Community Music Activity Commission

Who are you (we)? Where are you (we)?
and connecting through stories of Community Music

12-16 July 2022
Venue: Virtual

CMA Co-Chairs:
Gillian Howell,
Kathleen Turner,

“…we live by stories, we also live in them. One way or another we are living the stories planted in us early or along the way, we are also living the stories we planted – knowingly or unknowingly – in ourselves . . . If we change the stories we live by, quite possibly we change our lives.” – Ben Okri, A Way of Being Free

The theme for the 35th ISME World Conference in 2022 is ‘A Visible Voice,’ calling for recognition of diverse human experiences in and approaches to our music making. In response, the CMA Commission sees stories as a powerful transcultural vehicle for making diverse voices both visible and audible. Stories are a form of knowledge and meaning-making. They are a tool of navigation, of wayfinding in the absence of maps and known pathways, responding to the human desire to feel grounded and connected. Stories dwell within us—planted knowingly or unknowingly, as Ben Okri observes, but still ours to write and rewrite (or are they?). Stories offer an opportunity for interrogating ideas, for challenging assumptions, for identifying what teams we play for, and for addressing absences. Who writes the stories, who benefits from the stories and whose stories have not been told?

If stories offer a wayfinding, they also invite the tellers and the listeners to locate themselves in relation to others and to places. The place for our in-person gathering is home to over 120,000 years of continuous human culture, where the sovereignty of the First Nations’ Peoples was never ceded, and where a treaty with them was never sought by the colonisers. For the First Nations of the country known as Australia, music has always been intimately tied to place, and been the receptacle of knowledge about people, place and practices. Ancient songlines passed down through generations kept this knowledge intact and alive, while also mapping out the physical terrain.

“For First Nations Australians, a song is never just a song. It is a map to identity, a way to find home … It is our way of knowing” – Dr Deborah Cheetham AO, Yorta Yorta woman, composer and soprano, 2019 Peggy Glanville-Hicks Address

Wayfinding, locating oneself, and forging connections are more necessary than ever in the uncertainties of the global pandemic age. Living with uncertainty is not something we get used to; uncertainty amplifies the human desire to re-ground and re-connect. At the same time, through rupture can come renewal. If Okri is right, that by changing the stories we live by we can change our lives, what are the stories that need to change in this window of opportunity?