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Level 6, Reactive: has a mature, shared understanding and appreciation of the music of a particular culture, in a given style or styles

Observation

People engage with pieces as ‘narratives in sound’, which have their own, abstract meanings, as well as potentially conveying a story, mood or description of a scene, and which may be combined with other artistic forms of expression, such as language, dance and dramatic action. People are able to differentiate between different styles of music and different performances.

Interpretation

People subconsciously recognise that one musical event or feature derives from another through imitation, enabling them both to understand musical structure and to experience a continuous stream of emotions, which together fuse to form a coherent aesthetic response over time. They recognise the probabilistic patterns that are the determinants of style, and the features of interpretation that mark out one performance from another.

R-6

Resources designed for particular groups are available as follows:

R.6.A develops a mature response to music, engaging with pieces as abstract ‘narratives in sound’

Individuals engage with pieces of music as abstract narratives in sound, and show an aesthetic response – the music making sense and conveying meaning through its culturally situated structure and content.

Strategies

Give people the opportunity to hear a wide range of pieces, including some that are heard regularly, of growing length and complexity. Let them experience music as part of other art forms, including dance, musicals, opera, films and installations. Live musical experiences are particularly important, where the power of hearing and seeing musicians at work as well as being part of a more general audience response can make a strong impression through ‘emotional contagion’, in which the feelings expressed by one person are ‘caught’ by another. If appropriate, discuss the contexts in which the music was created and may normally be received. Let the person you are working with know the way that you and other people feel when you hear the music – describe the effect it has on you and try to say why – which features produce which responses. If the person concerned does not have the linguistic abilities or conceptual understanding to have such discussions, consider other ways of sharing a response to music – through movement or dance, for example. In any case, listening may well benefit from being reinforced through proactive and interactive musical engagement, and, particularly for those who have little or no language, the manner in which they perform may be the surest (it not the only) way of ascertaining the nature of their response to music.

Context

Derek is blind, has severe learning difficulties and is on the autism spectrum. At the time the video was taken, he had limited functional language and his speech was characterised by echolalia. However, he had absolute pitch that developed very early in his life, which enabled him to teach himself to play on a keyboard when he was only two. He made remarkable progress and, despite a chaotic technique, unmediated by visual models or physical guidance, by the time he was four, he had a repertoire of hundreds of pieces that he had picked up from his environment, including children’s songs, popular classics, TV theme tunes and songs from the shows. At the age of five, Derek came to the attention of a specialist music teacher, who subsequently worked with him intensively: establishing a functional (if idiosyncratic) teacher-pupil relationship, extending his repertoire further and systematically ironing out the wrinkles in his technique, with the aim of ensuring that his capacity to play was not limited by a lack of dexterity on the keyboard. Derek first appeared in the national UK media when he was eight years old, and the clip shown here is from two years after that, when Derek was asked to take part in a national fundraiser that was known as the ‘Telethon’. Derek plays Fats Waller’s Your Feet’s Too Big, based on a commercial recording of the piece. The video shows him playing with the house band, live, and with no rehearsal.

Observation

Derek plays the piece fluently, improvising in a stylistically persuasive way. He has a clear sense of the structure, with an introduction to the piece, an ornamented version of the theme and then improvisation over the harmonies, and a clearly defined ending.

Interpretation

Derek clearly engages with the piece and intuitively understands it as a narrative in sound, which has a distinct musical architecture, and makes sense as a whole. His musical maturity is shown in the stylistic sophistication and coherence of his improvisation, and his ability to make music persuasively with the professional band who provide the backing.

Other videos of Derek

To see Derek later in life showing an awareness of different styles, go to R.6.B (a) (1st video) and R.6.B (b) (2nd video). To see him able to express a preference for one performance over another, go to the video in R.6.C. To see him improvising in a stylistically persuasive way, go to P.6.B. To see him contributing to others’ expressivity in performance, go to I.6.B.

