Threads in a Blanket: Creativity and Healing in the Face of Violence

19 Dec

Check out Vanessa’s latest article in the Huffington Post. Using examples from Sierra Leone, Northern Ireland and the Sandy Hook School shooting, she explores how violence can never suppress creativity. In fact it often inspires it in a way that’s almost a form of resistance.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/vanessa-contopulos/threads-in-a-blanket-violence_b_4437142.html

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Published in the Huffington Post!

12 Sep

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We’re delighted that Vanessa’s article on the power of human story has just been published in the Huffington Post. We’re really proud to be able to share our work on such a great platform and hope it encourages people to listen to our latest show ‘Blessing and Burden: A Journey into Resilience, Music and Mental Health’. Click on the link below to read it:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/vanessa-contopulos/hope-in-a-human-story_b_3903790.html?utm_hp_ref=arts

Unexpected Ways

10 Jul

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One of most exciting aspects of exploring this interwoven path of music and memory has always been how stories inspire music and music inspires stories. With every project we work on, our hope is that we will help act as a catalyst for creative energies. We also want to practice what we preach, and as such are thrilled to be able to share ‘Unexpected Ways’, a song written by our very own Vanessa Contopulos and recorded by our very own Alex Dausch. On top of that, the beautiful artwork was done by Meg Gilbert, our very own artist!

As she listened to the stories shared by Reid, Curtis, Joel, Sydney and their families, Vanessa was struck by many of them. As you might expect from a songwriter, she explored these themes and comments through her music. You can listen to the song here:

http://vanessacontopulos.bandcamp.com/track/unexpected-ways

Here are the lyrics:

I have been thinking about you 
The way you see the world in all its many hues 
And the way you bring me out of me 
There’s a beauty in this hidden mystery 

And I’ve come to love the minor keys 
They are the rain that makes the hills so green 
And longer is better it seems when it comes to you and me 
Gives me time to see 
The unexpected ways your joy is changing me 

I remember when we got the letter for the first time 
I knew our lives would be intertwined 
Because you were meant for me 
You are here to help me see 

And I’ve come to love the minor keys 
They are the rain that makes the hills so green 
And longer is better it seems when it comes to you and me 
Gives me time to see 
The unexpected ways your joy is changing me

Michael Fryer, 10th July 2013

A Day in My Life – San Diego Braille Institute Kids

27 Jun

Back in 1999 when I was volunteering with The Corrymeela Community in Northern Ireland, I spent a wonderful week working with a group from a school for visually impaired children. They were such a joy and inspiration to work with. It took 14 years for me to next get a chance to work with a similar group. It was worth the wait!

Earlier this year, myself and my SongStream Project colleague (and wife), Vanessa, made four visits to the San Diego Braille Institute to work with an after-school group. The kids we worked with were an amazing group. Along with our friend Natalie Cruz who was on placement there as part of her studies at the Expressive Arts Institute, we sat down and began the processing of writing a song about a typical day in their life. They shared about the everyday things they come across and enjoy. There was a real spirit of playfulness and enthusiasm in the whole process. Recording that number of young voices isn’t the most straightforward of tasks but everyone stuck with it and this video is the end result.

One of the things we’re doing with The SongStream Project is deliberately creating the spaces in which people whose voices are not normally heard get a chance to tell their story. One of the main ways we’re doing that is through song.

We hope you enjoy this little 3 minute song and video as much as we do!

Michael Fryer, 27th June 2013

You can learn more about the work of the San Diego Braille Institute here:

http://www.brailleinstitute.org/sandiego/

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Loving The Lovebirds

31 May

944305_10101018111628123_606727560_nThe weather here in San Diego is stunning. I’m from the cold, wet and windy north of England. At times I have an exile’s nostalgia about miserable weather but that tends to pass as quickly as clouds on a southern Californian morning.

The other day I was sitting in the back garden in the sunshine. I was listening to the unedited interview we did with our friends Veronica May and Lindsay White, aka The Lovebirds. As part of a series of shows we’re making looking at resilience, they were speaking to us about how music has played such a central part of how they have come to understand and live with the challenges of mental health. As Veronica points out in the interview, “I have bi-polar, I am not my bi-polar”.

We invited them to play songs that they’d written in response to living with bi-polar. One of those was a song called ‘Dead Wooden Box’ that Veronica wrote about her guitar. She shared about being in ICU in the hospital after a manic episode and how when she held her guitar and strummed an E minor chord, it released a flood of emotion she’d been unable to express or acknowledge up to that point. One day she noted the dents and scars on it and how they were all connected deeply with her pain. She wanted to write a song to for her friend in order to say thank you for being there at the best and the worst of times.

I picked you up one day and I noticed a dent

One I inflicted on accident

You threw your reflection at me

And said, ‘I wear your scars proudly’

You take it from me when I take it out on you

Yell when I’m angry and you cry when I’m blue

So here’s a sweet song just for you

So many memories I can retrace

The smell of your spruce top when I open your case

I frantically open the locks

Who knew so much could grow

From a dead wooden box

You take it from me when I take it out on you

Yell when I’m angry and you cry when I’m blue

So here’s a sweet song just for you

The ambulance came and it took me away

With an expressionless face

I said ‘I don’t want to stay’

So they brought you to my bedside

And I cried

And I cried

You take it from me when I take it out on you

Yell when I’m angry and you cry when I’m blue

So here’s a sweet song just for you”

As I sat in the warm sunshine and listened to the recording of Veronica singing, I got goosebumps. No amount of heat could have kept the beauty, emotion and power of her voice and music from revealing itself on my skin.

Michael Fryer – 30th May 2013

Thanks to Betsy Hartman for the photo.

