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Level 4, Interactive: engages in musical dialogues using motifs

Observation

People engage in musical dialogues by copying motifs as a whole (as in ‘call and response’ songs) or linking different motifs coherently (as in ‘question and answer’ songs) and by recognising when other participants do the same.

Interpretation

People can use create, recreate, imitate and connect motifs, and recognise these musical relationships used by others, in the context of improvised musical interactions.

I-4

Resources designed for particular groups are available as follows:

I.4.A produces musical motifs in the expectation that they will stimulate a coherent response

Individuals produce motifs in the context of improvised musical interactions with other people, and wait for a response, reacting when one is given.

Strategies

Model patterns of interaction using musical motifs with other practitioners, and encourage the person you are working with to copy what you do. Start by using short, simple motifs that are copied exactly, perhaps using non-pitched percussion instruments, as in this way the patterns will be easiest to remember and recognise. Next, provide examples where rhythmic motifs are varied slightly. Using melodic motifs is a further step, first, imitating them as a whole, and then connecting them with only a common feature (as, for example, when the last note of one motif is used as the first note of the next). Working in a group, where a leader produces a motif and other people copy, can provide a motivating context for ‘call and response’ and ‘question and answer’ interchanges.

Context

Romy is on the autism spectrum, has severe learning difficulties and is non-verbal. Nevertheless, she has absolute pitch. Here, she is having one of her weekly lessons with her piano teacher. Her father, as ever, is present in the room. Romy is indulging in one of her favourite forms of interaction, which is to play a short, rhythmically distinct motif on two notes on the piano in the expectation that her teacher will copy her. The game has evolved over time, whereby sometimes the keys are pressed down to make a sound, and sometimes they are just tapped gently.

Observation

Romy begins by playing the first half of the motif on B flat around the middle of the keyboard, and only pretends to play the second part (tapping a key). She takes the teacher’s hand and moves it over the appropriate keys for him to copy, which the teacher does. Taking the teacher by the hand, Romy moves up to top octave of the piano, and repeats the game, starting on E. She watches intently as her teacher copies, or sometimes modifies, what she does. Romy signals each time it his turn by moving his hand over the notes that she wants him to play.

Interpretation

Romy’s wish to be copied is evident in her physical manipulation of her teacher’s hand, her concentration on his responses, and the variation in the motifs she produces – which enables her to check that he really is copying her each time (and not just repeating the same motif).

Other videos of Romy

To see Romy reacting in a sensory way to the sound of the piano, go to R.2.D (b) (2nd video). To see her playing a pattern on the piano, go to P.3.A (b) (2nd video). To see her recognising a motif being repeated, go to R.4.B. To see her responding to different motifs being juxtaposed, go to R.4.C. To see her juxtaposing different motifs, go to I.4.C (a) (1st video). To see her choosing songs, go to R.5.A. To see her learning the fingering for a scale on the piano, go to P.5.D (a) (1st video). To see her playing a number of scales on the keyboard, go to P.5.D (b) (2nd video). To see her playing a Bach prelude, go to P.5.D (c) (3rd video). To see her playing a piece with another musician, sharing a common part, go to I.5.A (d) (4th video). To see her playing a piece with another musician, each with a different part, go to I.5.B (b) (2nd video). To see her showing a mature response to music, go to R.6.A (b) (2nd video).

I.4.B imitates distinctive groups of musical sounds (‘motifs’) made by others (as in ‘call and response’)

Individuals engage in musical dialogues by imitating short, distinctive series of notes (’motifs’) produced vocally or instrumentally by another person.

Strategies

Begin by modelling interactions using motifs with another practitioner. Use simple materials to start with: short bursts of rhythm on a drum or tambourine, for example, that are copied exactly. Then move on to introduce a small degree of variation (by subdividing some of the notes of the original, for instance, whereby a crotchet may become two quavers). Melodic motifs can be introduced vocally and then extended to pitched instruments such as the keyboard. Here, the rhythm can maintained while some or all of the pitches change. Again, notes may be added or omitted. Change motifs incrementally and see how far variation can be extended without losing the essence of the original.

Context

Tyrone is blind and has severe learning difficulties. His language is still in the very early stages of development. He reacts strongly and positively to music, particularly up-tempo songs with a strong beat. Here, he is having a one-to-one music session at school with a visiting percussionist. The teaching assistant from Tyrone’s class, who knows him well, is also present, and offers discreet support.

Observation

The percussionist sings a simple melodic motif ‘Hello, Tyrone’, while tapping the rhythm on the drum. Tyrone copies the rhythm. The exchange is repeated.

Interpretation

Tyrone can remember the rhythm of a simple motif and imitate it.

Other video of Tyrone

To see Tyrone responding to a motif used to represent music, go to R.4.D.