Context

Romy is on the autism spectrum, has severe learning difficulties and is non-verbal. Despite this, she has absolute pitch, and she responds very strongly to music. Here, she is having one of her twice-weekly lessons with her piano teacher. Her father is present, as ever, and a cellist who worked with Romy for a year. Here, the teacher’s musical aim is for Romy to share her intuitive grasp of the emotional narrative of pieces with other musicians – to function empathetically within a small group of people. Over a period of two hours, Romy works through some of her favourite repertoire of the moment, repeating some pieces a number of times before deciding to move on to the next. Having moved on from a particular piece, she rarely returns to it.

Observation

The video is a composite of two clips, the first comprising Romy’s version of the opening theme of Schumann’s piano concerto, and the second, Tonight, from Bernstein’s West Side Story. The playing in both cases is intensely expressive, with marked changes in tempo and dynamics that emphasis climaxes and points of repose in the melodies in keeping with the conventions of expressive Western performance. Varied articulation is in evidence too. Romy often leads these telling moments of expressivity, pushing the envelope of time and dynamics. The sense of musical togetherness of the group is reinforced with Romy making eye contact from time to time with both her fellow musicians, and smiling.

Interpretation

Romy’s expressive playing suggests that she can engage with pieces of music as abstract narratives in sound, even though she tends to play fragments of complete works. As Romy is non-verbal, listening to her play is the only way of observing her musical mind in action, albeit a very effective one.

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 the video in R.4.C. To see her linking motifs by varying them, go to P.4.B (c) (3rd video). 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 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 learning the fingering for a scale on the piano, go to P.5.D (a) (1st 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).

R.6.B becomes familiar with an increasing number of styles and genres and develops preferences

Individuals get to know pieces in a range of styles and genres and develop likes and (potentially) dislikes.

Strategies

Give the person you are working with the opportunity to attend (or otherwise experience) performances that have a focus on particular styles or genres. Encourage them to immerse themselves in a particular style (such as bebop) or genre (for instance, Carnatic music); the works of a particular era (say, the Baroque) or composer (for example, John Williams); or a particular instrument (such as the Ondes Martenot) or ensemble (for instance, the brass band). If possible, talk about the feelings that each evokes, and whether they enjoy some more than others. Discuss the need to listen to unfamiliar styles for a while in order to ‘get into’ them. If such discussion is not possible, look for non-verbal cues that may hint at what someone is thinking or feeling. Enable people to exert their listening choices wherever possible, though don’t be afraid to coax them to experience new things.

Context

Derek is blind, has severe learning difficulties and is on the autism spectrum. Nonetheless, he has exceptional musical abilities, including a highly refined sense of absolute pitch; a repertoire of tens of thousands of pieces that have been learnt entirely by ear, are stored in long term memory and are instantly available to him to play in any key; the capacity to improvise in a range of styles; and an extremely effective, if idiosyncractic, technical facility on the keyboard. However, Derek’s ability to grasp abstract concepts – even musical ones – and to engage in metacognition (to reflect upon his own thoughts and feelings) is very limited. Hence, to establish his knowledge of styles and genres and to ascertain his preferences means having him engage in active music making.

Observation

Derek is asked by his long-time teacher, mentor and friend, Adam, to name some of his favourite jazz pianists. He comes up with Art Tatum (an appropriate answer), and then Dizzy Gillespie (whose name he struggles to pronounce) and Miles Davis – who were both trumpeters. Adam prompts him to remember a famous jazz pianist who went to Linden Lodge School (where Derek himself was a pupil), and he responds with ‘George Shearing’ (the correct – and, for Derek, over-rehearsed – answer). Upon request, he is able to play a harmony in the style of Shearing (using a ‘block chord’), and further able to transfer that texture to an improvisation on Twinkle, Twinkle.

Interpretation

Derek has a sophisticated understanding of at least one jazz style – shown not in words, but in his capacity to reproduce it.

Other videos of Derek

To see Derek as a boy having an advanced (though intuitive) understanding of music, go to R.6.A (a) (1st video). To see him showing further awareness of a different style, go to R.6.B (b) (2nd video). To see him able to express a preference for one performance over another, go to R.6.C. To see him improvising in a stylistically persuasive way, go to P.6.B. To see him contributing to others’ expressivity in performance, go to I.6.B.

