This post is in the Special Interests category

Dear Reader

I remember as a child lying on the floor of the primary school music room listening to some orchestral piece, the teacher asking students what the piece made them feel. I must have been about ten. I don’t recall what the piece was, but I vividly remember him telling us that we might all feel something different, that music was for everyone. I think I took that to heart because I could not define the feelings I had. I took up the saxophone and recorder at about this age – previous schools having had no instrumental music program – then moved on to the trombone the next year. I enjoyed the role of second trombone – playing the harmonies – being inside the music, aware of the interplay and vertical structures. Lots of rests too – time to listen to the little details in the parts. This fascination with the way music is put together was far more important to me than the fact that people could weep when they heard it.

Another teacher pointed out that many of the great arrangers of big bands and jazz have been trombonists – I took that one to heart too. By the time I went to university to study music I wanted to write, rather than play, but I rebelled against formal harmony lessons, preferring to rely on my ears when experimenting with sounds in my environment, and what I experienced inside my head, along with the (now mostly atrophied) ability to hear full orchestrations “off the score”. I left the course in 1985 when I discovered the creative control that the studio, the new MIDI electronic instruments and music technology could give me.

Some people describe being swept along by the structural tide of a piece, anticipating the return of a theme in another guise, but for me music is a place to retreat into a moment, where I can stop time and be fascinated by some tiny accident or design, where I can marvel at the very intimacy of a moment frozen. I am also fascinated by extreme slow motion and macro photography – maybe the two are related. Many individuals with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) describe their attraction to the making of music, theatre and other arts as a means to “practice spontaneity” (Mueller 2008, p. 185} and social interaction, where the activity is in a sense mediated by a script, or a scripted context and its conscious expression. It is a chance for meaning-making to be slowed down, examined and pulled apart.

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