I must admit I don't have the time to write an exploration of how music saved my life as a teenager, when I began my life as a wheelchair user, or how the underground Disability Arts Scene has been a major player in the battle for equal right for disabled people, although my last column did announce the funding of the NDACA which will highlight that fight. You see I am deep in the middle of rehearsals for a performance of a music project called "Sonic Vistas" that will take place this Sunday at the Liberty Festival, part of the National Paralympic Day 2015 over at the Queen Elizabeth Park in East London. What makes this project so special is that it uses the most up to date technology to open up the joys of making music to anyone, no matter how much their impairment might impact on their physical ability to play an instrument. Yes, Sonic Vistas is at the cutting edge of what is called Assistive Music Technology.
The man behind the project, musician and videographer Ivan Riches, planned the project to showcase the technology to it's very best, and I feel he has succeeded far beyond his wildest dreams. It might sound immodest, but Sonic Vistas has become a band that not only pushes the boundaries of what is physically and technologically possible in the world of music, but it's done it with some really catchy pop/rock tunes. OK, I am in the band and have helped write some of these tunes, but trust me this is one band you don't want to miss.
To a backdrop of videos that have all the lyrics to the songs of our set, musicians Sophie Partridge and Rosie Vachet, who both have impairments that would deny them a chance to play conventional instruments, will play assistive tech that demonstrates their huge talent and skill. They use equipment such as a soundbeam, which uses air pressure to trigger electronic instruments, and i-Pads loaded with software that turns them into any instrument you can imagine. Tech wizard Kris Halpin will unveil a huge leap forward in music tech, the MiMui Gloves, used for the first time in anger on this project. The gloves convert hand movement into MIDI data which allows them to trigger computerized music. Until you see Kris do "air guitar" style movements that actually make guitar sounds you haven't seen music live. We have Deaf rapper MC Geezer doing song sign, alongside his polit-rapping and Howard Jacques doing things with micro synths that twist the mind. Alongside all this outlandish tech Ivan and myself play conventional synthesizers and all together we create something that rocks out, while asking why shouldn't rocking out be for all?