Level 6, Proactive: performs and/or improvises solos of increasing sophistication persuasively within a given style and/or composes stylistically coherent pieces that are intended to convey particular effects
People seek to communicate with others through singing or playing expressively, and with increasing technical competence. They may create pieces that are intended to convey particular effects.
People grasp the expressive capacity of music and are able to utilise that (potentially intuitive) understanding to communicate with others.
Resources designed for particular groups are available as follows:
P.6.A plays or sings expressively using familiar conventions of performance, at the highest level producing original interpretations
Individuals sing or play expressively using the conventions of performance within a given style (rubato, vibrato, dynamic changes, etc) with which they are familiar. At the highest level, they are able to transcend convention and create their own, original interpretations of pieces.
Model expressive performance for the person concerned, and encourage them to emulate what they hear. Introduce them to different performances of pieces. If possible, discuss the expressive potential of different performative devices, such as rubato, vibrato and subtle changes in dynamics. Nurture self-expression and originality. Some people may wish to perform in live concerts, online or just for family and close friends. They may also want to have their efforts assessed through taking examinations. Sounds of Intent Level 6 corresponds to a range of accomplishment spanning Grade 6 to Grade 8 (and beyond) in the UK public music examination system.
Lisa is blind, has moderate learning difficulties and is on the autism spectrum. She is, however, very musical, with absolute pitch, and possessing a fine, natural singing voice. She was chosen to sing the British National Anthem at the opening of the Paralympics in London in 2012.
Lisa sings unaccompanied, in tune, powerfully and expressively.
Lisa intuitively understands the conventions of performance pertaining to singing a National Anthem at a large-scale public occasion. Her disabilities are no barrier to her performing at an advanced level.
P.6.B improvises on music in a familiar style or styles to convey desired effects, at the highest level producing original versions of existing pieces (as in ‘jazz standards’)
Individuals improvise on music in increasingly sophisticated ways to convey desired effects. At the highest level they produce original versions of given material.
Encourage the person you are working with to improvise, using the strategies set out in P.5.B. You could begin by showing them how to elaborate on familiar music (as in jazz solos), and then show them how to create new pieces by using elements of the old in different ways – taking a particular chord sequence, for example, and extending or modifying it, or building on a given rhythmic motif. Encourage them to think about the impact that their improvisations may have on listeners: what is it that they are trying to convey? Help them to try out their improvisations on different people to get feedback. Some people may wish to play or sing for others – in performance venues and/or online, or just in the privacy of their home. They may also wish to have their improvisational skills assessed by taking examinations. Sounds of Intent Level 6 equates to Grades 6, 7 and 8 (and beyond) in the UK public music examination system.
Derek is blind, has severe learning difficulties and is on the autism spectrum. At the time the video was taken, he has limited functional language and his speech is characterised by echolalia. However, he has 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 around a year after that, following an appearance at the Barbican Centre in London, which had attracted a high level of international interest.
Derek plays a version of A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square, using ideas taken from his jazz piano teacher at the time. The result is a novel interpretation, which is musically persuasive.
It is not clear (and, given Derek‘s very limited language, it was not possible to ascertain) the extent to which he had any sense of the feelings of nostalgia and yearning that his playing conveys. It is perfectly possible that expressive devices he uses – extremely soft dynamics, and an extensive use of rubato – were imitated from the playing of his jazz teacher, just as the harmonies were. However, the very slow tempo is Derek’s own, and appears to relish the lingering sonorities that his measured interpretation creates. From the perspective of Derek today, as a forty-something-year-old, and having observed his development over a period of three decades, it is interesting to consider how much performing music – particularly with other people – has enabled him to learn about his own feelings, of which he now seems to be much more aware. While, for most people, the emotions expressed through music are a representation of the feelings arising from everyday life, for Derek, it is interesting to speculate that the reverse may be true: it may be that he has come to understand his everyday feelings and emotions through externalising them first through music.
Other videos of Derek
To see another video of Derek as a boy having an advanced (though intuitive) understanding of music, go to R.6.A (a) (1st video). To see him 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 R.6.C. To see him contributing to others’ expressivity in performance, go to I.6.B.
P.6.C composes pieces in a familiar style or styles to convey desired effects, at the highest level producing original material judged to be of intrinsic musical value
Individuals compose pieces that convey desired effects. At the highest level, they may produce original material judged by others to be of intrinsic and potentially lasting musical value.
Let the person you are working with experience a range of music, and then choose a piece or a style that they would like to try to emulate. If possible, discuss the different elements of the piece and the effects they convey. For example, is it a particular harmony, or rhythm or tone colour that seems to be particularly important at a certain point? Isolate the salient characteristic, and have the person you are working with emulate it through playing or singing or using a digital composition programme, and then develop it in different ways. In the case of a particular chord, for example, show how the pitches that are used can be transposed to different octaves. Then, explain how it is possible to use these notes to create a new tune. Similarly, demonstrate how to take a fragment of rhythm from the piece and repeat it, vary it and then transform it to create something new. Model how to extend the new piece through repetition, variation or contrast, and encourage the person you are working with to do the same. Show them how to record or notate what is produced as ideas start to crystalise, and a new composition takes shape. Other approaches to composition that you can try include using words, or a scenario or a mood as a stimulus. It can be enormously motivating (and instructive) to have other musicians attempt to perform what has been created. And for audiences to feed back too. There is no higher human achievement than generating a new work of art. Yet people with even severe learning difficulties can produce music that is both persuasive and enjoyable and, potentially, of lasting value.
