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Figurenotes Notation

Thinking about graphic scores is reconnecting me to the Figurenotes Notation system which is based on colour and shape.

Figurenotes is a notation system, devised and developed by Finish musicians Kaarlo Uusitalo and Markku Kaikkonen, that uses colour and shape to express what musical notes to play and for how long to play them. Drake Music Scotland has been exploring the possibilities of this system and has produced an extremely useful introduction to Figurenotes which can be found at the following link:

Workshop 3 – Interpreting a Graphic Score

2016-01-08 22.08.34

In workshop 3 of my PG Certificate Project, I introduced Community Music 1 students to this graphic score as a source of inspiration for musical interpretation.

PG Cert Project Lesson Plan 3

I created this graphic score from an idea shared by Sofia Lopez-Ibor in her wonderful book Blue is the Sea (Pentatonic Press Integrated Learning Series, 2011)

I am fascinated by the creative musical process at play as we begin to interpret a graphic score within a group music making context. I have been working with graphic scores over the last few years in various ways. This photograph was taken during a music workshop with local children on the Isle of Mull in July 2014.

Mull Graphic Score Photo

Inclusion and Orff Schulwerk

Salmon, S. (2012 Spring) Inclusion and Orff Schulwerk, The Orff Echo (pp.12-18)

Inclusion is a human right that accepts the differences among people as a natural and creative part of life. (Salmon, 2012, p.12)

In this article, Salmon discusses the Orff Schulwerk approach as a way into providing inclusive music making opportunities for everyone. By our very creation human beings are uniquely individual; we each have a wide range of unique abilities and gifts. This article confirms my belief that it is the true work of the teacher to realise the potential of each individual learner and to draw forth what each person has to offer. The aim of the teacher is to support the development of each person through active participation and engagement in creative music and dance activity. Only through genuine respect, acceptance of all people and openness to inclusivity can teachers truly unveil the potential and talents of their students.

From reading this article and from my own experiences and creative practice, I concur that the Orff Schulwerk approach is complementary to Inclusive Education. Not only do Orff Schulwerk teachers strive to work in multi sensory and multidisciplinary ways, which are very sensitive to inclusivity, but, more importantly, there is a true belief that the human being should be at the centre of all teaching. From my studies, I can clearly appreciate the benefits of working with music, dance, speech, visual arts and drama in integrated ways. Working across the arts provides many opportunities for sensory and artistic experiences and Orff Schulwerk teachers learn to adapt and devise activities in ways that support and nurture individual participation and development, therefore ensuring that no person feels “under or over challenged” (Salmon, 2012, p.12).

I am interested by Salmon’s observation that ‘it is often possible to compensate for a disability by using other senses or abilities that are not affected’ (Salmon, 2012, p.12). People have musical and artistic experiences in different ways; experiences that can be nurtured through a multidisciplinary artistic approach. When we consider inclusive participation within a wider context we can appreciate that an individual may wish to participate artistically through “perceiving, exploring, experimenting, playing, communicating, recognizing, remembering, choosing, varying, distinguishing, improvising, inventing, practicing, creating, reflecting, and discussing” (Salmon, 2012, p.17)

The use of Orff Instruments complements Inclusive Education as Salmon observes that these instruments ‘are technically relatively easy to play, are body-aligned (do not position the players too far away from the instrument or from each other), and are suitable as solo as well as group instruments, not only for interpreting pieces but also for experimentation and improvisation’ (Salmon, 2012, p.14)

I fully agree with this observation. Furthermore, as the Orff Schulwerk approach encourages innovation, teachers are constantly looking to devise new instruments that will satisfy a variety of needs within the classroom. By looking to what an individual ‘can do’ the possibilities for incorporating different families of instruments within the classroom flourishes.

Finally, the importance of improvisation within Orff Schulwerk is naturally inclusive as it creates a space and opportunity for individuals to explore and communicate, in their own way. When improvisation is offered within a safe and encouraging framework, people can enjoy a creative and enriching experience.