What Is Tinderbox?

Article by Amica Sciortino Nowlan

Illustration by Madeline Pinkerton

I’ve agonised over how to write this for a while, but the truth is I needn’t have. It’s very simple. What was being in Tinderbox like? It was electric. When I came to university I, despite my best intentions, neglected music. It got so that I became scared of it. I desperately wanted to start playing again but I didn’t know where to start. Then I heard about the Tinderbox Project. It sounded alluring, dangerous, explosive. Terrified, I auditioned anyway, and I’m so glad I did. Tinderbox tempted me out of the desert and into a musical wilderness.

From Jimi Hendrix, to collaborations with the best bands on the Edinburgh music scene, to original Tinderbox compositions, this was playing as I never had before. They taught us to experiment, to listen, to be brave. Highlights included busking in the Meadows despite subzero temperatures and developing our spontaneous composition/projection performance technique in rehearsals with composer Harry Whalley, and once mightily conducted by Nigel Osbourne.

And then there’s the Tinderbox Fest! A profusion of sound and colour blossoming from every nook and cranny of the labyrinthine Summerhall. The number and quality of contributions was really astonishing. So many impossible acts to follow, but I hope that as the Tinderbox Orchestra we merited our closing set.

So what now? How to sum it up? A musical adventure! I still need to remind myself to be brave, but I can’t wait for the next Tinderbox fire to kindle.