Mt Ainslie Music Club: Creating Meaningful Connection and Community

Mt Ainslie Music Club
Textured divide

The Mt Ainslie Music Club is a community group of local musicians who meet on the first Thursday of every month to play music that is freely improvised.

The idea of a community improvising ensemble had been in the back of my mind since I obtained a copy of Search and Reflect by John Stevens (recommended to me by Raymond McDonald: saxophonist, composer, psychologist and founding member of the Glasgow Improviser’s Orchestra). Search and Reflect is a manual of improvised pieces, games and exercises designed to encourage participatory music making. I always thought it would be great fun to try out the pieces with a group of like-minded musicians. Fortunately the Ainslie and Gorman Arts Centres were willing to provide support to get the project off the ground. Since our first session in November 2021 we’ve gained a regular cohort of around 15 musicians. We are an inclusive space and each session is open to anyone no matter their musical experience or background.

It’s so important that groups like Mt Ainslie Music Club continue to exist. On one level, they’re incredibly fun and liberating, allowing professional and amateur musicians to rekindle a sense of play, express themselves and practice their musicality without getting bogged down in judgement about whether what they’re doing is ‘correct’ according to external stylistic parameters. On another level, they meet a fundamental human need for participation in group music making. These opportunities are sadly more and more absent from our own cultural traditions but they are an incredible way to build a sense of meaningful connection and community.

Every meeting is different depending on who arrives! The session usually begins with some simple warm up games/pieces involving musical concepts like rhythm, timbre and dynamics. We will progress to improvising in small groups, building soundscapes, and playing pieces that enforce certain parameters on the improvisatory process. We always finish with an extended free improvisation. The music is often atonal and textural but the emphasis is on practicing our ability to listen and respond in the most musical way possible.

We are very excited to be working towards a performance in December of this year at the Ainslie Arts Centre. You can expect music made in the moment: expressive, challenging, beautiful, unconventional, subtle, meditative and undeniably human.

If you are interested in working on your ability to improvise, meeting other musicians, collaborating, having critical conversations, finding unconventional modes of playing your instrument (aka extended techniques) and/or trying something out of the ordinary then please join us!

Tom Fell
Facilitator, Mt Ainslie Music Club