OneBeat Labs: Music and Play

Objectives: To discover connections between improvisation and the concept of play, and develop creative tools to increase individual free expression through multiple modes, foster emotional support, and facilitate collective dialogue between students. To create and practice methods and tools to spark creativity through our senses.

Critical Questions: How can we implement concepts of play as creative and collaborative tools for self expression? How can the concept of play help us practice improvisation, emotional support, artistic expressions? How can we encourage creativity and self expression through improvisatory practices from other art disciplines?

Unit 1 – Making Sound Together

Notes to Facilitator: Students may feel nervous about solo performances, and may not find their own way to do it. In this phase, it is important to calm them down with such words: “It’s OK if you’re feeling uncomfortable. This is the natural part of the process. There’s no wrong or right. Everybody is equal. Everybody matters. You’re sharing your own being.” 


Opening activity: Write down quickly the key words that come to your mind when you think about play? What is the meaning of play for you?

Reading & Discussion: Yeşim Kunter, What is Play.

Play has many connotations. It can be described simply as ‘engaging in activity for enjoyment’ or as playing with objects or performing (such as on a musical instrument). Play can be rule-based or in a free form. It can be a physical activity like jumping, or a symbolic play like painting or drawing. Among many types, sensorial play is broadly defined as any activity that increases sensorial awareness (eg. playing with items can be described as sensory motor play). Creative art and sensorial play activities can be viewed from similar perspectives.

Activity: Share the key words that you wrote, and observe the different meanings that might be gathered.

Reading & Discussion: Tomie Hahn, Arousing Sense

According to Tomie Hahn, our senses shape our relationship with the world. How do our senses shape our relationship to objects?

Activity: Re-Thinking Objects

Part 1: Select an object, and begin to explore  the shape, color, the sense and sound of it. What color is it? What is its shape? Is it a soft material or hard? Is it a funny object or something serious?

Part 2: For 3 minutes, collectively try to create sounds with each of your selected objects. While making sounds, try to listen to yourself and to the other players with their objects. Perhaps you will create very quiet sounds, and your friend will make louder sounds. Try to balance the sounds.

Part 3/HW: On an individual level, try to come up with a short story about or inspired by the object you selected. Name the story and write it down. Think of how you might tell this story to an audience using ONLY the sounds of that object. After you have written a story idea, try to come up with a 2 minute piece using only your object to tell that story. (Students will present these stories in Part 2 of the Unit.)

Discussion: How was the experience of transforming Everyday Objects into Sound? What was challenging about it? What was enjoyable?



Opening Activity: Group free improvisation session for 5 minutes with everyday objects (students can use the same objects from the previous exercise). Divide the improvisation in two sections: In the first section, just make noise; in the second section, try to balance your sounds with each other.

Activity/Sharing: Give students 10-15 more minutes to work on their short object stories. Ask for volunteers to perform their stories with the object they have selected without telling the rest of the class the story. After the performance, share / reveal the story to the class. Follow up with a Q&A or response. A suggested format for the Q&A would be to ask the class / listeners to share moments or elements that were meaningful to them about the story. Then leave room for both the performer & the class / listeners to ask questions about the process.

Alternative sharingDivide into pairs, and have each student in the pair perform their story for the other and then share. Switch so both students have a chance to share. Come back to the full group & open a discussion to hear about each others’ stories.

Discussion: What were the different ways people translated their stories into sound? How did this process feel?


Opening Discussion: Are emotions temporary or permanent? Can you express the difference between mood and emotion? What images do they bring up? Can you divide emotions in groups, such as soft and hard, sharp or dull, bright or dark? What are the colors of each emotion for you?

Reading: Twenty moods: A holistic typology of human mood states

Exercise: Exploring Senses

Gather different sound materials that can be played slow, fast, short, sustained (example materials TBA). Close your eyes. Your teacher / facilitator will walk around you with these materials, creating different types of sounds. Continue this for two minutes. Give your attention to the sounds you hear being made around you. Following the exercise, write down some impressions of what you heard.

Discussion: What kind of emotional effect did the different sounds have on you? How did you feel hearing each sound? What was your mood during the listening process? Did the sounds remind you of anything? What came to mind?

Exercise: Illustrating Emotions

Think about all of the emotions you are feeling in your mind, and write them down on a sheet of paper. Select two distinct emotions. By using different materials and colors, draw one of them in any way that you choose. When you are finished, ask for a few volunteers to share their drawings with the group. Why did you choose this particular emotion?

