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Tuesday 30 May 2017

This is how a collaborative person works: 18. create 3 dimensional pictures of your partners

(This post draws heavily upon the experiences of Paul Macalindin as described in his book Upbeat, which chronicles his inspiring work with the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq. To read more posts in this series go to the March to August 2017 Blog Archive on your right.)

'At the same time in the next building, two Arabic experts from Paris took the 14 young musicians from Orchestre Francais des Jeunes through Iraq history, geopolitics and culture. For the last hour, I took some of the NYOI musicians with me after rehearsal to join in. There, transliterated on a whiteboard, stood Arabic text, which the experts coached us to sing to the tune of our old friend, Che Mali Wali. As the French students sang along, there, sitting under the open windows were Mohammed Adnan, Murad and Hassun playing the pained melody that had accompanied them through childhood. Totally in their bliss, a deep melancholy seeped out from within their Iraqi soul. This wasn't all. Naturally, the Kurds also needed to express their culture. Alan Kamil, our new concertmaster, struck up some traditional melodies on his violin with our wonderfully gifted new percussionist, Peshawa, imitating a zither accompaniment on the grand piano at the back of the room. Two intense musical traditions perfumed one small space filled with the finest of France and Iraq.' 
From Upbeat: the Story of the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq by Paul Macalindin

The above quotation is slightly longer than usual. This is because it is a passage rich with insight about how best to begin understanding and appreciating new partners and collaborators. It emphasises the importance of creating a safe, supportive and creative space which encourages learning in 3 dimensions. These dimensions are thinking, doing and feeling: 
  1. Providing facts encouraged the young French musicians to think about Iraq, its society, culture and politics. 
  2. Doing something, in this case singing a traditional song, encouraged them to gain further insights about Iraqi music and culture. It also reinforced some of the learning from the rest of the session.
  3. Listening to the NYOI players perform some of their traditional melodies encouraged the French players to begin appreciating and feeling some of the emotional context of Iraqi culture. This laid the foundations upon which empathy could be built. 
When learning about the people you are collaborating with, create a space within which you can begin to not only understand them but also experience something of what it is like to be them: find and think about the facts associated with them; do some of things they do; watch what they do; listen to what they say -- and seek to empathise with what they feel. 

Allow the gradually developing 3 dimensional pictures you gain to inform the way you work with your partners and help shape your overall relationship with them.

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