish they didn’t look at their phone as much and some identifying it as a problem for them. It opened a creative environment to shine a light on a collective issue, whilst at the same time getting them to reflect in a personal way, relative to their own lives. One of our young people said, “Sometimes it’s like we are zombies just walking around, disconnected from the world around us”. Perfect, that’s our song, that’s our theme and that’s a great lyric. The spotlight is now on society. Is the art of conversation being lost? Does this behaviour influences other people? What would happen if everyone was on their phone, nobody talking, just texting and social media? The lyrics flowed from the conversation, the song was writing itself.

During the creation of the lyrics we were able to address the questions above and many more, in a collective space where everyone could relate and share their own view, which helped to reinforce our objective. It allowed us to challenge them during other activities when they started to pick up their phones again, in a light-hearted way, which could be directed at individuals with just a smile and a gesture. I believe we won their respect, by listening and understanding their needs. It’s tempting to meet their behaviour with the same energy, underestimating the complexity of the need and wanting the solution in the moment. From my experience, this is often met with attitude, resistance and disconnection. By thinking of a creative solution to this challenging behaviour we were met with “I know” and laughter as they put their phones back in their pockets.

Song writing opens up a creative solution to channel other behaviours too, it softens the 1-2-1 conflict, it takes away the spotlight on an individual, refocuses and challenges them to think about themselves and how others perceive the behaviour objectively. Ideally, we want our participants to internally come to conclusions through support rather than using external reinforcement to manage individuals and group behaviours, which can take our focus and energy away from our musical and vocational aims.'

The song also resulted in a video https://youtu.be/-m4gEwtS8BQ which took a lot of planning and work from the group. They all had a part to play, had a lot of fun makinbg the video and the result is a thought provoking music video.All of this came pout of group conversations, honest opinions and a safe space in which to express them.

Zombies (Lyric)

I walk around on my phone
Paying little attention
To the world around me
I’ve no idea what’s going on
In daily life
Not just the movies

I’m a electronic zombie totally disconnected
From the people all around me, don’t get too close you might get infected

Sometimes I think to myself what on earth have I become
I walk around looking down getting nothing done
Better get off this deadly thread before I lose my head
My feet are tired my body aches, like the walking dead

Plug me in, switch me off, leave me to my own devices
Shake me up, melt me down, free me from my own devices

I wonder why
When I’m on my own
I get so distracted
By the world around me

I’m a electronic zombie, totally disconnected
From the people all around me, don’t get too close you might get infected

Sometimes I think to myself what on earth have I become
I walk around looking down getting nothing done
Better get off this deadly thread before I lose my head
My feet are tired my body aches, like the walking dead

Plug me in, switch me off, leave me to my own devices
Shake me up, melt me down, free me from my own devices

**************** Instrumental**************

Plug me in, switch me off, leave me to my own devices
Shake me up, melt me down, free me from my own devices

 

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