Fast forward through my early years as a special education teacher, I found that my big love for experimental electronic music was definitely not out of place in the classroom.
While it might not have suited the ears of many of my friends and family, it was akin to abstract visual art in that this music provided a space in which students could create all sorts of weird and wonderful sounds that were always faultless.
This was music that took sound and bent and pushed it around in ways that always sounded exactly how it was meant to sound.
Without a doubt the rise of technology in the classroom, specifically the iPad, opened up this capacity for music experimentation that was suddenly accessible to all students.
And I don’t say ‘accessible’ to simply indicate that students could enjoy creating music without any formal, traditional music training, but rather it was genuinely accessible to all students regardless of physical, sensory or cognitive differences.
I’ll tell you the story of one of my students with autism and how this approach to music education greatly helped his primary school years.
He was a challenging lad in many ways - difficult social and emotional needs, a significant lack of interest in school - but the one central passion that inspired him every day was his love of music.
He particularly loved dance music, the big beats, the synthesizers, the noisy walls of sound.
His love for this style of electronic noise was fascinating, as he had very significant sensory needs relating to his hearing.
He was afraid of the crack of lightning, the glitchy skip of a CD spinning that had marks on its surface, and was not at all a fan of traditional instruments being played - the pluck of a guitar string could cause him to leave the room, the hit of a drum skin could cause great anxiety.
It wasn’t until we brought an iPad into the classroom, loaded up with music making apps, that he was able to put headphones on and explore sound in a way that suited his particular sensory and cognitive processing needs.
He could visually push sound around on the iPad screen, he could adjust the tones to exactly what he was comfortable with.
Soon, he started composing his own music and sharing it on the internet. His tracks ended up being completely spectacular dance masterpieces.
He sent in tracks to Triple J’s Unearthed website and ended up getting a few of his tunes into the Top 10 charts there.
When he transitioned from our primary school to another high school, his musical chops made him a bit of a superstar amongst the students there as he performed his tracks live at school events.
This access to music in a way that was fuelled by the technology available in the classroom and his passion for the art has given him a world of social access opportunities that he continues to build on to this day.
There are so many terrific music technology options that provide accessibility to all of our students.
Hardware like Skoog, a soft musical cube that wirelessly connects to iPad, is providing students an accessible musical instrument solution that is the first of its kind to help all children be able to master a physical instrument.
There are also creative solutions like the LittleBits range of circuits that many classrooms use for STEM tasks, with which you can build your own synthesisers and noise generators.
As well, programming technology like MaKey MaKey allow you to hook alligator clips up to bananas and apples and turn them into unique musical instruments.
Finally, iPad itself is the most powerful and innovative music performance and composition device available in the world today - there are just so many apps that suit so many styles of music and sound manipulation, for projects that could relate to creating soundtracks for radio plays in the classroom, or recording and creating environmental soundscapes for projects.
You can read up on all of my accessible classroom music experiments on my blog: www.autismpedagogy.com/blog