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Level 4, Proactive: reproduces or creates musical motifs and potentially links them together

Observation

People produce short series of musical sounds, ‘motifs’, that form discrete wholes – distinct musical shapes that are heard to be self-sufficient. The motifs may be improvised on the spur of the moment, or be more or less deliberate imitations of known material. A further stage is to link these coherently – either through repetition or variation, or through them sharing a common component (so, for example, an opening phrase may ascend to a particular pitch, and the answering phrase may descend from it). Musical motifs may acquire symbolic meanings, and be used to communicate these.

Interpretation

People can produce musical 'Gestalts' in sound, made up of series of notes, potentially implying the recognition of boundaries of groups of notes with others that do not conform. They can link musical Gestalts coherently, potentially through a variety of means, that may involve groups as a whole or portions of them or both. Short-term and long-term memory may both be implicated and, potentially, rule-bound creativity employed.

P-4

Resources designed for particular groups are available as follows:

P.4.A (re)creates distinctive groups of musical sounds (’motifs’)

Individuals intentionally produce ‘motifs’: short series of notes that form distinct 'wholes'. They may use non-pitched percussion, melody instruments or their voices. The manner in which the internal coherence of the groups is ensured may vary too, although the notes will invariably be closely spaced in time and they are also likely to use pitches that are similar.

Strategies

Encourage or model the formation of motifs, vocally or using musical instruments, that the child or young person is known to find attractive. Initially, these are likely to be reproductions of motifs that are well-known from songs or everyday life (such as ring-tones on phones or short bursts of melody from computer games). Record the person’s efforts for them to play back and enjoy listening to later. There are a number of examples in Soundabout Music Tracks: Motifs https://www.soundaboutfamily.org.uk/soundabout-music-tracks/learning-to-listen/level-4-motifs/ and https://www.soundaboutfamily.org.uk/soundabout-music-tracks/tuning-into-music/level-4-motifs/, some of which use material from the set of Tuning In songs https://ambertrust.org/amberplus/app/music-resources/.

Context

William has moderate learning difficulties and visual impairment. Here, he is on a summer vacation scheme organised by his school, at which a number of activities are offered, including music. In this session, his class is working on playing different motifs.

Observation

William plays a well-known motif on the drum.

Interpretation

William can remember and reproduce rhythmic motifs.

Other videos of William

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 recognising the structure of a piece, go to R.5.B.

Context

Lillie is blind and has moderate learning difficulties. Here, she is on a summer vacation scheme organised by her school, at which a number of activities are offered, including music. In this session, she is working to gain confidence in her singing.

Observation

Lillie sings two motifs from Don’t Worry, Be Happy.

Interpretation

Lillie can process, remember and reproduce melodic motifs.

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 tends to become obsessively interested in particular motifs, sometimes for extended periods of time (weeks, months or even years) – but then she loses interest in them as quickly as they initially attracted her. In the video, the subject of her attention is the main theme from Smetana’s Vltava, which her teacher had introduced her to some months earlier, and which almost invariably finds a place in all Romy’s lessons at this time.

Observation

Romy plays the first four notes of the motif in E minor (its original key), but then immediately transposes the first part of the fragment to F minor, and then to G minor, where she persists with the melody for a little longer. Her teacher attempts to add some harmony, but his hand is immediately swept away, and Romy returns to E minor. Here, she adds some repeated Es in the left hand at the end of the motif, as if for emphasis, and then repeats the extended motif once more. This continues for some time (not shown in the video) and then Romy’s eye was caught by the harpsichord (whose lid, unusually, was open), and she rushed across to try the motif on what for her was a novel instrument. (This in itself represented a huge step forward for Romy, who, at this stage in her musical development, tended to resist trying new instruments, and was typically afraid even to go near them.) After several iterations of the motif in E minor, which appeared to give her particular pleasure, she returned to the piano, and began to play the motif, again in E minor, but in different octaves. Her music teacher tried to join in and, after being rebuffed several times, was permitted to produce the motif in different octaves too – overlapping them in a kind of canon. After a number of iterations, he continued to the next phrase, which produced a strong positive reaction in Romy.

