On the eve of something special

15 Mar


Excitement and a healthy degree of nervousness often goes hand in hand on the eve of something special. The idea of The SongStream Project is about 9 months old and now first child is about to be born. ‘Voices of Autism’ is something the four of us, Michael, Talia, Alex and Vanessa, are very proud of.

We came into this project having never put together an audio documentary before. However, as keen radio fans with an ability to recognise what works and a few transferable skills, we figured things out as we went along.

The first thing to acknowledge is that we we’re incredibly lucky to have four amazing young musicians and their families invite us into their lives. Listening to the ways in which they responded to the questions we shared with them continues to inspire us. We feel confident that those who listen to the show will feel the same way.

This has been a labour of love. It’s been something we’ve all done in our spare time, without any form of funding and it has taken a huge amount of work to turn it into what you can now listen to. It’s been worth every moment.

We love the power of audio and it’s ability to take the brain somewhere that a video, for example, could never reach. We wanted to use that power to highlight and celebrate the amazing gifts that people on the autism spectrum bring to the world. We wanted to highlight and celebrate the power and value of music therapy and to honour the work of music therapists everywhere.

In the process of learning how to help tell someone else’s story we’ve had to acknowledge that in order to be a good storyteller, you at first have to be a good listener.

Our hope and aim has always been that people listening to ‘Voices of Autism’ will be inspired to create new music, new stories and begin new conversations as a result. May Reid, Curtis, Joel and Sydney weave their magic around you in the same ways they have done with us.

Michael Fryer

15th March 2013


‘Voices of Autism’ coming soon

21 Feb

Voices of Autism Show Coming Soon

It’s been a busy few weeks for all of us here at The SongStream Project. We’re gearing up for March 16th when we will be gathering with whoever will join us at San Diego’s Expressive Art Institute (7-9pm) for what we’re calling a ‘Catalysten’. This wonderful word and idea sprang forth from the creative mind of SongStream co-founder Talia Morales and was something resonated immediately with all the team:

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’re excited to see what emerges from this space and we’ll write more about the concept of a ‘Catalysten’ soon. We’re very keen to share the remarkable stories and music we’ve gathered for ‘Voices of Autism’. It’s been a real privilege working with Reid, Curtis, Joel and Sydney, the four young musicians we feature in the show and their families. We were invited into their lives and were bowled over by their hospitality and generosity as they shared so many insights and inspirations relating to the triumphs and challenges of living alongside autism.

We had the tough but rewarding task of listening through hours of interviews and sewing the edited parts together. We’re happy to say we’ve done the major part of the work. We really feel that when you listen to ‘Voices of Autism’ you’ll be moved by the stories you’ll hear and the ways in which music has become an essential part of who these young musicians are and how they share that identity with the world. And believe me, they have much to share!

More details of the ‘Catalysten and Release Party’ can be found here:



Michael Fryer

21st February 2013

Danny Boy

4 Jan

A few years ago I was playing the tin whistle in a band in Yorkshire. We went by the name Whisky Grog and a few times each year got together to play traditional Irish songs on stage. The band had been quite busy in the north of England in the mid-1990s. This was a time after Riverdance had made anything Irish fashionable and every town had an Irish theme-pub called Durty Nellies, Finnegan’s Wake or O’Neills. It appeared to be an unspoken rule that if you wanted to serve Guinness in one of these establishments you had to first hang a rusting old bicycle from the ceiling and knock a bit of plaster off the walls. They were unlike any pubs I’d ever been to in Ireland itself but people loved them and had a fondness for live music while they emptied pint after pint of the black stuff. These were fun times and they paid well too. I was in another band at the time called Spittin’ Sawdust, playing the same venues as Whisky Grog and serving the closest thing I’ll ever come to a traditional apprenticeship. I learned a lot during that time about important life lessons such as being able to laugh at myself, comradeship, being part of a team that relied on each other, how music can make people laugh or cry and the way in which a well-told story can keep a group of people spellbound.


In March 2010 the scattered members of Whisky Grog came together around St Patrick’s Day to play three gigs at Working Men’s clubs in West Yorkshire. They weren’t the packed pubs that I played to with Spittin’ Sawdust, the kind of nights in which it wasn’t unusual to see dancing on top of the bar itself. These clubs were places people gathered to have a drink, play bingo or dominoes, catch up on the latest goings on in town and relax. Because it was around St Patrick’s Day, Whisky Grog was called on to provide some entertainment. We played three places on three separate nights with the Carr Gate Working Men’s Club the first stop. It was a small and delightfully intimate place with a great atmosphere. A few days later at the Swillington Miners’ Welfare Club, a much bigger and emptier venue, my strongest memory is of an elderly couple sitting at the back eating crisps in silence and sipping their drinks. They were unremarkable apart from the fact that the husband was 6ft 5” and dressed in full Elvis costume, swept back hair dyed black, white suit with big collars, bling and flared trousers that were about 3 inches too short. They must have been regulars, for no one even batted an eyelid at such a wonderfully random sight. The third evening, at the Castleford Liberal Working Men’s Club, is the source of the memory that has sparked this meandering trip of nostalgia and which ties in with the fact that at the heart of The SongStream Project, what we’re trying to do is deliberately create the space in which the interwoven paths of music and story can be explored.