Context

Derek is blind, has severe learning difficulties and is on the autism spectrum. Nonetheless, he has exceptional musical abilities, including a highly refined sense of absolute pitch; a repertoire of tens of thousands of pieces that have been learnt entirely by ear, are stored in long term memory and are instantly available to him to play in any key; the capacity to improvise in a range of styles; and an extremely effective, if idiosyncractic, technical facility on the keyboard. However, Derek’s ability to grasp abstract concepts – even musical ones – and to engage in metacognition (to reflect upon his own thoughts and feelings) is very limited. Hence, to establish his knowledge of styles and genres and to ascertain his preferences means having him engage in active music making.

Observation Derek

is asked by his long-time teacher, mentor and friend, Adam, to name a ‘boogie’ pianist that he likes. He responds with ‘Jools Holland’, and is able to play a boogie bass in Jools Holland’s style. He is further able to use the boogie in an improvised rendition of Alexander’s Ragtime Band.

Interpretation

Derek has a sophisticated understanding of at least one boogie style, which is shown in his capacity to use it in an improvised version of a piece.

Other videos of Derek

To see Derek as a boy having an advanced (though intuitive) understanding of music, go to R.6.A (a) (1st video). To see him showing further awareness of a different style, R.6.B (a) (1st video). To see him able to express a preference for one performance over another, go to R.6.C. To see him improvising in a stylistically persuasive way, go to P.6.B. To see him contributing to others’ expressivity in performance, go to I.6.B.

R.6.C becomes familiar with different performances of pieces and styles of performance and develops preferences

Individuals get to know different performances of particular works (typically through recordings) and different styles of performance, and develop preferences.

Strategies

Once the person you are working with is familiar with a piece, try introducing them to performances by different artists. If possible, discuss with them the differences and how, potentially, different performances evoke different responses. Do they prefer one interpretation over another? Then introduce them to the same artist performing different pieces. Are there things about the way a given performer sings or plays that they like or dislike? If appropriate, consider different styles of performance (for example, the keyboard works of Bach being played on the harpsichord rather than the piano). Again, if possible, talk about the advantages and disadvantages of each approach. If words are not up to the task, look for other, non-verbal signs of preference.

Context

Derek is blind, has severe learning difficulties and is on the autism spectrum. Nonetheless, he has exceptional musical abilities, including a highly refined sense of absolute pitch; a repertoire of tens of thousands of pieces that have been learnt entirely by ear, are stored in long term memory and are instantly available to him to play in any key; the capacity to improvise in a range of styles; and an extremely effective, if idiosyncractic, technical facility on the keyboard. However, Derek’s ability to grasp abstract concepts – even musical ones – and to engage in metacognition (to reflect upon his own thoughts and feelings) is very limited. Hence, to establish his knowledge of different performers, performances and styles of performance means having him engage in active music making.

Observation

Derek is asked by his long-time teacher, mentor and friend, Adam, to remind himself of two versions of Somewhere Over the Rainbow with which he is familiar: the original one by Judy Garland, and a more recent interpretation by Eva Cassidy. Derek listens to, and reproduces, the opening bars of each. He is then able to say which he would like to play, and proceeds to do so.

Interpretation

Derek has a sophisticated understanding of at least two performance styles pertaining to a well-known song and, in the context of playing, can indicate a preference.

Other videos of Derek

To see Derek as a boy having an advanced (though intuitive) understanding of music, go to R.6.A (a) (1st video). showing an awareness of different styles, go to R.6.B (a) (1st video) and R.6.B (b) (2nd video). To see him able to express a preference for one performance over another, go to R.6.C. To see him improvising to a stylistically persuasive way, go to P.6.B. To see him contributing to others’ expressivity in performance, go to I.6.B.

R.6.D becomes aware of how music as an abstract narrative in sound relates to other media (words, movement, etc) to create multi-modal meaning

Individuals become aware of how musical meaning informs and is affected by other dimensions of multimedia experiences (as in film music, songs, dance and drama).