‘Voices of Autism’ Catalysten and Release Party

21 Mar

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Last Saturday evening, March 16th, we gathered for our ‘Voices of Autism’ Catalysten and Release Party. It was an amazing night. Over 60 people gathered at the beautiful Expressive Arts Institute in San Diego to listen to an audio documentary. In such a visually dominant world, there was something wonderfully counter-cultural about the event. Here’s a reminder of how we defined ‘Catalysten’, the fabulous word our co-founder Talia Morales thought up:

Catalysten – ˈkætə-ˈlɪsən

Noun: A listening event that deliberately encourages new ideas, creativity and change.

Verb: The conscious act of listening with the intent of being inspired.

We wanted to share ‘Voices of Autism’ with people while also wanting to stay true of one of the core principles of The SongStream Project; to act as a catalyst for new music, ideas, stories and conversations.

We set up various creative ‘stations’ around the room that were inspired by comments expressed in the show. They included, ‘The Colors of My Mind’, ‘Make the Whole World Better’,  ’Scales of Understanding’ and four that focused on the wisdom of Reid, Curtis, Joel and Sydney our four young stars.

We broke the 85 minute audio documentary into its four natural sections and played each part with a break in between that allowed people to mingle, share their ideas at various stations, get something to eat or drink. A slideshow of photos featuring the people being interviewed accompanied each section. A couple of people suggested for the next ‘Catalysten’ we find an old upright radio and have that as the focal point. It’s a lovely idea. In the meantime, here’s the show if you’d like to listen to it in the comfort of your own home, car, office etc.

http://thesongstreamproject.org/index.php/shows/voices-of-autism

At the start of the evening the people who had gathered didn’t really know what to expect. They all deserve medals for curiosity and embracing a sense of adventure! It was fascinating to see the energy in the room evolve as first of all Reid and then Curtis, Joel and Sydney cast their magic on everyone. It wasn’t long at all until the room was buzzing.

Curtis’ live performance of ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane’ was a real highlight of the night, as was his sister Eleanor’s spontaneous dancing as soon as disco beats reached her ears.

We captured people’s feelings and thoughts at the end through music, as Betsy Hartman played her harp for ‘Reflections in D’ and people called out words and phrases on their mind as the music flowed.

The night ended with the debut performance of a song written by co-founder Vanessa Contopulos that was inspired by the stories we’d gathered together in the show. It was a beautiful way to end a truly memorable night.

We were very grateful for the support of the following in helping provide refreshments:

VONS, Food4Less, Sprouts, Whole Foods, Nothing Bundt Cakes, Speciality Produce, Cupcakes Squared

And big thanks to Andrea Moriarty and Diana Toy for their amazing help in encouraging such generosity!

Michael Fryer

March 21st 2013

Music featured in ‘Voices of Autism’

19 Mar

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This is a list with information about all the music featured in the ‘Voices of Autism’ audio documentary in chronological order.

http://thesongstreamproject.org/index.php/shows/voices-of-autism

 

‘Orange Piano Song’ – Reid Moriarty

All words and music by Angela Neve & Reid Moriarty

© 2012 The Music Therapy Center of California

www.reidmoriarty.com

 

‘It Is Well With My Soul’ – Chris Rice

Album: Peace Like a River: The Hymns Project

Label: INO Records

 

Clip from the end of Mary Poppins

© 1964 Walt Disney Productions

 

‘Rules of Conversation’ – Michelle Lazar

© 2005 Tuned in to Learning

www.tunedintolearning.com

 

‘Shine’ (Live) – The Kingsmen

All words and music by Angela Neve & Reid Moriarty

© 2012 The Music Therapy Center of California

http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Kingsmen/240723279293159?fref=ts

 

‘Ways To Say Hello’ – Angela Neve

© 2005 The Music Therapy Center of California

http://www.inharmonylearning.com/

 

Cesária Évora – Flor Di Nha Esperança

Album: Café Atlantico

Label: Lusafrica

 

‘Shine’ – Reid Moriarty

All words and music by Angela Neve & Reid Moriarty

© 2012 The Music Therapy Center of California

www.reidmoriarty.com

 

Zorro – Extended Main Theme

©1957 Walt Disney Productions

 

Clips from Zorro – ‘Presenting Señor Zorro’

©1957 Walt Disney Productions

 

‘The Grey Havens’ – Howard Shore feat. James Galway

Album: The Return of the King

Label: Reprise

 

‘The Hustle’ – Van McCoy and the Soul City Symphony

Album: Disco Baby

Label: Avco Records

 

Zorro – Closing Theme

©1957 Walt Disney Productions

 

‘The Colors of My Mind’ – Joel Anderson

Words and Music by Joel Anderson and Vanessa Contopulos

© 2011 Joel Anderson 

 

‘Spanish Flea’ (Live) Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8iDCPCfh_kw

 

Clair de Lune – Claude Debussy

 

Medieval Music (‘Trotto’)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=moB_pKmZMHs

 

‘Having a Friend’ – Joel Anderson

Words and Music by Joel Anderson and Vanessa Contopulos

© 2012 Joel Anderson 

 

‘Make The Whole World Better – Sydney featuring Pitch

All words and music by Sydney Pitcher and Jonathan Pitcher

© 2013 Sydney Pitcher

 

Chopin’s ‘Nocturne in C sharp minor (1830)’ -Janusz Olejniczak

Album: The Pianist

Label: Sony

           

‘Tomorrow is Another Day’ – Sydney Pitcher

All words and music by Sydney Pitcher and Vanessa Contopulos

© 2012 Sydney Pitcher

 

‘Pachelbel’s Canon in D’ – Performed by Sydney Pitcher

 

‘Legends of the Fall Theme’– Performed by Sydney Pitcher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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