Mika has a severe visual impairment and is on the autism spectrum. He is also a talented musician, with absolute pitch and a flair for improvisation. Here is performing a piece he has written – 70 Miles – with Derek Paravicini and two other professional musicians on bass and drums. The full clip is available on Mika’s YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnDB7x_4ZUs.
Mika explains the thinking behind his piece to the audience before performing it on the piano with other musicians. He improvises an extended ending.
Mika has composed and can play a piece in a familiar idiom to convey a desired effect.
Other videos of Mika
To see Mika’s awareness of the place of music multimedia productions, go to R.6.D. To see him performing through sophisticated multitracking, go to I.6.D (c) (3rd video).
P.6.D technical proficiency develops to meet the demands of a widening repertoire
Individual’s technical proficiency to play or to sing develops to accommodate their evolving musical aspirations
Use a range of approaches to support the development of technique, including demonstration, physical guidance and verbal instruction, if appropriate. Rather than adopting a ‘one size fits all’ approach in teaching technique, take into account a person’s unique physical characteristics and be mindful of the styles of music they wish to perform. For example, if they have a weakness in one hand but still wish to play the keyboard, it may be possible to find or arrange pieces that will play to their strengths and ameliorate the effect of any physical constraints that exist. Bear in mind the capacity of assitive technology to convert any movement into any sound, and to predetermine motifs or other fragments of music that can be introduced in performance with a single gesture. The only limits a learner faces are the boundaries of your imagination.
Na Won is blind, has severe learning difficulties and is on the autism spectrum. She has limited verbal language (expressive and receptive). Here she is having her weekly piano lesson with her teacher. Na Won learns entirely by ear, and her teacher guides her physically when they work on technique.
Na Won plays through the first part of Liszt’s Liebestraum No. 3. She is still working on the rapid section (heard at the end of the clip) – made more challenging since she uses her right hand only.
Na Won’s technical proficiency on the piano enables her to play a piece of some complexity from the Western classical repertoire.
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 performing Rachmaninov’s Prelude in C Sharp Minor on Elton John’s piano in the Elgar Room of the Royal Albert Hall in London. To see how Ashleigh learnt the piece go to https://ambertrust.app/sound-touch/services/instrumental-and-vocal-tuition/stories/ashleighs-story/.
Ashleigh plays the piece fluently and in a stylistically persuasive manner.
Ashleigh’s technical proficiency enables her to perform a piece of some complexity from the classical repertoire. The particular technical challenges for a blind pianist of the large leaps in the left hand are overcome.
Other videos of Ashleigh
To see Ashleigh accompanying another musician with mature stylistic awareness and sensitivity, go to I.6.A.
Three levels: performs or improvises pieces solo or composes at the level of Grade 6 in the UK public music examination system (pass, merit and distinction)
Alan is nine years old. He is on the autism spectrum. He is highly intelligent, and came to music through an interest in notation when he was only five. He has just passed his ABRSM Grade 6 piano examination with distinction.
Elsa is 15. She is blind, on the autism spectrum and has severe learning difficulties. She has little functional language and tends to be echolalic in her speech. Nonetheless, she is a talented musician, who learns pieces entirely by ear. She plays a number of instruments, but is most advanced technically on the piano. She has sessions with a local musician, and they enjoy improvising together – mainly in a Western classical style, over ground basses and repeating sequences of chords. The musician estimates that, technically, her playing is around Grade 6 in standard.
Three levels: performs or improvises pieces solo or composes at the level of Grade 7 in the UK public music examination system (pass, merit and distinction)
Mary is 14 years old. She has specific learning difficulties, including dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Nonetheless, she is passionate about music and has been learning the violin since was four (starting with the Suzuki method). She still plays partly by ear, though she has been working hard on her sight-reading, and she recently entered a local music festival, playing Massenet’s Méditation from Thaïs.
Atilla is 15. He was born deaf, but has had a cochlear implant from an early age. He plays the clarinet, and has been systematically working through the Trinity College London graded examination scheme. He has just passed Grade 7, where he took the option of the aural awareness test.
Three levels: performs or improvises pieces solo or composes at the level of Grade 8 in the UK public music examination system (pass, merit and distinction) or higher
Cleo is 18. She is on the autism spectrum. She has just started at a music college in London, where her first study is composition. Her main influences are minimalism and the music of West Africa. In her last year at school, she was comissioned to write a piece for the youth orchestra in which she played percussion, and she created a 10-minute soundscape, intended to conjure up desert images. The piece was deemed to a great success.
Matt is 12 years old. He is blind and highly intelligent. He has learnt the braille music code, which he uses to access written music he wishes to play on his preferred instrument, the church organ. He is helped by having absolute pitch and an excellent memory. He has just passed his Grade 8 with distinction.