Songs of Separation was conceived in 2014, in the run up to the Scottish Independence Referendum, at a time when artists and musicians were engaged in debate and action to give rise to a fundamental change in UK society and governance. Media coverage of the referendum shone a light on ‘how we receive the messages which shape our world’. It showed many of us how the different perspectives, particularly in the UK media, were influencing general opinion, and how that was creating a ‘divide’ or separation between the people of the UK.
However, discussions were not limited to the question of Scottish Independence, but also explored the wider context of ‘separations’ we experience in our lives, and how we address and process these. Living through a new period of activism and critique of existing power structures, in response to the wider issues faced by society – the increasing gap between rich and poor, between people who can afford an education and those who cannot, between cultures within the UK (which should be celebrated for their ‘differences’), the perception of growing inequalities – gives us a wide scope to source material from Scottish and English song traditions which resonate with our experience of the world.
Traditional music and musicians have, for centuries, provided a reflection of the challenges in society. Often astute in observation, traditional song joins us to generations that went before, aligning us through common experience which demonstrates that we are, in fact, not at all ‘separate’. Human experience of life is shared and, whilst the context may change, the messages contained within our traditional song repertoire can tell us much about the challenges we face today.
Where we are today
Songs of Separation is a recording project which will take place on the Isle of Eigg in June 2015. The team comprises ten fantastic musicians from Scotland and England, along with a five-strong technical team, including a film maker, studio engineer, photographer, and catering / residential support.
We’ve a month to go until our recording sessions, and everyone’s been busy researching and gathering traditional songs from our respective traditions. The Scotland-based musicians got together today, to play and talk through ideas, Lady Maisery are playing their way around the UK on tour, and Hannah has bought her flight from the States! Excitement is the prevailing feeling, and there’s a huge positivity amongst the musicians as we prepare for an intensive week of rehearsal and recording.
We have been hugely fortunate to receive support from Creative Scotland, Arts Council England and Enterprise Music Scotland, in terms of financial backing, advice and guidance. We would like to thank the many individuals who have helped in the development of this project so far, and we look forward to sharing the music with you.