How do you find musical connectivity between a generation whose lifeblood was radio and vinyl cherished gems and today’s teenagers who have on-demand access to mindblowing numbers of songs?
The trick is to find common themes, and it seems songs about love, loss, and coming-of-age never grow old.
Consultant physician Ronan Collins and composer Ian Wilson put YouTube to good use to explore what informs our musical choices as part of a project entitled Same As It Ever Was, a nod to a Talking Heads song.
The project, involving grandparents and their grandkids, looked at the factors influencing their musical choices and brought them together to discuss which pieces they felt most emotionally connected to and why. Dr Collins said one of the academic aims of the study was to explore the use of musical reminiscence as a means of informal education between the generations.
“A real aim behind this was to encourage the generations to discuss music and culture and learn about the musical culture of each other’s eras.
The project was inspired by Dr Collins’ 87-year-old grandmother, Greta Black. At a family gathering, she was asked to name her favourite classical singer and although Dr Collins expected her to say Enrico Caruso, a well-known tenor, she chose the lesser known Tito Schipa. A quick YouTube search threw up Schipa singing in 1929, making her great-grandchildren immediately aware of a singer they have never heard of and starting a whole new conversation about musical choice. Dr Collins said it also raised the question — could YouTube be used as a valuable recreational and reminiscence tool in older people?
An initial study suggested it could and this latest study culminated in the composition of a unique piece of music by Ian Wilson, originally from Northern Ireland, now living in Cork.
The music — contemporary jazz with lyrics by English poet Helen Pizzey — reflects the choices and styles of the different generations and was performed by Dublin singer Lauren Kinsella, accompanied by a small group of musicians, in the two secondary schools that signed up to the project: Mount Seskin Community College in Tallaght and Cashel Community School. Mr Wilson said, for some students, it was their first experience of live music.
Méabh Dowling, 17, a student in Cashel, said she learned a lot about the musical choices of her grandmother, Mary G Flynn, 72. Both accomplished musicians themselves, they discovered a common love of Mozart and Bach. They also both enjoy Nina Simone and the Beatles.
Her grandmother said she found the project highly enjoyable and felt it helped to boost her musically accomplished granddaughter’s confidence.
Mary particularly enjoyed yesterday’s performance at Méabh’s secondary school.
“I was more or less up the front row and I was thinking that none of the teenagers were on their phones for the best part of an hour. Usually, they have the phones stuck to their ears and you can’t carry on a conversation with them,” she said.