Charlotte Bott is a founding member of BSO Resound, a professional disabled-led ensemble conducted by James Rose. Charlotte performed at BSO Resound's memorable debut at the BBC Proms in 2018 where the ensemble made history becoming the first disabled-led ensemble to ever perform at the BBC Proms. She spoke to us about the Linnstrument, an electronic instrument that she believes has the power to open up a whole new musical genre.
1. Could you tell us about how the Linnstrument works?
The Linnstrument is an electronic instrument that was created by Roger Linn in 2014. The board itself is made of silicon and underneath there are sensors which represent loads of notes. Because of these sensors, the notes are all touch sensitive which allows for expression. The Linnstrument doesn't hold the sound itself, it connects to a computer which holds the sounds on a software called Equator.
2. How did you come across the Linnstrument? How did you start learning?
In 2016, the One Handed Musical Instrument Trust introduced me to the Linnstrument as they thought it might be beneficial for me. It was a perfect match, not only due to the Linnstrument's expression and simplicity to set up, but also because it can be played with very delicate movements. I started learning it by just playing around by myself and have continued to develop since joining BSO Resound.
3. How is the Linnstrument different (or similar) to other instruments?
It's an electronic instrument, so that makes it completely different. It can simulate other sounds like traditional instruments, but I prefer to play it with a purely electronic sound as I think it works better. Technically, you can play 15 notes at once which no other instrument can do, but just like other instruments it's extremely expressive and emotive.
4. How would someone go about learning to play the Linnstrument if they were interested?
While the Linnstrument is an extremely accessible instrument to play, getting access to this instrument can be difficult. As it's not a traditional instrument, it's not readily available and they are expensive. Also, there aren't a lot of teachers who will teach the Linnstrument because it's not a traditional instrument. While some teachers are openminded enough to teach it and have to learn different ways and approaches, others find it quite difficult. If someone wanted to go about learning to play the Linnstrument I would suggest contacting your local Music Hub and see if they would be able to facilitate some lessons.
5. Do you know many other musicians who play the Linnstrument? Would you like to see more musicians learning electronic instruments?
Not really. I've seen another musician play the Linnstrument in the National Open Youth Orchestra (NOYO) but I don't know them personally. But I would definitely like to see more musicians learning the Linnstrument and other electronic instruments. I think they have their place alongside conventional instruments. They can create new sounds and open up new opportunities for old repertoire to be rewritten or adjusted, and for new repertoire to be written for them. I think it can create a whole new musical genre.
6. What impact are you hoping to have on the arts industry with your work in BSO Resound?
That's quite a complex question, but I think fundamentally it's about demonstrating that no matter what you play, you can play alongside other musicians. Whether you're disabled or non-disabled, you can all still produce the beautiful sound together. It's breaking down those barriers and perceptions and the institutionalised discrimination.Going back to the very basics, a lot of venues don't have wheel chair access to get on stage. But if they see people with physical impairments performing, they're more likely to include that in upgrades. It can have a rolling snowball effect in different directions. Also, for younger musicians they need someone to look up to and relate to, and there aren't really many people around with physical disabilities who play classical music that are relatable. At the moment the portrayal of disabled people in the media is so narrow and there needs to be more variety and versatility in these depictions so that young people can recognise someone they can identify with, who might represent an aspiration for them.This is changing though. Recently another member of the ensemble told me that a young musician in NOYO already has the aspiration to join BSO Resound and that's great. They've identified with what they've seen represented and now they have a goal they're aiming for, that's so powerful. It's amazing that after only a year and half BSO Resound is already having this affect.
7. What does a typical day look like for you as a working musician?
A typical day is hard to specify really as I have a couple of jobs. I'm a social worker, I do some music leading in a couple of schools and then I'm a member of BSO Resound. If I'm working as a social worker in the day then I'll practice in the evening. If I'm working in the schools then it allows me to play music on and off throughout the day, then practice in the evening. I don't think I really have a typical day.
8. What advice would you give to your younger self, as a developing musician?
Patience is a virtue. I spent a lot of time when I was younger fighting to try and get changes within the music world that I was in at that point, and they never really happened. So that was why I decided that I needed to do a social work course and put music to one side, and from A Levels I didn't do music. That decision was a practical one to be able to get a job long term. So I think it's about patience. There will be other opportunities, you've just got to keep pursuing it and keep your passions in your life and try not let them go.
9. How do you prepare for performances? Are there any specific exercises or rituals you do?
I cuddle my dog Lincoln a lot, especially if I'm anxious. Also, I will generally have a chat with Siobhan, BSO Resound Violin/Viola, who makes me feel relaxed. For me, it's just about making sure I'm feeling calm and relaxed before I play.
10. Are there any particular artists you're listening to at the moment? What do you like about their playing?
I really like Max Richter at the moment. I enjoy his pieces as they really make me think and go off into other worlds. Also, he has quite a variety of wide spread music so there are different things for different moods. It can be very relaxing and calming at the end of a stressful day to put that on, but also thought provoking.
Find out more about BSO Resound.