The club had a couple of bars in it and we were playing in the smaller of the two rooms. There were maybe 30-40 people in there, some sitting in groups, some standing at the bar and others simply enjoying their own company and having a quiet pint. I’ve always loved to play Danny Boy. The tune is an ancient one and has a power to it that others just can’t match. The words, penned by Fred Weatherly in 1910 after he’d lost both his father and his son within the space of six months, carry such poignancy and beauty in them that they can transport you to the memory of a loved one in an instant. On that night in Castleford as I channeled the music through that little tin whistle, I closed my eyes, as if in reverence to the tune and Fred Weatherly’s words. At one point I opened them and my attention was drawn to a chap sitting by himself off to one side. He was around 70 years old and his eyes were shut. I was playing solo and I imagined the words playing out in his mind. He was physically present in that room but the music had taken him to a totally different place, to a place of memory and perhaps to someone he loved and who had loved him. He was utterly absorbed in, and enchanted by a tune that had momentarily whisked him away to a place and time known only to him.


Oh, Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling

From glen to glen, and down the mountain side

The summer’s gone, and all the flowers are dying

‘Tis you, ’tis you must go and I must bide.


But come you back when summer’s in the meadow

Or when the valley’s hushed and white with snow


‘Tis I’ll be here in sunshine or in shadow

Oh, Danny boy, oh, Danny boy, I love you so.


And if you come, and all the flowers are dying

If I am dead, as dead I well may be

I pray you’ll find the place where I am lying

And kneel and say an “Ave” there for me.


And I shall hear, though soft you tread above me

And all my grave will warm and sweeter be

And then you’ll kneel and whisper that you love me

And I shall sleep in peace until you come to me.


As the last note faded away and he quietly brushed aside a tear, I couldn’t help but feel proud of being able to take him away from the empty chairs around his table and the fact that his was the only drink sitting upon it. I will never know where my music took that stranger but I will always treasure the fact that I was able to create a space in which the drab familiarity of a Wednesday night gave way to a journey in which music and story weaved a precious web of memory, a web in which an old man was happy to be caught.


Michael Fryer

January 4th 2013

An Introduction to The SongStream Project

3 Jan

The SongStream Project started off with the simple idea of creating a mobile music therapy space in a vintage Airstream trailer. This, in turn, inspired the name SongStream and over the summer of 2012 evolved into a much broader concept about exploring the interwoven relationship between songs and stories, music and memory. As ideas, creative energy and imaginations blossomed, what unfolded was the possibility of creating podcasts, each with a particular theme that acted as a platform upon which stories and music could emerge.

Music is a vehicle. By taking us to memories, it can carry us across years and continents in an instant. The mission of The SongStream Project is to use music as a way to gather and share stories of everyday people. In so doing, we aim to contribute to a culture of peace by exploring seemingly familiar themes through new lenses in order to encourage empathetic connections across communities, act as a catalyst for creative conversations that challenge stereotypes, help weave webs of relationships, strengthen human community and encourage new music and stories to emerge.

The SongStream team is made up of Talia, Vanessa, Alex and Michael. All of us love to make music. Michael’s work has focused on peacebuilding and conflict transformation while Talia, Vanessa and Alex have a professional background that’s primarily in music. Alex is a musician and sound engineer. Talia and Vanessa have been music therapists for many years and have recently combined that with a focus on peacebuilding. It is these shared interests and values that are the rock on which The SongStream Project is being built.

As a result of the various paths we have followed, we have witnessed the often undervalued power of music and sharing of life stories in places such as Northern Ireland, Sri Lanka, Fiji, Uganda, Peru and here in San Diego. These experiences and insights have proven to us that there’s something valuable and important about consciously creating a space in which people are given the chance to reflect on the paths they have taken and the ways in which music has accompanied them through life. The four of us are very excited to be at the start of building something that will help share all this and to act as a catalyst for creating new music and new memories.

We’re thrilled to be on this journey and look forward to sharing it with you all. Thanks for coming along for the ride!


Michael – 3rd January 2013

The SongStream Project

16 Nov

We are delighted to have this space in which was can share how things are unfolding with The SongStream Project.

In the meantime, please connect with us via facebook.