Listening Grounds

Hello, and welcome to the Listening Grounds community garden! We are a collective of musical gardeners with backgrounds in performance, composition, therapy, chemistry, law, and other related areas. We have been working together across the UK, US, and Canada between August 2021 and March 2022 to create a shared musical community, using musical seeds and collective soil as ways to build and share ideas together.

You can explore some of our Gardening Gazettes here, in which we share prompts and swap tips for musical gardening, and wander through our garden here.

Please note: the Listening Grounds garden works best on computers running Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, and may not load on other browsers. Please note that after the game has loaded, only the arrow keys are needed to browse our garden. Be sure you have pop-up blockers disabled so you can view the links included inside our garden, as well!

If you’d prefer to browse the works in our garden in a more conventional way, you can find them here as a YouTube playlist.


Danny Clay is a composer and educator whose work is deeply rooted in curiosity, collaboration, and the sheer joy of making things with people of all ages and levels of artistic experience. Working closely with artists, students, and community members alike, he builds worlds of inquiry, play, and perpetual discovery that integrate elements of sound, movement, theatre, and visual design.

Michiko Theurer is a performer, artist, and compos(t)er who cultivates intimate spaces for conversation and shared wonder. Her multimedia work combines the gestural energy of her violin playing with the improvisational fluidity of her painting, and ranges from interactive video installations to virtual galleries, collective performances, and celebratory sharing-spaces.

Pratyay Raha is a composer/improviser/voice artist/poet who is interested in distortion, surrealism, futurism and corporeal sound making.

Finlay McDermid writes: Many thanks to CoMA for cultivating this project, Danny and Michiko for their creative nurturing instigations and the inspiring fellowship and kind collaborations of our disparate green team.  I attended a CoMA gathering at Sage Gateshead just as the pandemic blew in (extended vocal techniques and all) and was glad to reconnect with CoMA for last year’s virtual festival for further adventures in co-musicking.  CoMA has introduced me to many wonderful approaches to music over the years, although I had fairly lost my creative groove of late and this project has threaded through a blustery period to produce some curious shoots.  I particularly enjoyed the variegated hybrid collaborations, in all their peculiarity.  My setting of a W.S. Graham poem (the notion seems dubious, however this creative seed emerged from my composted ponderings and I opted not to quibble) was inspired by a key piece of my hinterland, Donna McKevitt’s setting of Derek Jarman (an inspiring creative gardener), Translucence and perhaps Alvin Lucier’s Memory Space heard on BBC Radio 3’s Late Junction.

Dave Leith is a multi-disciplinary artist living on Galiano Island in British Columbia. He has an extensive background in media, sound art, music recording and performing. His work has been exhibited and published internationally for over 40 years. Leith taught at the Vancouver Film School for over twenty years. He recently retired from teaching. Leith was artist in residence for the VIVO SLAB Theremin workshops. Students built their own theremins and created interactive installations. He received a Manitoba Arts Council grant teaching pinhole photography in schools. Leith is part of the sound performance groups Infinite Zest, Zen Escalator and Moth Mouth (Bandcamp). He is member of Vancouver Electronic Ensemble (VEE) conducted by Giorgio Magnanensi.

Catherine Barlen is a classically trained viola player and former lawyer, based in London, who has never previously composed music. She plays in, and is Schools Liaison Officer for, the Nonesuch Orchestra, a string orchestra which since 2019 has run projects for student composers in West London secondary schools. These projects, joint with CoMA in both 2020 and 2022, have led Catherine to develop an interest in composition and to participate in Listening Grounds. The Third Day is her first composition; the audio recording is a virtual mix put together by Danny with input from Michi and Alison, as well as Catherine herself.

Kevin Tilbury has been a musician and researcher of traditional music since the 1980s, playing semi-professionally in the UK and mainland Europe. His musical career includes TV, radio and solo performances in various European countries. He concentrates mainly on the repertoire of the Bellows Blown Bagpipes from Northumbria and the Scottish/English Borders, an instrument he knew about from childhood. His research into Traditional music enabled him to devise a series of workshops, lectures and performances. In 1991 he started an academic program that ended in a Masters in Ethnomusicology from the University of Limerick (Irish World Music Centre).

Irresistibly drawn by the pull of music, Alison Beattie left a career in Chemistry to embark on the long journey towards becoming a Composer and Sonic Artist.  Alison is based in Paisley, West of Scotland. Her composition style combines writing for acoustic instruments with field recordings exploiting the spectral properties of both sound worlds. Alison is the owner of Alison Beattie – Composition and Sound Sculpture and released her debut album Bifurcation in February 2020.  She also creates interactive audio-visual installations. Alison believes music to be a powerful medium for breaking down barriers and bringing people together from different sectors of society. Her main instrument is saxophone, but she dabbles in cornet, piano and voice.  She plays in numerous community bands, orchestras and ensembles and is one of five volunteer directors for “Music for People”, a summer school which offers a vast range of playing, singing and composing opportunities for adult learners.

Andrew Chadwick has retired from a career in science and IT in the life sciences industry, and for the past five years has been trying to improve his skills as arranger and composer.  He plays violin and viola in several ensembles including CoMA at East Midlands and Sheffield in the UK.  Now that computers can faithfully make the sounds that heavy, unreliable analog synths used to do – and also make a good shot at pretending to be acoustic instruments such as guitar – he is increasingly making use of electronic sounds in his new music, with a particular interest in unconventional (‘microtonal’) pitch sets. During the last couple of years when there has been more than enough free time to get involved in music innovation, and bouncing ideas off CoMA colleagues, he has been extending neo-Riemannian harmonic theory and writing a computer program to visualise and interact with Euler’s Tonnetz, and so contribute to cross-media work on new music. One example of such new music, generated from the letters in short phrases, appears near the ‘Bass Rock lighthouse’ icon here and there will be two more live premieres of his letter-code new works, excerpts from ‘Perseverance Suite’ and ‘Dance Mirrors’ during the CoMA festival on 5th and 6th of March.

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