Each year, we select an artist to curate a Barbican Box, inspiring music making and creativity in young people around London. This year, UK beatboxing champion Bellatrix led the students through an exploration of ‘having a voice’ and the ways our own inbuilt instrument can tell a story…
Music provides an amazing vehicle for telling stories, asking questions and challenging norms. Through music, many feel that they can express a point of view, feeling or emotion. For teenagers, at a time in their life when they’re experimenting with who they are and what makes them unique, music can provide them with a way to view themselves in a new light.
It’s a truism to say that all of us reveal ourselves – our thoughts and feelings – in music. Whether we consider ourselves to be musical or not, we have an intimate relationship with music. Our world is brought to life by music – and the Barbican Box allows young people to use music to find a voice which is uniquely theirs.
The Barbican Box is literally that – a portable box in it with different sounds and objects to encourage an imaginative approach to making music. This year it has been curated by Bellatrix, a musical explorer and songwriter, who has been crowned both the UK’s and World Beatbox champion.
I’ve encouraged them to ask questions and explore what is important to them, connecting then with their own feelings about issues that affect them or the world around them.
Unlike most beatboxers, Bellatrix has a degree in Jazz double bass from the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and her broad palette of influences, from Hip-hop to Jazz and Folk, will help her inspire the young people she’s working with to take an expansive approach to exploring sound.
Bellatrix’s innovative methods see her using live looping with her voice, bass and synth to conjure up images. In the same way she uses her voice to, quite literally, create new worlds and invent new sounds, she will be working with young people to help them create their own unique sound and find their voice.
‘It’s important for people to feel that they have a voice, and the students are at an age where many of them are likely to be exploring new ideas and the potential of their voice. I speculate that being heard can be a privilege that’s not available to everyone, and that music and art are often outlets for voices who might otherwise be unheard. Actually I feel that the voices of young people often go unheard, and I am really excited for the privilege to hear what the young people involved in this project have to say. It’s not only an opportunity for them to explore their own self expression, but for other people to hear them.’
It’s important for people to feel that they have a voice
Indeed, this is an age when young people may find that they are not heard perhaps due to their age, or due to other factors surrounding gender, class, race or sexuality. Along with this there may be questions about injustice and inequality: does having a voice and being heard seem like a privilege not an entitlement?
Through getting young people to improvise in music we can begin to identify their thoughts, opinions and feelings. More than that, they can begin to understand them and name them. The music they create can show us young people experiencing themselves in new ways and making surprising discoveries about themselves and the world around them. By creating these songs they can start to express thoughts in new ways.
‘Growing up, listening to music was a central part of me working out what it was that I had to say. Later, making music allows me to say it.’
Through the Barbican Box more young people will get this opportunity. The result of all this creativity will be them using music as their voice, as their vehicle for connection. We want them to explore their points of view and create their own exciting, thought-provoking and original music. And what will emerge from all of that is the thrill of hearing unique voices telling stories that have never been told before.
The Barbican Box Music Showcase featuring Bellatrix took place on 28 February 2017
Barbican Box Music is supported by City Bridge Trust, the J Paul Getty Jr Charitable Trust and Linklaters LLP and is produced in partnership with Serious.