Level 4, Reactive: recognises musical motifs and the relationships between them
People recognise and respond to the short, coherent groups of musical sounds (’motifs’) of which pieces are typically made up. This recognition may be shown through a response on their part, or through proactive or interactive engagement (see P.4 and I.4).
Perceptually and cognitively, the person concerned recognises that music is constructed in distinct ‘chunks’ (’Gestalts’), which can be coherently combined in a number of ways to form larger structures.
Resources designed for particular groups are available as follows:
R.4.A recognises and responds to distinctive groups of musical sounds (’motifs’)
Individuals recognise and respond to short, distinctive clusters of musical sounds, which may be the beginnings of well-known pieces, mobile phone ringtones, TV jingles, etc, or specially devised music for learning.
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 thinking about and listening to different musical motifs – the building blocks of songs, film music, games music, mobile phone ringtones and the like.
Joseph produces a version of the classic Nokia ringtone, which recognises straight away.
Joseph can process, remember and recall melodic musical motifs.
Other video of Joseph
To see Joseph producing motifs and connecting them through repetition and variation, see the video in P.4.B .
R.4.B recognises and responds to musical motifs being repeated or varied
Individuals respond to chunks of music being repeated or varied (as in ‘call and response’ activities).
Romy, who is on the autism spectrum, has severe learning difficulties and is non-verbal, is at home, having one of her weekly lessons with her piano teacher. Romy’s piano teacher is using a phrase taken from Aaron Copland’s Buckaroo Holiday from Rodeo. This phrase is familiar to Romy, and was originally selected to be part of the stock of musical materials used in Romy’s lesssons because of its distinctive, quirky nature. In previous sessions, the teacher had added the words ‘Romy, we’re singing your song; now it’s time to use your thumb’.
The teacher plays the motif for the first time, and Romy gives a short vocalisation and makes eye contact. The teacher immediately repeats the phrase. Romy holds the teacher’s arm all the time; this is her way of keeping control, since she can stop the music at any point by pushing the teacher’s hand away (as in she does here P.3.A (b) (2nd video)). The fact that she doesn’t push his hand away in the current video is a sign of pleasure and approval of what the teacher is playing. The teacher immediately repeats the phrase, and Romy indicates her wish for it be played again byt vocalising the opening notes, accurate as to rhythm and with the shape of the melody (its contour) intact.
Romy recognises the repetition of the fragment of music, and relishes it.
Other videos of Romy
To see Romy reacting in a sensory way to the sound of the piano, go to
different motifs being connected coherently, 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 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).
R.4.C recognises the coherent juxtaposition of different musical motifs
This descriptor refers to motifs that sound logically related even though they are different (unlike those in R.4.B, where one motif is a repetition or variation of another). Evidence may well stem from the proactive and interactive domains, when, for example, individuals supply musical ‘answers’ to ‘questions’.
Give people the opportunity to hear pairs of motifs that complement one another – you and other practitioners can model such connections for them – using language, as appropriate. For example, you may sing a rising phrase 'What‘s your name?' over the harmonies C and G, and another practitioner may reply with a complementary descending phrase, ‘My name is Jack’ (over the harmonies G and C). Now do the same, but without language, using your voice or different instruments, to seek to generalise the concept of a coherent connection between two different motifs.
Romy, who is on the autism spectrum, has severe learning difficulties and is non-verbal, is at home, having one of her weekly lessons with her piano teacher. Her father is present, and he is playing two of Romy’s favourite phrases connected together: a melodic fragment taken from Aaron Copland’s Buckaroo Holiday from Rodeo and an ascending chromatic scale. Since both begin and end on C, this means that they can be chained together – gradually moving up the keyboard, an octave at a time.
Romy initiates proceedings by playing a low note on the piano, which she uses to indicate to her father that she wants him to play. As he plays the two motifs, Romy evident flaps her hands and vocalises, watching and listening to what her father is doing
Romy recognises the juxtaposition of the two motifs and responds positively to it.
Other videos of Romy
To see Romy reacting in a sensory way to the sound of the piano, go to
motif being repeated, go to R.4.B. To see her reproducing a motif with which is is familiar, go to P.4.A (c) (3rd video). 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 finger 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).
