A Tapestry of Music

I'm setting up instruments whilst my client ("G") vocalises enthusiastically and with great flexibility. He uses all the registers of his voice, as well as laughing a great deal. One by one I set out drums, a tambourine, a small squeeze-box, some boomwhackers and a 1/3-sized guitar. I put them with as much space as possible in a sort of crescent moon around G's chair, so that if he looks at a specific instrument, I should be able to identify which one has caught his attention.

The moment he begins to pound on the large adapted djembe by his side, I "meet him in the middle", rhythmically speaking, playing a djembe of my own, leg bells and a tambourine with my foot. He stops after a moment but keeps eye contact, so I continue, improvising quietly on the syllables of his name.

He laughs. I laugh too. I keep playing whilst he vocalises. He looks at my recording device and suddenly vocalises in a way that is delicious. I 'cook' with it, turn it into ... something. Singing it back to him, like a song by Moloko.

I pull up the sleeve over G's twisted right hand so that he can clap against the back of it, then start on another rhythm. G vocalises, and laughs. Together we weave sounds into a Persian rug. He scratches the webbing straps on his wheelchair and I scratch the drum skin. As he is so vocal, I offer him an echo-mic, which he throws gleefully over his shoulder.

The tapestry of sound is interrupted frequently by silences.

When G looks crestfallen - as he does quite often, suffering from some malign internal pain - I play quietly, steadily for him. Almost without warning his head will jerk upwards, he will smile and laugh and rock madly in his chair, eliciting a cacophony of squeaks from chair's components that were surely never designed to be put through such stresses.

I ask him if he'd like his guitar and he smiles. I tune it for him. He strums and sings. I do the same, tapping on a drum. He rocks and crams his hand into his mouth, then makes more sounds before smacking the guitar with his fist and then clapping. My singing invites him to play more. G bangs his drum with the back of the guitar.  I start to strum it more for him, playing a sequence of chords, and he sings short punchy phrases.

I switch to my guitar. It sounds like the beginning to "Brimful of Asha", so I try and remember the words. It is surely one of the most un-inspiring songs of the early 2000s, so I stop pretty quickly. G makes some wild-sounding noises. So do I. That's what we do. It's all music.

(from a Wednesday morning session late in November 2011)