Music to Our Ears

by Mary Martialay on February 10, 2011

Pauline Oliveros, Rensselaer clinical professor of music and founder of the Deep Listening movement, has made an unconventional approach to music her life’s work. In a new project that enables severely disabled children to experiment with music, she’s putting her work to a good cause.

Now what she needs are few good donors to help spread the magic.

Using a novel arts website, a team including Oliveros are trying to raise $15,000 to support three workshops in the Hudson Valley, NY area on the “Adaptive Use Musical Instruments” software system.

The system, known either as “AUMI” or “Adaptive Use,” offers people with severely restricted mobility – even limited to as little as facial expressions – the opportunity to play music.

Using a webcam, AUMI software tracks the movements of the user and “produces sounds and creates rhythmic patterns from those movements,” said Oliveros. “There are no invasive devices. The software can be adjusted for the movement abilities of each individual.”

The system is in use at Abilities First School Inc. in Poughkeepside, NY and has made a great impact in the lives of the children who attend the school.

The catch is that the team must raise the full amount or forfeit the pledges they have received.

As of today – with 16 days remaining – pledges have been made for more than $10,000, leaving less than $5,000 to be pledged before the deadline.

Oliveros began the project after speaking with her friend, musician, and occupational therapist, Leaf Miller, who hoped to include students with extremely limited movement in her drum class at the Abilities First School.

Said Oliveros of the project:

“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 been deeply moved by the results of this work with children with disabilities.”

To learn more about the project, check out the AUMI project page at United State Artists