Creative Voucher Scheme
Song Collectors Collective & SOAS, University of London
James McDonald, Song Collectors Collective
Dr Kakia Chatsiou, SOAS, University of London
Song Catchers: archiving and promoting oral culture in London
This collaboration between the Song Collectors Collective and the Endangered Languages Archive at SOAS, University of London sought to investigate current song collecting practice and devise ways of encouraging and improving song collecting in the digital age.
A training programme was designed that enabled the investigation of current practices among 25 song collectors and tradition bearers from varied professional backgrounds, interests and levels of experience and expertise. Participants travelled from Oxford, Brighton and Glasgow, with others from Belfast, Budapest, Cape Town and Swaziland participating remotely. Participants included ethnomusicology graduates/students, musicians, linguists, film-makers, social workers, teachers, etc with varied experience in making recordings and song collecting fieldwork. Participants proposed field work projects that they undertook over a period of five weeks in the London area. They attended weekly one-hour presentations by guest speakers on various topics related to song collecting practice, followed by an open discussion on the themes raised in the presentation and the experiences of each of the song collectors in their field work. To encourage remote participation, videos of the guest speakers were uploaded to the Song Collectors YouTube channel each week and remote ‘google hangout’ discussions were held for one hour each week to discuss participants’ respective experiences in their field work. This innovation was one of the most promising developments of the project as it suggested one way that the Song Collectors Collective can provide ongoing support and encouragement to practicing song collectors in the field.
In parallel to the training program, two teams have been audited current practices in data acquisition, data storage and preservation, discovering about each other’s practices and created documentation for the processes and workflows. The research project ended with a Song Collectors Conference at the Proud Archivist gallery and venue in Dalston, London. There was an enthusiastic mix of people from different generations and backgrounds and the presentations and talks very varied and included a presentation by the Song Catcher participants and excerpts of their recordings, before we finished the day with a concert of all of the singers and musicians present. The Song Catchers project generated a blog and seeks to publish records to raise awareness of the project and increase both the collectors’ and the singers’ value of their field work and encourage ongoing recordings and association with the Song Collectors Collective. The space will also include reports and papers arising from the current project, including updated processes and workflows.
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