This research directly impacts the lives of people with disabilities and organisations and individuals working with accessible musical devices. In addition, the design events take an innovative approach to explore reconfiguring, deconstructing and transforming understandings of disability and social and material forms of exclusion, as well as the potential of digital technology to facilitate music making for disabled musicians.
This research project continues to provide concrete examples of what is possible in terms of accessible interface design and making. Through the two inclusive music performances held in 2015 and 2016 disabled musicians have benefitted from the exposure and the opportunity to perform, as well as be part of the wider issue of raising public awareness for inclusive music making. The public audiences invited to attend the concerts have also been able to engage with the themes of social inclusion and disability through attending an inclusive performance with disabled and non-disabled participants collaborating on equal terms as musicians.
Students at schools / FE colleges or universities
The critical making (Ratto, 2011) focus of the design events have brought together student researchers from music, sonic arts, interaction design and computing, and disabled musicians to work together in teams to design and prototype accessible digital musical instruments. Qualitative feedback showed that these kinds of opportunities broaden the perspectives of student researchers in terms of skill enhancement and gaining new forms of expertise (Schroeder, Samuels and Rennie, 2014). Moreover, working with people with disabilities encourages student researchers to challenge their own barriers and preconceptions about disability (Samuels, 2015, 2016). Furthermore, the development of accessible DMIs designed in response to an individual user’s specific needs benefits the user themselves by providing access to music making.
This research aims to challenge exclusive attitudes and inaccessible technologies and designs by providing a qualitative research based and design perspective that represents the voices and experiences of disabled musicians using music technology and inclusive music practices.
Disability related organisations, and those considering policy for disabled people may cite these projects to demonstrate the ways in which disability statuses can be challenged or transformed through the use of accessible technology and inclusive attitudes. Ultimately, this will benefit the lives of disabled people if positive, more inclusive policy and attitudinal shifts are achieved.
Community musicians /music therapists
We also hope that the outputs of this project may be useful to music therapists considering using music technology devices and techniques in their practice, especially those working with clients with physical disabilities or learning difficulties.
Koichi Samuels Ph.D. abstract
The Drake Music Project Northern Ireland (DMNI) is a charity with the aim of enabling disabled people to compose and perform their own music independently through the use of music technology. Thus, DMNI is a charity that works at the intersection of music, disability and technology. This research contributes to raising further awareness on the issue of inclusion and disability, and at the same time presents an example of a charity working on practice-based and technical solutions to transcending both material and social disabling barriers to music making. Interviews, observations and professional perspectives on DMNI techniques and inclusive music practices were gathered through a sixteen-month ethnographic study of the charity between 2013 - 2015. In this thesis I explore the ways in which people produce exclusions and barriers to inclusion whilst using computer-based music technology. In addition, I argue that a music technology device’s potential to be used in accessible ways, or to be inaccessible to certain users is not determined by its design. Through practices of adaptation, or by creating assemblies of devices, even interfaces that are not matched to the specific requirements of a certain user can provide access to music making. I argue that a relational understanding of “independence” serves to reveal a layer of activity beneath simply the physical ability to perform musical actions unaided and recognises that independence also exists in the choices and opinions of the individual. I argue that the practices of resistance to various barriers and constraints to music making at DMNI are highly improvisatory and creative. Moreover, looking at the practices of music making, and the design and adaptation of devices I discuss throughout this thesis, I argue that DMNI provides a space and platform for disabled musicians to exercise acts of resistance against individual, social and material barriers.