Let me introduce you to local hero Bridget Mary Chappell who runs practical electronic music workshops for those from minority groups in Melbourne. She founded Sound School in 2017 after noticing a lack of inclusive environments for those wanting to produce, engineer and DJ.
Curating a program for this year’s Melbourne Music Week, Bridget is excited to bring a showcase of new, emerging, home-grown talent, and support the evolution of electronic music in Melbourne. What better platform then MMW to do it. Now in its 9th year and running for 9 days from 19th - 24th November, MMW brings audiences and artists together in celebration of our city’s global reputation as a music capital.
Bridget is involved in two different MMW events, as both co-curator and performer. I had a chat with her before the launch, to uncover all the good things she is doing.
Image by Medika Zagreb
Can you tell us a little about Sound School and what you do?
Our model is to provide free workshops in accessible spaces, aimed at celebrating and upskilling people who want to learn about or create electronic music, and face barriers to this. Those with low incomes, the LGBTQIA+ community, people of colour, women and girls, and people with disabilities. Some workshops are aimed at young people, some are all ages. We always try to be as inclusive as we can, but our key aim is to help those that would struggle to find support elsewhere.
If you look past all-white, all-male lineups at festivals and clubs, you see that most innovations in electronic music came from marginalised communities. It’s really important to keep making spaces for that to happen.
How did it start?
We started last year, running free weekly workshops on topics like Ableton, DJing, synthesizers, live mixing, circuit bending. I was able to get a very cheap studio in Footscray and had some time on my hands to put to good use. I also have a great community of people I could call up and ask to come in and facilitate workshops and lend gear. Since then we’ve grown, and now run several programs and a lot of one-off events at different spaces. One of the key criteria for us is to provide workshops in areas of town that have less services and less access to music gear.
Imagery by Naomi Lee Beveridge
Why is it important to target the demographic you do?
There are a lot of hurdles you must overcome just to even get your hands on a piece of electronic gear, if you’re from a certain background. Unfortunately, I find that in nightclubs, behind the decks, behind the mixing desk, on stage – it’s not very diverse, and this isn’t because of innate talent. It’s because a lot of people have never been encouraged to do it. Not everyone can afford a “real” instrument, but they probably have a computer they can install some music software on. A lot of the music I love has been made by one or two people in their room at home!
What is the main goal behind what you do - your ambitions?
Week to week through Sound School it is about having a lot of fun, meeting people and playing around on heaps of cool gear! Everyone’s teaching each other – we really encourage learning through play and experimentation. On a macro scale I guess my ambition is to dismantle the white boy techno industrial complex through positive, early intervention.
Which direction is it heading?
Over the next year we want to focus on getting further out into the suburbs, and into regional and rural parts of Victoria. I am excited to develop more workshops that get people outside and moving around – learning about field recording, and how to interact with the natural world through electronic music.
How important do you think music is to Melbourne?
From the inside it feels hard to assess Melbourne’s impact on the rest of the world, but there are incredible communities here doing incredible things. Melbourne has a strong reputation for a lot of different genres. I felt proud the other day, when a German producer told me they were so in awe of the Melbourne shuffle.
How did you get involved with Melbourne Music Week?
Sound School wanted to have an end of year showcase to celebrate some of the geniuses that have come through our programs, so MMW was really good timing for that.
I’m also performing as Hextape, at The Toff in Town on Sunday 18 November. It’s a confluence of my classical cello practice and my love of bent, stressful dance music and science fiction. Expect hardware synthesis, ritual chanting vocals, and cello loops. I’ll be playing with Dark Space Project, an experimental act who play in pitch black darkness, and James Teague.
View this post on InstagramSynth class of ‘18 last workshop was a field trip to heaven on earth aka @mess_ltd. tysm @emahfox u giant brain & huge legend. thx @whetwitch for beautiful pics. thanku SO MUCH to all our students, we love u & wednesday nite feels a lil empty without u💔 #moog #buchla #theremin #808
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Tell us about the program you have co-curated?
The Sound School showcase at MMW will be outside Signal on the banks of the Yarra River on Saturday 17 November. Many of the artists will be performing live for the first time and are all graduates from our DJ and Synth School programs we ran this year at Footscray Community Arts Centre. Young people from Maribyrnong, who came through our DJ programs at Phoenix Youth Hub, and DJ MzRizk, who’s facilitated a couple of amazing vinyl workshops for us this year. We’ll be using Signal’s spatialized “sound walk” sound system to play the work of our Ableton School graduates, and the show will be mixed by those from our sound engineering program.
What else are you looking forward to seeing at MMW?
Blue Black Beatz, featuring REMI on Sat 17 Nov will be lots of fun.
Image by MMW
What’s your favourite Melbourne Live Music venue?
The Melbourne Recital Centre is incredible, I am so excited about the Salon Pop event – that venue needs more airhorns!
Imagery by Sisters, Vienna
Be sure to check out the Melbourne Music Week program https://mmw.melbourne.vic.gov.au/program/ and find out more about Sound School https://www.melbournesoundschool.org/
Thanks to Bridget Mary Chappell for her time and Naomi Lee Beverage from Deathproof.
Words by Netta Justice