Xtra/Based on availability: Gülen Mine Demiralp, Emotion Play Designer, can visit to explain her Emotion Play and mood cards.



Introduction to Empathetic Play with Emotion Play

Exercise: Introducing Emotions Play by Gülen Mine Demiralp (A toolbox for this exercise will be shared for Emotion Play materials, including directions & preparation.)

Step 1: Creating your Emotion Objects and your story

1-Select a random piece of paper with an emotion written on it.

2-Read the directions to the drawing mood cards, and draw the mood which best matches the emotion in your mind.

3-Select one or more play dough colors to create an object/figure to represent the emotion you have chosen.

4-Select from the “neutral objects” toolbox to support a storyline with your emotion.

5-Within an allotted amount of time, create an object with the play dough and other materials, thinking of a story by centering the emotion in your mind. *You can notate, write, draw or create a scene by playing with the objects.

Step 2: Storytelling with Solo and Collective Improvisations

1- Share your emotion stories individually to the class through musical improvisation (in 3 minutes or less). First, tell your story, then create sounds for it, using the materials around you (instruments or any other objects) to make sound.

2-Improvise collectively (Remember finding a balance with making noise and silences, breaks to hear others and yourself)

3-Discuss the experience of creating your emotion stories and improvising solo (and as a group). Was it hard to come up with a story? How did the emotion lead you to a story? How did it feel to improvise sound for it – individually and as a group?

Extra: Split up into pairs and repeat Emotion Play with your duo partner. This time, without telling the story, share your emotion sounds or visuals with your duo partner and see if they can guess the emotion you have selected. Switch roles.

HW: Select an emotion that one of your classmates presented. Throughout one day, collect random images, take photos or videos, write notes, record your voice, or create poems, stories, songs, or dance moves related to that emotion. Keep these as a diary of your classmates’ selected emotion.

Unit 3 – Flow & Improvisation


Opening Activity: Begin the day with a creative, active group exercise that encourages eye contact, joy, laughter, enthusiasm, but has no winners or losers. An example is Zip Zap Zop.

Movement & Improvisation Exercise: Maintain Balance is an embodied practice that works with seemingly opposite body movements and energies. During the play, body movements are shown to the group by a facilitator, and then the group is encouraged to improvise. Students’ awareness of their bodily movements was emphasized to increase the experience for group members.


1- Create a Circle and lead the Group in abdominal breathing.

2- Guide the group in Warm Up Exercises. One suggestion is starting from the feet to the head & practicing exercises or circular movement for each joint & body part. This could include all limbs and each movement repeated at least three times. Feet/Ankles/Calves, Hamstrings, Hips, Wrists, Elbow, Spine, Shoulders, Neck

3- Continue to work silently in the circle. The movements will be observed, and the group will imitate them.

4Without speaking, switch from body exercises to a short improvisation.

Discussion: How was this experience of improvisation? Did it feel more natural to begin improvising with movement in this way? Did you feel comfortable using your body? Did you enjoy the movements?

Exercise: Share some of the things you collected in your ‘diary’ of collected emotions. Find similarities or differences. Create a class collection.

Extra: Divide into pairs again. Ask each pair to find a way to prepare a duo performance, using some of the materials gathered in the emotion diaries. The performance should include multiple modes of expression, eg. dance, music, theater, materials to make sound or visuals. Performances should last at least 3 minutes. They could tell a story or not tell a story. You can re-use and re-imagine previous material.

Give each pair a good amount of time to prepare a piece. Name the pieces, and write down a description of it. Come back and share, leaving time for feedback on each one.



Visual and Auditory Projection

Objectives: Increasing Creative Interpretation

Opening Activity: Students will be asked to collect plastic and other recycled materials that make sound & bring them into the classroom. Give time to prepare the objects & spread around the room. Students practice a chain-like group improvisation with their sound objects (see below).

Part 1: Select one visual from the book Notations 21 to perform collectively (Sauer, 2009; scores will be provided)

By changing the context of the visual components, we will observe where the visual display would be carried into a performance and how it would be interpreted by different performers. This idea of changing the context of a visual can be applied to all selected visuals. The interpretation of the performance scenario would be different in each context of the visual perspective taken into account. As a group, try to retain the rest points indicated in the score.

Part 2: Selected visuals, graphic scores will be given to the groups our individual from the book Notations 21 (Sauer, 2009) asked them to perform a piece interpreting the score.  Students will be asked to bring recycling materials that make sounds to interpret the graphic notation.

Part 3: Students will ask to create their own graphic notation and the sound or movement of it.

Sources: Notations 21 (Sauer, 2009)


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