I.6.A is aware of, and emulates, the expressivity of others’ playing or singing in ensemble performance
Individuals appreciate and imitate the expressive nature of other’s singing and playing in group work
With a fellow practitioner, model the imitation of expressivity when playing or singing together. For example, in a piece in which one performer and then the other plays a given motif, exaggerate the expression with which it is initially played (through a particular pattern of dynamics, rubato and articulation, for instance) and then ensure these qualities are emulated on its second appearance. Then, in a similar way, encourage the person you are working with to imitate the way the motif is played. Extend this idea to passages played simultaneously, where one player or singer takes the lead and the other follows by watching and listening as dynamics and changes in tempo are worked through. If appropriate, convey ideas on a piece’s interpretation to the person you are working with through discussion, and annotate the sheet music if it is being used.
Ashleigh is blind, has a hearing loss and on the autism spectrum. Nonetheless she is a fine young musician, with absolute pitch, and outstanding memory, the capacity to improvise, to transpose and to play fluently in a range of styles on the piano. Here, she is accompanying her friend and fellow visually impaired young musician, Lilly, in Elgar’s Salut d’Amour, in the Elgar Room of the Royal Albert Hall in London.
Ashleigh accompanies Lilly sensitively, alert to her changes in dynamics and extensive use of rubato. Ashleigh follows Lilly’s phrasing when she is required to take the lead melodically towards the end of the piece.
Ashleigh is aware of the expressivity in Lilly’s playing, and can respond to it persuasively in real time as they play together. Other videos of Ashleigh To see Ashleigh performing solo at an advanced level, go to P.6.D (b) (2nd video).
I.6.B contributes own expressivity to others’ playing or singing in ensemble performance
Individuals contribute their own expressive ideas to ensemble performances, which are taken up by other players and singers
Encourage the person you are working with to contribute their own ideas as to how a familiar ensemble piece should be performed. Let them take the lead and imitate or follow any expressive devices they use, such as changes in dynamics, rubato and particular patterns of imitation. Record run-throughs and reflect on them. Try working on new pieces that offer a blank slate in terms of interpretation. Encourage experimentation and prize creativity.
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. Here he is performing Cole Porter’s song Night and Day with his quartet.
Derek opens proceedings by playing the first few bars of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, before Hannah, the sing joins in with the beginning of the melody, and the the Cole Porter harmonies are expressed through the rhythmic framework of the sonata. The proves merely to be a slow introduction to the main action, which has a Latin rhythm. The rendition includes a solo improvisation by Derek that shows influences of George Shearing, but played wtih an additional syncopated forcefulness, which is picked up by the other members of the quartet. While the scheme of using the Beethoven and transferring to the Latin groove was pre-planned, Derek’s particular version had elements that were unique to him, and influenced the evolving texture of the song.
Derek can contribute his own expressivity to others’ playing – although he cannot verbalise afterwards what has happened. He very much enjoys listening back to the tracks he has recorded with the quartet, and clearly has some intuitive sense of the mood and feelings expressed in the performances.
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 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 to R.6.C. To see him improvising to a stylistically persuasive way, go to P.6.B.
I.6.C improvises with others with stylistic coherence, sharing and developing material in increasingly sophisticated ways
Individuals improvise with others, sharing material in increasingly sophisticated ways, and with stylistic coherence
Practise improvising in a group, either within given stylistic and formal constraints (as in jazz and Hindustani classical music) or more freely. Show the person you are working with how rhythmic, melodic and harmonic ideas can be contributed to the musical mix and shared. Encourage reflection and discussion through recording improvisations and listening to them back as a group.
Francis is blind, has severe learning difficulties and is on the autism spectrum. Nevertheless, he has a natural musicality, underpinned by absolute pitch. He learns by ear and with some physical guidance from his teacher. She describes her teaching approach, including her strategies for helping Francis develop his ability to improvise, here https://ambertrust.app/sound-touch/services/instrumental-and-vocal-tuition/stories/franciss-story/. The context of the video is an online concert organised by The Amber Trust, https://ambertrust.org, a UK-wide charity that supports visually impaired children and young people in their pursuit of music.
Francis plays Fly Me to the Moon with jazz solos to a piano accompaniment.
Although the middle, improvised section has been practised, it nonetheless shows Francis sharing and developing musical ideas in a stylistically coherent way – he is aware of how jazz works and can put that awareness into action in performing with another person.
