The Development of Sounds of Intent


The Sounds of Intent project began in 2001, when Adam Ockelford, Graham Welch and Sally Zimmermann, based in London at the University of Roehampton, UCL Institute of Education and Royal National Institute of Blind People, set out to discover how children with learning difficulties develop musically. Their initial focus was on those with the most profound, complex needs, since this group of children and young people had until then been neglected by academics researching the developmental psychology of music and music education. This was because the prevailing research paradigms in these fields identified ‘typical’ abilities as a first step, and then - very rarely - attempted to use these to account for exceptionalities in the context of norm-driven models.

From the outset, Sounds of Intent adopted the opposite approach. The research team first sought to describe and explain exceptionalities in the human condition, and then used this information to provide insights into what was more usual. Hence they were able to build a model of musical capacities that was fully inclusive: a map of human musical engagement was sketched by first defining its boundaries and then working ‘inwards’ from these, rather than starting from a well-populated centre and attempting to move outwards to sparsely inhabited regions that were far less well defined, if at all.

From small beginnings at the turn of the century, Sounds of Intent has continued to evolve through continuing research and development involving hundreds of people from all over the world, working in a wide range of different musical contexts and cultures.