Interpretation

Romy has a strong feeling for musical motifs, and the unique sense of identity that each conveys. By trying the motif in different keys, with different timbres and in different octaves, it was as though she was testing that sense of identity by probing its invariant aspects, each appearance offering a different perspective on what was in essence the same thing. By playing the motifs successively (at the end of the clip), it seemed that Romy was testing the relationships between different versions of the same motif – something that was taken up and extended by the teacher in his canonic version of affairs – so coaxing Romy towards the further development stage highlighted in element P.4.B.

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 linking motifs by varying them, go to P.4.B (c) (3rd video). To see her playing a motif for someone else to copy, go to I.4.A. 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).

P.4.B links musical motifs by repeating or varying them

People link two motifs or more together coherently by repeating them or varying them, using instruments (pitched or non-pitched) or by singing, with words or without.

Strategies

Encourage the person you are working with to link motifs coherently by repeating or varying them. To begin with, they may find this easiest using non-pitched percussion instruments, moving to the voice and then, potentially, melody instruments of one type or another. Modelling what is expected – perhaps with a fellow practitioner – can be a powerful teaching strategy, as well as interaction with the person concerned of the ‘call and response’ type (see I.4). Soundabout Music Tracks: Motifs https://www.soundaboutfamily.org.uk/soundabout-music-tracks/learning-to-listen/level-4-motifs/ and https://www.soundaboutfamily.org.uk/soundabout-music-tracks/tuning-into-music/level-4-motifs/ have examples of sequences of repeated motifs using different instruments and the voice, with and without words, taken from from the set of Tuning In songs https://ambertrust.org/amberplus/app/music-resources/.

Context

Joseph is blind and on the autism spectrum. Here, he is on a summer vacation scheme organised by his school, at which a number of activities are offered, including music. The class are working with musicians on creating and re-creating motifs, and thinking how they can be connected through repetition and variation to form short pieces of music.

Observation

Joseph creates and musical motif, and repeats it and varies it.

Interpretation

Joseph can link motifs by repeating and varying them.

Other video of Joseph

To see Joseph recognising a well-known melodic motif, go to P.4.A.

Context

Freddie is on the autism spectrum. He has severe learning difficulties and has little expressive language. He finds written words easier to deal with then speech. He has absolute pitch. Here, he is having one of his twice-weekly music lessons. He has been taught a simple five-finger exercise in both hands, in C major and C minor, and has been asked to transpose it into every key, rising a semitone on each iteration.

Observation

Freddie successfully manages the task, though rather than press the keys to make the notes sound, he prefers to sing them.

Interpretation

Freddie has a intuitive grasp of the melodic structure of the motifs (the pattern of intervals separating successive notes), and can use this understanding to re-create the motifs starting on different pitches.

Other videos of Freddie

To see Freddie singing a chromatic scale, go to I.3.D (c) (3rd video). To see him improvising on Twinkle, Twinkle, go to video P.5.B.

Context

Romy is on the autism spectrum, has severe learning difficulties and is non-verbal. Nevertheless, she has absolute pitch. Here, she is playing the piano at home. Other family members (including her baby brother) are in the room too. Romy is playing one of her musical interests of the moment – the repeated accompanying figure from Colorblind by the rock band Counting Crows – purely for her own pleasure.

Observation

Romy plays the two versions of the motif alternately, linking them together seemlessly as they are in the original recording.

Interpretation

Romy has an intuitive sense of how similar motifs can be connected coherently, and can produce these on the piano.

Other videos of Romy

To see Romy reacting in a sensory way to the sound of 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 reproducing a motif with which is is familiar, go to P.4.A (c) (3rd video). To see her playing a motif for someone else to copy, go to I.4.A. 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).

P.4.C juxtaposes different musical motifs coherently

Individuals improvise one motif followed by another that sounds logically connected although it is different – as in ‘question and answer’ (see R.4.C) – using instruments of different types or by singing.

Strategies

Encourage or model ‘question and answer’ combinations of motifs, with another practitioner if possible, vocally or using instruments. For some people, it may be helpful to start by using motifs that have words, such as ‘How are you?’, ‘Very well, thank you’. The Tuning In songs https://ambertrust.org/amberplus/app/music-resources/ have other examples that can be used as models for others that you may create for the person you are working with.

Context

Ami is blind and is in the early stages of language development. She enjoys singing. Here she is playing by herself on the rocking horse at her specialist nursery.

Observation

Ami sings fragments of nursery rhymes, connecting them in new ways in a melody that she makes up in the spur of the moment.