Context

Jaydip is on the autism spectrum and is visually impaired. William has moderate learning difficulties and visual impairment. They are on a summer vacation scheme organised by their school, at which a number of activities are offered, including music. In this session, they are working on rhythmic motifs.

Observation

Jaydip copies a rhythmic motif played by William.

Interpretation

Jaydip can imitate short, distinctive groups of musical sounds.

Other video of Jaydip

To see Jaydip playing a beat that initially gets quicker, and then louder, go to P.3.C (a) (1st video).To see William making a pattern through repeated pitches, go to P.3.A (a) (1st video). To see him producing a regular beat, go to P.3.B (b) (2nd video). To see him playing a rhythmic motif, go to P.4.A (a) (1st video). To see Jaydip and William recognising the structure of a piece, go to R.5.B.

I.4.C responds to others by using different musical motifs coherently (as in ‘question and answer’)

Individuals supply musical ‘answers’ to musical ‘questions’. For example, a practitioner may sing (or play) a rising phrase ‘What d’you want to do?’ from the Tuning In set https://ambertrust.org/amberplus/app/music-resources/, and the individual may reply ‘shopping’, ‘music’ or other preferred activities – with or without the words.

Strategies

With a fellow practitioner, model ‘question and answer’ interactions using the songs from Tuning In https://ambertrust.org/amberplus/app/music-resources/, and encourage the person you are working with to emulate the patterns of interaction that are made. This may occur vocally, with our without words, or purely instrumentally, where the motif functions as a proxy for the language with which it is become associated.

Context

Lily has a neurodegenerative disease. As a consequence, she is blind, cognitively impaired and has little intelligible speech. She can still access functional language, however, by singing short, rhythmic phrases, such as those used in the ‘micro-songs’ from the Tuning In set. Here, she is working with her music teacher, who visits one evening a week at the residential special school she attends. Another member of staff is also present. The music teacher is encouraging Lily to practise communicating about her eating and drinking preferences by using a ‘question and answer’ singing technique, in the hope that this approach can be transferred to everyday life.

Observation

The music teacher sings a motif that rises through the first five notes of the C major scale (C, D, E, F, G) to the words: ‘What would you like to eat, Lily?’, to which she replies, ‘I would like some crisps’. Her singing is rhythmically accurate and approximates to the contour of a melodic reversal of the motif (G, F, E, D, C). The process is repeated with the question, ‘What would you like to drink, Lily?’, to which she replies, ‘I would like some squash’. The music teacher scaffolds the musical interaction by playing the notes quietly on the piano. The sense of questioning expressed through the words is implied musically, with an ascent from tonic (the first degree of the scale) to dominant (the fifth degree), which, in Western tonal music, gives a sense of incompleteness, requiring resolution. This is supplied by the return from dominant to tonic in the answer.

Interpretation

Lily intuitively understands the implied ‘question/answer’ relationship between the motifs, and can use it to support her expressive language.

Context

Romy is on the autism spectrum, has severe learning difficulties and is non-verbal. Despite this, she has absolute pitch and responds very strongly to music. Here, she is having one of her weekly lessons with her piano teacher. As ever, her father is present. As the interaction shown in element I.4.A illustrates, Romy likes to be in control, and, at this stage in her development, it is very difficult for her to accept ideas offered by other people. Here, her music teacher is coaxing her to engage with the melodies and fragments of music that he plays.

Observation

The teacher introduces the first part of the tune of The Entertainer. Almost immediately (after only three notes) Romy starts to play over what he is doing, improvising a motif that both tonally and rhythmically appears to bear no relation to what the teacher offers, as though she is trying to block out his contribution. She also looks away from him and towards her father, who is videoing the session. As the opening motif of The Entertainer ends, Romy stops playing, and there is a momentary silence. The teacher says, ‘Romz’, to get her intention and implying it is her turn to contribute. She then plays the second phrase of The Entertainer, matching the key and tempo of the first, which her teacher played. The teacher offers discreet chords in support. As soon as the motif is concluded, and while the teacher is still playing the final chords, Romy improvises a further contrasting motif that clashes with the harmonies that are offered.

Interpretation

Romy understands intuitively how different motifs can relate – both to create coherence and to disrupt a potential musical narrative that is starting to unfold. She can express this understanding in real time by playing by ear and improvising with her teacher on the piano. This is facilitated by her sense of absolute pitch.

Other videos of Romy

To see Romy reacting in a sensory way to the sound of the piano, go to R.2.D (b) (2nd video). To see her playing a pattern on the piano, go to P.3.A (b) (2nd video). To see her recognising a motif being repeated, go to R.4.B. To see her responding to different motifs being juxtaposed, go to R.4.C. To see her playing a motif for someone else to copy, go to I.4.A. To see her choosing songs, go to R.5.A. To see her learning the fingering for a scale on the piano, go to P.5.D (a) (1st video). To see her playing a number of scales on the keyboard, go to P.5.D (b) (2nd video). To see her playing a Bach prelude, go to P.5.D (c) (3rd video). To see her playing a piece with another musician, sharing a common part, go to I.5.A (d) (4th video). To see her playing a piece with another musician, each with a different part, go to I.5.B (b) (2nd video). To see her showing a mature response to music, go to R.6.A (b) (2nd video).