R.4.D responds to musical motifs being used to symbolise things
Individuals recognise and respond to the fact that musical motifs may be used to symbolise things, from the ring tones of mobile phones to the specially composed motifs associated with language in the Tuning In songs https://ambertrust.org/amberplus/app/music-resources/. In assessing individual’s abilities in this area, care should be taken that the person concerned is recognising the musical motif itself and not other features of the sounds (such as the distinctive chimes of a doorbell).
Use the motifs from 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/ systematically in music sessions and everyday life. They offer motifs that can be used with language, or in their own right, in relation to the following topics: ‘key words and phrases’ (such as ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’, ‘yes please’ and ‘no thank you’); ‘about me’ (such as ‘happy’ and ‘sad’); ‘my needs and wants’ (such as, ‘a drink’ and ‘something to eat’); ‘activities’ (such as ‘music’, ‘listen to a story’ and ‘go shopping’); ‘people’ (such as ‘mum’ and ‘dad’); and ‘places’ (such as ‘home’ and ‘school’). These can be used alongside other motifs specially created for the person you are working with, to reflect their particular needs, wants, preferences and interests. Ensure that all those closely working with or caring for the individual concerned is familiar with their communication repertoire.
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 walking with a teaching assistant from his class to a music session.
The teaching assistant repeats the ‘music’ motif from the Tuning In songs. Tyrone appears to be engaged, each time making a vocalisation that approximates to the second syllable of the word ‘music’.
Tyrone understands what is happening next – the motif working in parallel with the word ‘music’ to convey a sense of the upcoming activity.
Other video of Tyrone
To see Tyrone imitating a simple motif on the drum, go to I.4.B (a) (1st video).
Consistently recognises one distinct musical motif
Grace is 14 years old. She is on the autism spectrum and has limited functional language. She loves the ring-tone on her father’s phone – it always makes her smile and flap her hands excitedly.
Melvyn is eight. He is on the autism spectrum and does not speak. His favourite toy is a robot that has a button to press to make a short series of sounds and flashing lights. He will press the button repeatedly and listen and watch the robot intently.
Consistently recognises two distinct musical motifs and realises when one motif is repeated or varied (as in ‘call and response’)
Lisa is 12. She is severely autistic, with only a little functional language. Her favourite toy is a steam train, that plays two different motifs according to whether it is pushed forwards or backwards. The ‘forwards’ motif amuses Lisa’s little brother, who tries to copy it, which makes Lisa giggle too.
Petra is five. She is on the autism spectrum. She is non-verbal but will vocalise two particular fragments of music that come from a game that her big sister likes to play on her phone. Sometimes Petra will repeat one of the motifs again and again as she rocks to and fro. This behaviour tells Petra’s early years practitioner that she can recognise at least two motifs, and realise that at least one of them can be connected in her mind through repetition.
Consistently recognises at least two distinct musical motifs and realises when one motif is repeated or varied (as in ‘call and response’) and realises when one motif is logically related to another that is different (as in ‘question and answer’)
Stevie is 25. They are on the autism spectrum. Stevie ‘collects’ ring-tones from mobile phones and has a substantial digital collection. They have put them into categories that sound similar, and Stevie also enjoys stringing different ring tones together, making quirky little chains of sounds that have fanciful names of imaginary space creatures.
Ali is 10. He is on the autism spectrum and is nonverbal. He appears not to enjoy contact with other people, and will ignore them or push them away if they come too close. In this school music sessions, he won’t sit in the circle with the other children, and will move to a corner of the room, facing away from from his classmates. Later, on his own, though, he can be heard quietly singing musical fragments from some of the songs that his class have learnt. Often, he will sing the first motif of a song over and over again, and sometimes create his own, short ‘pot pourri’ songs, made up of motifs taken from different pieces. He reproduces some of the vowel sounds of the orginal words too. It is this proactive engagement that enables his teacher to surmise that he can recognise a number of distinct musical motifs and hear when two or more are linked together logically in a single stream melodic stream of sound.