I.6.D develops increasingly advanced ensemble skills, managing material of growing technical and musical complexity as part of a group
Individuals show increasingly advanced ensemble skills in group work, and are able to perform material of growing technical and musical complexity
As the technical and musical abilities of the person you are working with become more advanced, encourage the group they perform with to choose more demanding repertoire, both in terms of individual parts and ensemble playing or singing. Identify challenges, and work on strategies to overcome them, through explanation, demonstration and guided practice. Consider appropriate contexts for pubic performance and formal recognition through examinations.
Nick is blind, has severe learning difficulties and is on the autism spectrum. Nick is a musical ‘savant’, having started to teach himself to play the piano when he was only 18 months old, as his sense of absolute pitch began to manifest itself. His parents were keen that he should learn another instrument too that would give him more opportunities for social music-making, and Nick had ’cello lessons throughout his childhood. The technique of playing a stringed instrument didn’t come naturally to Nick in the way that playing the piano had, and it is a tribute to him and his teachers that he achieved so much. In the video, he is rehearsing Beethoven’s Coriolan overture in a local amateur orchestra, supported by his music teacher. She has the music open in front of them so she can remind him of the part and when to play if necessary.
Nick plays his part fluently and in time with the other musicians.
Nick appreciates how his part – which he has memorised – fits with the others in a standard work from the Western classical orchestral repertoire. He can make the necessary ongoing adjustments to ensure that his playing first with that of the other musicians in a piece of some sophistication and complexity.
Other video of Nick
To see Nick as a young child playing the piano, go to the video in I.5.C .
Anthony is blind and has moderate learning difficulties. Nevertheless, he is a very talented young musician, with absolute pitch, and the ability to play a number of instruments, including the keyboard, recorder, saxophone and drums. Here, he is performing the saxophone and drum parts of Dave Brubeck’s Take 5 through multitracking on a record produced in 1980 by his school, Rushton Hall, in central England, for blind, primary-aged children with moderate or severe learning difficulties.
Anthony performs his parts persuasively – in particular managing the rhythmic complexities of the drum part very well.
Anthony has advanced ensemble skills, managing to co-construct a piece of some musical complexity through multitracking.
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. Here he is in his studio at home, where he can produce multitrack versions of pieces, with his parents managing the audio and video recording and editing. He puts his performances up on his YouTube channel – see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YfjttYMD73c.
Here he is performing Summertime in his studio at home, playing six different digital instruments – keyboards, guitar, drums and wind.
Mika shows advanced ensemble skills – rhythmically, harmonically and in terms of improvising lines that fit together in a complex texture.
Other videos of Mika
To see Mika’s awareness of the place of music multimedia productions, go to the video in R.6.D. To see him performing one of his own compositions, go to the video in P.6.C.
Three levels: performs or improvises pieces as part of an ensemble at the level of Grade 6 in the UK public music examination system (pass, merit and distinction)
Dan is 16. He has moderate learning difficulties, but enjoys playing the drum kit. Dan has a good sense of rhythm and he plays in a rock band organised by his school’s music teacher, and they regularly perform repertoire from the 60s, 70s and 80s at school functions and other local events.
Leila is in her early twenties. She is on the autism spectrum, with limited functional language. She is a good keyboard player, though, and she is the mainstay of a local group that performs in homes for older people and other social venues. She plays by ear and has a wider repertoire of songs, which she can tranpose to different keys to suit the range of the singer.
Three levels: performs or improvises pieces as part of an ensemble at the level of Grade 7 in the UK public music examination system (pass, merit and distinction)
Amara is in her thirties. She has a physical disability that means she is a wheelchair user. She loves to sing Gospel, and is indispensable member of her local church choir, often taking the solos, and improvising parts above the harmonies of the songs.
Ian is 14. He is on the autism spectrum and highly intelligent. Two years ago, he decided to teach himself the acoustic guitar by watching tutorials on YouTube, and he quickly became very adept. He now plays in a local folk group, who have played in a number of local venues and are booked to play in a festival later in the year.
Three levels: performs or improvises pieces as part of an ensemble at the level of Grade 8 in the UK public music examination system (pass, merit and distinction) or higher
Milo is 18. He is partially sighted. He has been learning the trumpet since he was 11. To start with, the music he needed was enlarged using a photocopier, but more recently, he has been able to view his part enlarged on a tablet, with a Bluetooth pedal to enable him to move down a line without needing to stop playing. He plays first flute in his local youth orchestra, where they have been tackling the Four Dance Episodes from Copland’s Rodeo amongst other repertoire.
Blue is 25, and on the autism spectrum. Blue plays saxophone in a contemporary jazz ensemble that uses a good deal of free improvisation. The group recently went on a European tour, and their performances were greeted with critical acclaim.