I.4.D interactions form coherent patterns of turn-taking, with the possibility of some simultaneity

Individuals interact with others through music taking turns singing or playing motifs, possibly producing some material simultaneously and coherently (that ‘fits’ in terms of key and metre).

Strategies

Model the ‘give and take’ of typical improvised interactions with a fellow practitioner, as well as simple simultaneous playing or singing, and encourage the person you are working with to emulate what you do. Give them plenty of time and space to contribute, and be flexible as they become better at making a coherent contribution to a musical whole (see Sounds of Intent Level 5).

Context

Felix is deaf and blind, though he has cochlear implants which he uses inconsistently to give him some auditory sensation. He is in school having a session with a drummer, supported by his music teacher and support assistant. The sounds of the keyboard are played through an amplifier, set up to enhance the bass frequencies.

Observation

The music teacher plays a rock and roll rhythm on the keyboard, which Felix can hear. The drummer joins in, playing the rhythmic motif once. He offers one of the drum sticks to Felix, who grasps it and plays the rhythmic motif repeatedly, in time with the keyboard.

Interpretation

Felix can use his ability to recognise and reproduce rhythmic motifs in the context of making music with others – both taking turns and playing at the same time. This ability, which is advanced at Sounds of Intent Level 4, suggests that he is on the cusp of Level 5.

Assessment

The complete Sounds of Intent assessment matrix is to be found here [DOC 60] and downloadable assessment sheets here. [DOCS 61 & 62]

Emerging

Any one of the following: (a) produces motifs that are meant to be repeated or varied by someone else; (b) repeats or varies motifs that are provided by someone else (as in ‘call and response’); (c) responds to motifs made by someone else with different motifs that follow coherently (as in ’question and answer’)

Example 1

Ciaran is four and developmentally delayed. He likes to play a game with his parents and carers, in which he bangs a pattern on his toy drum and waits for them to copy. His eyes light up when they imitate what he does, and the game can go on for some time.

Example 2

Freya is 12. She has severe learning difficulties and is on the autism spectrum. She rarely communicates purposefully using words, but sometimes she will copy short motifs sung by adults she knows well – usually to nonsense syllables like ‘dah, dah, di, dah, dah’.

Achieving

Any two of the following: (a) produces motifs that are meant to be repeated or varied by someone else; (b) repeats or varies motifs that are provided by someone else (as in ‘call and response’); (c) responds to motifs made by someone else with different motifs that follow coherently (as in ’question and answer’)

Example 1

Natalie is seven. She has moderate learning difficulties and her language skills are delayed. But she loves playing ‘copy’ games with her family. One of them sings a short burst of melody (sometimes a mobile phone ring-tone or snatch of a tune from an advert or TV programme) and she copies them the best she can. In the last few weeks she has started to repeat the motif and wait, hoping to be copied in return. She gives a huge smile when her parents get it right!

Example 2

Lenny is four. He is develpmentally delayed, and he finds language difficult to understand. But he lilkes playing ‘call and response’ games at nursery, when the early years practitioner sings a short snatch of a song with a movement (like ‘clap your hands’) and all the children copy. Back at home, Lenny plays the game with his parents, and he takes the part of the teacher.

Excelling

All three of the following: (a) produces motifs that are meant to be repeated or varied by someone else; (b) repeats or varies motifs that are provided by someone else (as in ‘call and response’); (c) responds to motifs made by someone else with different motifs that follow coherently (as in ’question and answer’)

Example 1

Carole is in her thirties. She is on the autism spectrum and has moderate learning difficulties. She lives in a the community with three other adults with learning difficulties. Her favourite activity of the week is music, when a musician visits Carole and her housemates at home, and make music in a way that they can all join in. Sometimes they sit in a circle, and pass an instrument round (like a shaker or a drum). The first person plays a pattern and hands the instrument on to whoever is sitting next to them. That person has to copy the pattern and pass the instrument on. Then they will vary the game, so they have different instruments, and rather than repeating what someone has just played, they have to ‘answer’. The musician encourages them to do this by pretending they are having a conversation (for example, ‘How are you today?’, ‘I’m feeling very well’).

Example 2

Mason is twelve. He is on the autism spectrum and has moderate learning difficulties. In music session, the class sometimes work in pairs, sitting next to each other, sharing a keyboard. One person has to make a pattern of three of four notes, which they other has to copy. Then they swap over. There are letters on the keys (’C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C), and the teacher encourages them to write down the sequence of notes they have played, and them add one sequence on to the end of another, to start making slightly longer tunes.