Strategies

Explore how meaning in multimedia events and activities is created – through verbal explanation and discussion if possible, or at an intuitive level by using other media such as dance and movement, for example. Show the impact that music has on visual media such as advertising on the internet and television, and how particular pieces can become associated with different brands, even becoming a core part of their identity in some cases. Demonstrate how words and music can work together to create a new stream of meaning that is more than the sum of its parts, by isolating the lyrics and melody of a unfamiliar song and experiencing them separately, and then re-merging them. What effect does each have on the other?

Context

Mika has a severe visual impairment and is on the autism spectrum. He is also a talented multi-instrumentalist, with absolute pitch and a flair for improvisation. He likes to create pieces by multitracking. Here, he is exploring how Stu Phillips’ music for the 1980s TV series Knight Rider works by seeking to emulate it himself. He uses a guitar with effects pedals and a looper. The full sequence, including Mika‘s own explanation of his thinking is available (in German) on his YouTube Channel – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LqA7YLFeF-U&t=13s.

Observation

Mika re-creates Stu Phillip’s soundtrack to a sequence from Knight Rider and adds his own improvised elements that add to the feelings of power and excitement conveyed by the original.

Interpretation

Mika intuitively understands how music and moving images can combine to create a multimodal meaning that is more than the sum of their parts.

Other videos of Mika

To see Mika performing one of his own compositions, go to P.6.C. To see him performing through sophisticated multitracking, go to I.6.D (c) (3rd video).

Assessment

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

Emerging

Has a mature understanding and appreciation of music in a given style, that is shared with other members of a particular culture

Example 1

Alfie is 21. He is on the autism spectrum and has only limited, everyday language. He is a competent pianist, and loves Western classical music of the 18th and 19th centuries, which he plays with what appears to be a sound grasp of structure and with persuasive expression. However, Alfie isn’t able to reflect on his own thoughts, feelings and experiences. Hence it is difficult to know what he thinks and feels about music and about his own performances – except by listening to him play. But, given that Alfie’s interpretations are at least in part his own, it seems perfectly reasonable to assume that he truly appreciates at least some Western classical music, even though he can’t express that appreciation in words.

Example 2

Wendy is on the autism spectrum. Although Wendy doesn’t speak, and seems shy in many everyday situations, she likes to play the accordion for her local troupe of morris dancers, and knows all their repertoire of pieces by ear. They regard her highly as a performer – playing accurately and in what they regard as an authentic style.

Achieving

Has a mature understanding and appreciation of music in two given styles or more, that is shared with other members of a particular culture or shows discernment in relation to different performers and performances

Example 1

Andrew is in his fifties and is on the autism spectrum. He loves music – especially light and popular songs of the 20th century. He is a great fan of Frank Sinatra, having constructed a playlist of every recording of his that he can find online. He also has a passion for the songs from Disney animated feature films, and will spend many hours each day listening to them – right from the early numbers in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to Frozen II.

Example 2

Ciara is 20 years old, and has moderate learning difficulties. She enjoys listening to music, and has two styles that particularly appeal to her – Irish dance music and the songs played by an Irish folk band that other members of her family play in.

Excelling

Has a mature understanding and appreciation of music in two given styles or more, that is shared with other members of a particular culture and shows discernment in relation to different performers and performances

Example 1

Jason is in his early forties. He is a musical savant: a combination of severe learning difficulties, autism and exceptional musical ability. Jason is a great musical entertainer, able to play tens of thousands of pieces from memory and to improvise at will. Although he can’t express his appreciation of music in words, his stylish performances of jazz, light and popular music of the 20th century, as well as many pieces from the Western classical repertoire, show his intuitive understanding. His knowledge of different performances and performers is extensive too: Jason is capable of playing different pieces in the styles of a number of jazz pianists, from Art Tatum to Keith Jarrett.

Example 2

Eva is 25. She is on the autism spectrum. She has completed a bachelor’s degree in music at a UK university and has a number of private pupils on her main instrument, the cello. She also teaches music theory and composition at a local weekend music school for children. She has an encycopledic knowledge of the repertoire of the ‘cello and its virtuosos from the 20th century.