Simon Jankelson (BA – Sydney Uni, MS Interactive Media – UTS) – I am the founder and director of The Human Sound Project and here is a little bit about my story and how this project came about.
I have always loved “playing” music – at age five, I begun composing songs on the piano about the weather – playing the rain and the lightning and thunder by tinkling and bashing on the keyboard as needed – I have never stopped playing, improvising and composing since then.
I had my first taste of “participatory” music creation at age 13, when I was selected to help write my school song. We devised this process so that every student in the school could have a voice by submitting to us a sentence on what the school meant to them. These sentences formed the basis of lyrics for the new school song and here the concept and possibility of participation in the creation of music really took hold for me. I realised that everybody could play a part in the creation of music and art!
From school, I continued this journey of musical collaboration and musical expression through my work in various bands. I have since led, sung in, audio engineered and been principal songwriter for several bands, including WIM whose internationally acclaimed self-titled album was produced by Bob Clearmountain (The Rolling Stones) and released by Modular Records (Universal). WIM toured extensively with highlights including SxSW & CMJ festivals & opening Sundance Film Festival. Many of my songs received excellent local and international reviews.
I further explored participatory sound experiences as a founder and Snr. Interactive Producer for Sydney-based Digital Agency “Based On Birds” leading teams on projects for clients such as Sony and The ABC. One of my favourite projects “The Waking Heart” installation, consisted of a public drawing machine that automatically drew the sounds that people made on the street by singing into their smartphones – the result was a giant artwork representing the collective emotional state of all who participated. The project was featured in TEDx talks across Australia and won best cross-platform project at SxSW Interactive and the prestigious AIMIA awards (2011).
Through the recognition of my work at Based On Birds I was invited to be regular panel guest on the topic of interactive design e.g. at SPAA Fringe & Design Sydney Festival. I was also elected as a member of the “40 UNDER 40” list of talented individuals who will lead Asia’s design industry in the next two decades.
I am also a trained musical facilitator having completed a Masterclass series in advanced facilitation of group singing with musical virtuoso Bobby McFerrin (2013) and an intensive training at the Body Music Retreat in Brazil.
I used my skills as a musician and facilitator working with groups of 10s -1000s, from corporates to schools, running participatory African drumming events for Australia’s “Drumbeats”. I also spent three years with Playback Theatre Sydney, where I improvised music for actors who re-enacted stories told by a live audience.
It were these significant experiences, coupled with the incredibly unifying and healing effect that musical collaboration has had on my life (it’s gotten me out of trouble on more than one occasion), that has helped crystallise my vision for The Human Sound Project.
This project was founded in 2012 with the aim of bringing any group, no matter its size, cultural-background or musical skill level, together through music. After a year of experimentation in my NYC loft perfecting a methodology that would achieved this aim, I set out to run workshops around the world.
Since then I have facilitated workshops for thousands of people of different cultures, religions and socio-economic backgrounds around the world, empowering these groups to come together to create new songs about their stories – you can see the results here: http://www.thehumansoundproject.com