Richy Carey: 'My own accent is a lot less bendy now'

Richy Carey: 'My own accent is a lot less bendy now'

UNESCO City of Music Artist in Residence discusses his new project ahead of the Glasgow Short Film Festival

The first Glasgow UNESCO City of Music Artist in Residence is bringing his latest project to the Glasgow Short Film Festival. Here, Richy Carey tells us about the process behind making a film about the many accents of one city's people.

What was the initial trigger for the idea of Accents?

Initially I was invited to create a piece of work that celebrated Glasgow as a 'music city' and that involved working with communities around the city. I asked myself 'what might a "music city" sound like?' Glasgow has an amazing culture of people making and performing music all the time, across so many genres and styles, in so many different venues and spaces. It got me thinking if there might be something like a sound-in-common amongst all the music made here; or if not a sound, then something like an ethos. It was from there that the idea of accents as sounds-in-common came around, that though every band or music group has its own unique sound, there's something shared amongst them, a bit like an accent.

How did the notion of accents and music then come together?

As a composer I'm always trying to listen better, to hear musical gestures or phrases in the sounds around me, and it struck me that it might be fun to try and make a choral work that comes from this music that's in all our voices. I work a lot with communities to make music, in places like schools, community centres, prisons, or in collaborative projects like films and theatre shows. Mainly because I like working with people rather than on my own, but also because I always learn new things from the people I work with. It felt right that if I was going to make a piece of music that was about accents, a material that is so subjective and also has the potential to be harmful (because of the way they have often been politically co-opted to put people down or put them on the outside due to the way they sound) that I should learn as much as I can from people in the city about how they think about accents, to find out what other's experiences of them are like. So over the course of the year I did various music and sound-making workshops with different community groups to research it.

What did you discover about people's attitudes towards their own accents?

Generally I found that every single person I spoke to had a story about their own accent, about times they were either excluded, made fun of or at the very least felt self-conscious about their own voice. But at the same time there was an overriding sense of pride in the way people felt about their accents, that it held something like a history of their lives, the people they'd met and the communities they identified with. I've now come to think of them as sounds that sit somewhere in the grey between our individual and communal identities.

Richy Carey: 'My own accent is a lot less bendy now'

How will the event pan out on the day?

I've created four short films that have subtitles which direct the choir / audience as to the types of sounds they might choose to make, creating its soundtrack live. In this way, the soundtrack to the films is different every time it's performed, which in turn changes the feeling of the films each time too. Each of the four short film / scores focus on a different aspect of how I've come to understand accents.

At 11am at the Royal Concert Hall on Saturday 16 March I'll be leading a workshop that's free to anyone who'd like to join, to come and learn how to sing these scores. There will be others there from all the community choirs I've worked with other the last year or so, hopefully around 200 or more folk, who have all had some experience of singing these scores in one form or another, so even if you're nervous about singing out loud, you can just listen to those around you and kind of go along with what they are doing. We'll work on them for a couple of hours, before the premiere of the films, with its live soundtrack sung by all those who took part in the workshop, at 1pm.

The event is free to anyone, and there's also a small budget to cover travel expenses for those with low or no incomes that'd like to attend. Also, if the subtitles pose a problem for reading in any way, there will be headsets available that will have the instructions as an audio track. Also, on Friday 15 at 7.15pm, at the CCA, we're screening a few short films by different artists and composers that help put the project in context a bit, where I'll explain a little about each film and how it relates to our project.

How would you describe your accent to someone who can't hear it?

Bendy? I remember going on holiday to Ireland for ten days when I was about 13, and in the car on the way home my mum and dad asked me to stop speaking with an Irish accent. I remember being really embarrassed that I'd kind of subconsciously changed it so much to fit in, but I think that's a big part of how they work. It's a lot less bendy now, but it still happens from time to time. Likewise I know Scottish folk that went to live in other countries and came back with a much stronger Scottish accent, like they kind of wanted to reinforce their identity somehow abroad.

I mean, it instantly makes your ears prick up when you hear a sound you identify with doesn't it? It's like smelling a scent you've not smelled for ages and suddenly your memory is alive with all the things it reminds you of.

Accents: Influences is at CCA, Friday 15 March; Accents, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Saturday 16 March. Both events are part of the Glasgow Short Film Festival.


Film and music piece by Richy Carey, which brings communities together to sing a live soundtrack to a film about sounds of identity and place.

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