Improvisation Across Abilities: Adaptive Use
This project seeks at least $15,000 in funding support for three workshops in the Hudson Valley, NY area to educate teachers, therapists, aides and parents in how to use improvisation, drumming and free custom software that we have developed, called Adaptive Use Musical Instruments (AUMI), to facilitate and empower musical expression for students with disabilities. Our project seeks to transform the societal assumption about who can play music by dissolving the barriers between ability and disability.
I began this project as a result of conversations with my musician friend and occupational therapist Leaf Miller. Leaf told me about her work with disabilities and wanted my help to develop ways for students with extremely limited voluntary muscular control to play in her drum class at her school. Through Leaf’s request and the students at Abilities First School Inc. in Poughkeepsie NY, I have come to understand that the least possible motion indicates life and musical ability. I have ben deeply moved by the results of this work with children with disabilities.
The AUMI project enables people with both physical and cognitive disabilities to play music. The computer software tracks the movements of the user with a webcam in order to produce sounds and create rhythmic patterns from those movements. There are no invasive devices. The software can be adjusted for the movement abilities of each individual.The software is being used to expand musical expression for children with special needs.
While AUMI software can be used by anyone, the focus has been on working with children who have profound disabilities. In taking these participants as its starting point, the project attempts to make musical improvisation and collaboration accessible to the widest possible range of individuals.
The AUMI software may be downloaded free of charge (in both PC/Mac versions) from the Deep Listening website:http://www.deeplistening.org/site/adaptiveuse. Numerous people have downloaded the software and are using it in many parts of the world. In this way we expect to continue to develop the software with the collaboration of a widening community of many users. The software will remain to be free and available to all.