Good Vibrations: positive change through social music-making

Henley, J. and Caulfield, L. and Wilkinson, D. and Wilson, D. (2012) Good Vibrations: positive change through social music-making. Music Education Research, 14 (4) pp. 499-520. ISSN 1461-3808 (print) 1469-9893 (online)


Good Vibrations is a charity that runs gamelan projects with offenders in prison and on probation. A recent Birmingham City University study investigating the short-, medium- and long-term impact of the project found that participation in a Good Vibrations project acted as a catalyst for positive change. The research found that not only did participants feel more able to communicate with other offenders within the project, they found confidence in their own voice so as to continue to develop their communication and coping skills within prison and as ex-offenders in the community. Furthermore, the project contributed to the development of anger management skills and provided an outlet for self-expression leading to a feeling of ‘being normal’. This article presents the findings of the study, and considers why Good Vibrations inspires positive change. Using a three-dimensional model of Activity Theory, the concept of learning through social music-making is explored in terms of how the individual interacts with the social environment in order to develop skills and how participation in a musical learning activity can lead to a positive change of identity.

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