Musicians’ understanding of non-verbal communication

“One of the most interesting characteristics of musicians is their need to precisely anticipate not only what is going to happen, but when.

As the reader anticipates the words whilst reading, so the musician anticipates another musician to play together.

Think for example of a string quartet. When the first violin “gives the signal” to begin, the delays of the rest of the group are all inferior to 10 milliseconds. Moreover, during the performance, their synchronisation improves.

This ability of anticipation and coordination is absolutely extraordinary, even more, if we consider that it’s not just about playing a note together, but also playing it appropriately, with the right expression which is also dependent on the changing context.”*

How does this happen?

Our auditory system is able to synchronise with the temporal structure of the music stimulus, due to its rhythm and regularity.

Not only this but also other areas of our brain synchronise with the music, especially our motor system.

A musician, to be able to play together, literally learn how to “read” other musicians during a performance, recognising their littlest movements, their way of breathing and feeling the sounds of music.

“It is important to remember that, despite the age, the practice of music seems to facilitate:

1. the creation of a coherent relationship between the external world and brain activity

2. the communication between the different brain regions.

The consequence of the first aspect is to allow a more precise interpretation of the outside world, in particular, the world of sound.

The consequence of the second aspect is more far-reaching, considering that cognition, in general, seems to depend on the good communication skills of different brain regions, like a good government requires parliamentarians to communicate well with each other.

Beyond our current knowledge, a corollary of these two aspects could be that the practice of music facilitates a common vision of the world around us, through a better synchronization of the brain activities of different individuals, and a better sharing of reality.”*

*D. Schön, “Il cervello musicale. Il mistero svelato di Orfeo”, Il Mulino 2018

SEN family supported by Arsenal Foundation

If you live around the Arsenal Stadium in and your child has specials needs you don’t want to miss this opportunity! Music therapy should soon as well!

Few spaces left on the next PEPTalk group sessions running in January-February. They are lead by a therapist called Louisa who is an advanced sensory integration therapist and Occupational Therapist.

The sessions will focus on sensory integration and be held in the specialist sensory room at The Arsenal Stadium in Islington. The sessions will provide you with practical advice and activities to support the development of your child’s sensory integration which can impact upon the development of a range of different skills including attention, communication, social interactions and daily living skills.

The 5 session block costs £50. For children new to the group sessions, an initial online consultation fee will apply. There will be no fee for children who have already engaged in PEPTalk sessions.

For children living in Islington, Camden and Hackney the initial consultation is paid for by the Arsenal Foundation.

Please contact highburyparkmusic@gmail.com if you are interested in finding out the dates and times of the sessions.

Music and Executive Function

Our paper regarding the impact of music on the development of the executive functions in children 3-4 yo is getting ready! This is the next step after the research we run last year with Creative Futures and the University College London. Describing the activities and highlighting the process that brought us to significant changes is such a long process… but we love it! #musiceducationnerd 😂
We will then publish the activities and the musical examples of our research! Stay in touch!

My three words for music therapy

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Flexibility is a good word to describe music therapy.
Improvisation is another good word.
Unpredictability another one.

Today I run a session with H., my 3 years old autistic patient. 
Today he needed the mum inside the room. 

This was not in my plans but I knew it could happen due to his young age. So she joined the session, coming into the room followed by her second little boy, younger than H., that was playing in the waiting room with her.

H., mum and brother, all of us making music together.

I had to change all my plans for this session. We discovered new musical games that H. seemed to like and we followed his needs.

It wasn’t the easiest session ever but we were there for him, all of us, and he gave us some big smiles and eye contacts. The mum is a pretty special mum and the baby brother as well. This helped me a lot.

The music therapy setting needs to be a safe place for the patients, especially in cases like this one, with really young children.
So it doesn’t matter if this kind of session goes out of the schemes, if I haven’t read about it in my books.
I felt that including the rest of the family was the right things to do, today.
I’m sure that little by little he will be able to stay alone with me again, as he did before.

I learnt something new today and I will keep remembering those three words in my future practice:

Flexibility – Improvisation – Unpredictability

SOUNDING OUT – THE TOOLKIT FOR MUSIC PRACTITIONERS WORKING WITH DEAF STUDENTS

We’re really proud to share with you the Sounding Out Toolkit – a FREE resource for music practitioners and teachers working with deaf children written by our teacher Tiziana Pozzo and Katie Mason.
It has been designed following a 3 years Creative Futures project called ‘Sounding Out’.

Creative Futures has now completed its three year Youth Music ‘Fund B’ project with primary and secondary deaf children, called ‘Sounding Out’. 3 schools (2 specialist secondaries and one mainstream primary with a deaf unit) were involved in the project, receiving in total more than 200 workshops. 16 music leaders were involved in delivery and our partners included Music and the Deaf, local Music Education Hubs, and researchers from UCL.​

“Our data suggest that the Sounding Out programme has been a success musically, with clear evidence of virtually all pupils achieving more advanced musical behaviours as their academic year progressed. This is very commendable and provides a solid evidential foundation from which to argue that all deaf pupils should have access to appropriate music education provision, whether in Primary or Secondary schools to support learning in and through music.”

Professor Graham Welch & Dr Jo Saunders, UCL Institute of Education, 2018

At the end of ‘Sounding Out’ our music delivery team met to reflect and share ideas on the overall success of the project. The collective decision was made to document our findings and share our research through a toolkit which is freely available to teachers and music practitioners looking to work with deaf students. One of the key elements for us was that the toolkit illustrates what we noticed as being the main differences between making music with deaf children, compared to hearing children.

We highlighted specific moments that occurred during the sessions which changed our perspectives as practitioners and which became the foundations on which we built the activities employed during the course of the project. For example, we observed that the children were very visual based learners and so we created musical games based on clear visual cues that all the children could follow (see previous related article in this blog).

The toolkit consists of two sections, a theoretical guide and a practical section with activities accompanied by videos. The theoretical guide is intended to help teachers in areas such as communication, working environment and examples of potential difficulties that can arise during sessions.

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It also highlights two key areas of learning (inclusion and the relationship between music and movement) that underpin the activities. The practical section includes step-by-step guides to creating activities such as warm-ups, musical games aimed at improving musical skills, and main activities.

The video examples support the practical elements and provide visual based learning information.

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The process of writing this toolkit has been a fantastic opportunity for us to go deeper into our way of teaching and has allowed us to shape and improve our methodology and approach. To have a framework that better informs our learning and decision-making will give us a platform to provide better musical education opportunities for deaf children in the future, and we hope will encourage other music practitioners and school teachers to embed more music in their teaching of deaf children.

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Example of warm-up activity

The toolkit has been written by Tiziana Pozzo (leader of the weekly sessions) and Dr Kathryn Mason (UCL), thus giving the Toolkit input from two different perspectives: leader and researcher. Both were present at the sessions, allowing them to observe the children from different perspectives as well as monitoring their changes and development over the course of the project. This led to a continuous discussion about the musical approach and gave the delivery team greater flexibility when trying out different methodologies. This regular insight helped provide the foundations on which this toolkit is based.

The Toolkit can be found on the Creative Futures website here:

https://www.creativefuturesuk.com/resources