Asylum-seeking young women in Venezuela disappeared at sea. Foul play and human trafficking is suspected.

A South Korean ferry transporting 250 high school students sank. Ship personnel commanded the students to stay in their cabins. While captain and crew abandoned ship, the students drowned.

Investigative journalists take on tough beats with tight deadlines and often ominous conditions. Burnout is common.

The pristine and protected Canaima region in Venezuela is being devastated by gold-mining greed and excavators, displacing indigenous people, animals, and birds; dirtying waters; and destroying ecosystems.  -

How can music build community and offer healing amidst a globally isolating pandemic? 

These are stories that award-winning international journalists Marielba Nùñez, Jet Schouten, and Kwang Young Shin brought to me in 2019–2020, during their Knight-Wallace Fellowships and my Visiting Carillonist position at the University of Michigan. We co-created music compositions based on their stories, thus launching Collaborative Investigative Composing, or CIC. We told stories from the carillon, a public bell tower instrument.

Many important stories, perhaps including your own, are left untold. If you have a story to tell and wish to collaborate to create a music composition based on your story, contact me at We can co-create Collaborative Investigative Compositions for various instruments, vocal solos or choral groups, or mixed ensembles, to tell your story via the arts.

1. Collaborative Investigative Composing provides an alternative voice to journalists and other authors and story tellers for whom the written or spoken word is censored, unpublished, ignored, or eclipsed by other events. 
2. When encountering deep suffering and injustices, story tellers might struggle to put the pain into words. Art, music, poetry, dance, and theatre can help create an awareness of suffering, and build understanding and compassion. In co-developing CIC, Marielba Nùñez observed, “The arts can open up emotion and empathy.” 
3. Most written descriptors are visual. Engaging other senses can make a story feel more real. Collaborative Investigative Composing engages the auditory sense and opens up potential to expand our aural vocabulary.  Auditory sensorial cues tend to create and evoke strong memories. A multidisciplinary combination of investigative journalism or any storytelling with music compositions and performances offers audiences multiple perspectives from which to experience a story. 
4. Collaborative Investigative Composing is inclusive and builds community. A story teller, poet, or journalist who does not read and/or write music can bring a story to a composer who did not know the story. Together, they can co-create an investigative composition that is beyond what either of them could offer alone. Someone who plays an instrument but doesn't compose can play ideas and motives that depict the story. The composer will notate the ideas in a sketch, and then, will develop them to highlight the story and simultaneously birth new music that feels and sounds organic.


     -photos by Elliott Woods, University of Michigan Knight-Wallace Fellow, 2019–2020