Interpretation

Ami can recall and reproduce fragments of songs. The words, the shape of the tune and the rhythm only approximate to the originals. Nonetheless, there is a general sense of coherence in what she does – each motif starting more or less from where the last one left off, for example, and the speed of each being similar.

P.4.D uses musical motifs to symbolise other things

Given the opportunity, individuals use musical motifs to symbolise other things. They may use different motifs from the Tuning In set https://ambertrust.org/amberplus/app/music-resources/ to communicate feelings, ideas and choices, or to represent characters, events, places or actions in a story, for example.

Strategies

Encourage people who find verbal communication challenging to use musical motifs – such as those from Tuning In https://ambertrust.org/amberplus/app/music-resources/ to express their feelings or preferences. Show them how motifs can be used to symbolise different characters, activities or places in sound stories, plays and other narrative contexts such as Peter and the Wolf, and encourage them to sing or play the motifs, or reproduce them from recordings using different switches or touchscreens, at the appropriate moments.

Context

Oliver is blind, has severe learning difficulties and is non-verbal. However, he will tap the rhythms of words and phrases that he wishes to convey. Here he is in class with his teacher, working on social interaction using songs from Tuning In.

Observation

The teacher sings the song, ‘Find the brush and give it to me’. Oliver chooses the brush from two options, and gives it to his teacher. He then joins in the second line, ‘Thank you very much indeed’, tapping the the rhythm of the last words.

Interpretation

Oliver understands at an intuitive level that short bursts of rhythm can act symbolically, standing in the place of words.

Context

Theo has a deteriorative eye condition that at the time of the video meant he had very little sight. At this stage he is also non-verbal (though he subsequently developed normal speech), and communicates entirely by making the sounds of everyday objects and singing fragments of nursery rhymes and other songs that contain a key word that he wishes to convey. He is at home with his mother, sitting on her knee eating biscuits. They are playing a game whereby he nibbles at a biscuit to create different shapes.

Observation

Holding a new biscuit, Theo hums the first line of Twinkle, Twinkle, which his mother interprets as meaning he is going to bite off small pieces around the edge to form a traditional star shape. He starts to do this, and checks the emerging shape with his fingers.

Interpretation

Theo understands that fragments of music can function symbolically, substituting for the words with which they are associated.

Assessment

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

Emerging

Sings or plays at least one motif that has a distinct musical identity, and which may be made up or copied from somewhere else

Example 1

Chris is two-and-a-half years old. He doesn’t make eye contact and hasn’t yet started to speak. He is currently being assessed by a paediatric psychologist. He often taps a short, distinct, rhythm, using his fingers or with anything he can use as a beater, on any resonant objects can he find.

Example 2

Pearl is 15. She has severe learning difficulties, and has a small functional vocabulary of around half-a-dozen words. Her father notices that she often hums a short, distinct motif when she is tired in the evening, and he takes this to mean that she wants to go to bed.

Achieving

Repeats or varies at least two motifs, or links different motifs together to form short musical narratives that need not be exactly in time or in tune

Example 1

Abayomi is 14. He has moderate learning difficulties and is on the autism spectrum. He is starting to learn the drum kit at school. Abayome’s teacher has taught him some short rhythmic patterns that use everyday words as mnemonics, and has lent him a pair of sticks so he can practise at home on the table. Abayome enjoys playing the motifs, and he links them together to make longer patterns.

Example 2

Chloe is nine years old. She has severe learning difficulties. She likes to watch cartoons, and she has learnt some of the motifs from their theme tunes, which she likes to sing to herself from time to time.

Excelling

Repeats and varies three or more motifs, and links different motifs together to form short musical narratives that need not be exactly in time or in tune

Example 1

Gloria is 13. She has moderate learning difficulties. She quickly catches on to the ‘hooks’ of some of the pop songs that she hears, and likes to hum them back to herself. Sometimes she sings the same one over and over again, but more recently, she has started remembering more of the songs, and can connect several motifs together, although her sense of pitch is still rather variable.

Example 2

Kallik is in his twenties. He has moderate learning difficulties and is on the autism spectrum. He loves to sing, although he can’t manage songs all the way through on his own, as he tends to loop the same motif a few times, and then will jump to another one from elsewhere in the song that seems to fit.