Thursday 8th October 2015

Prototype Project artist Mark Peel talks music, libraries & live improvisation

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What would happen if you were to set up a recording studio in a public space and spend a whole day making improvised music in front of an ever changing crowd? Local musician Mark Peel had this vision and was awarded a Prototype Projects commission in Round 2 to make it happen.

Extemporise – meaning to improvise, with no set song or structure in sight – was Mark’s idea to play the music he wanted and to perform it using a different approach. He said “there is so much amazing music out there that it often gets unnoticed, because it’s over shadowed by an industry that manufactures music to make money.  Through music production company Organic Planets set up by Ben Cunliffe, Mali Davies and myself, I’ve had the chance to experiment and remind people that other music exists, beyond the music charts”.


Mark together with Ben and Mali surprised visitors in St Helens Central Library and took them on an evocative journey to experience music at the very point it was created; before it is cut, copied and pasted in the editing and production suite.

Mali Davies on synthesisers said: “Improvising with sound is a brilliant way to hear music in it’s purest form, as you are free from the constraints of sheet music or following existing songs. It allows the audience to listen to musicians playing what they can hear in their mind, the influences, from all of the music they love”.

Bringing three musicians together to collaborate at an improvised level, was a key part of Extemporise. Musicians feeding off each other to create a composition that hadn’t ever existed before was inspiring, but also nerve-racking.

Ben Cunliffe on Bass guitar said “It was a really positive experience to create music with like-minded people and the audience were enjoying themselves too. It felt like the three of us were simultaneously painting a canvas, all adding our parts, but not too little and not too much”.

Over 100 people had the chance to experience and get close to the music created at the Extemporise event, which was performed as part of St Helens Council’s Cultural Hubs – Arts In Libraries Programme #3. Members of public were shocked that it was all improvised and one person said “Honestly, did you make all of that up on the spot?” and another said “‘Surely you must have rehearsed the intro?”.

Prototype Projects Producer, Debbie Chan believes it’s important to support local artists like Mark, because opportunities like these do much more than we realise. It helps raise artists’ ambition and gets them believing in themselves and that anything is possible. Mark’s confidence has grown, because he knows he can improvise in front of a crowd, creating music on the spot that sounds rehearsed. It can also helps inspire artists to take on new opportunities. Mark is already talking about the need for more performances like his to exist in St Helens and beyond. It sounds like he’s moving onto something bigger and that this is the beginning of something very special.

If you are inspired by Mark Peel’s story and have an idea that would like to discuss with us and/or you are thinking about submitting a Prototype Projects application click here

Read what the press had to say here:
A day of improvised music

Prototype Projects: Round 1 and 2

A list of projects supported and developed under the Prototype Projects strand in 2014

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