Listening - Feeling - Playing1
Music and Movement for Children with Hearing Loss
"Everyone is elementally endowed with the basic powers of the arts, with that of drawing, for instance, or of
music; these powers have to be developed, and in education of the whole person is to be built up on them as
on the natural activity of the self.”
Elemental artistic creativity is a talent which nobody is denied - not even children with hearing loss. Music
making, dancing and singing with hearing impaired children may sound strange and paradoxical for some,
however the possibility of "hearing, feeling and playing" for these children has been accepted since the
recognition of Evelyn Glennie, the internationally acclaimed percussionist who lost her auditory sense of
hearing after a childhood illness and subsequently learned to use her own body as a source of resonance in
order to feel and hear sounds and music. Although not especially conceived for children with a (hearing)
disability, the significance of Orff-Schulwerk for children and adults with diverse handicaps was already
apparent in the 1960s. The application in special needs education and therapeutic fields of work was
documented by various authors in books edited by Hans Wolfgart and various relevant points of departure
were then further developed.3 In this article I would like to give a survey of the most important
developments and clarify the special significance of Elemental Music and Dance Education according to
Orff-Schulwerk for children with hearing loss.
" LISTENING is something that is active. It is something that requires all your attention and the involvement
of all your senses – hearing, sight, touch. The most important sense for a musician is touch.4" Hearing can
mean the wholly involved and individual action of listening as well as hearing of a different nature.
Amongst the various different connotations used in the education of persons with loss of hearing, the
definition "hearing impaired” is often applied as all-inclusive terminology whereby "deaf" is used to
describe persons who are apparently not capable of hearing i.e. perceiving sound. However, as we now
know - also from reports from "deaf" persons such as Helen Keller, Emmanuelle Laborit and Evelyn
Glennie - that hearing does not only occur by ear but rather is possible with the entire body, the word "deaf"
can consequently only relate to a different hearing without the use of the ears5. The connotation "hard of
hearing" includes every degree of this deficiency without however concentrating solely on the detriment and
conveys a more open and competence orientated human concept.
Music and movement with hard of hearing children is not new and has a tradition in Europe through the
innovative work of various teachers.6 From 1924 Mimi Scheiblauer (1891 - 1968), a pupil of Émile Jaques-
Dalcroze, taught rhythmics in various institutes for the disabled, in heterogeneous groups and especially to
Scheiblauer recognised that rhythm played an important role in the education and instruction of the deaf:
"Here it had to fulfil a task which had been considered impossible for a very long time, namely education in
and through music!"8
1 In: Musicworks. Journal of the Australian Council of Orff Schulwerk. Sydney Vol. 15 2010 p. 27 – 33
2Martin Buber: "Between Man and Man. "Education". Boston: Beacon Press 1955 p.84
3 See i.a. Hofmarksrichter (1963), Bang 1978, 1980, 1984, Wolfgart (ed.) 1971, 1975. Keller (1996), Schuhmacher, Karin 1999,
Salmon / Schumacher (ed.) (2001), Orff-Schulwerk Information Nr. 50, 53, 62, 73
4 Glennie 2004
5 In English there is an interesting difference made between "deaf" referring to the physical impairment and "Deaf" i.e. a member
of deaf culture and user of sign language.
6 In the U.S. the tradition is even older.
7 Some excerpts with hearing impaired children can be seen in the film "Ursula oder das unwerte Leben" from Mertens and Marti
8 Schleiblauer 1973, p.52
Scheiblauer made use of the piano as well as different drums, small percussion instruments and other
materials. She lists the tasks of rhythmic-musical education for deaf children: acquirement of appreciation of
music, compensation of lack of acoustic impressions, awaking of sense of language rhythm, encouragement
of visual concentration powers, improvement of physical and mental reaction capabilities, stimulation of
imagination for movement and increase and differentiation of artistic expression.9 Scheiblauer's inclusive
dialogical method is still relevant today.
Especially for children with a hearing impairment, dialogue can and must also include preverbal and non-
verbal dialogue (e.g. through music and movement). These fundamental dialogues do not need speech; can
however form the necessary link. They are the prerequisite for the furtherance of dialogue ability and thus
serve to promote development in its entirety.10 Elemental music as "not just a hearing experience, but
something more embracing, namely an integration of motoric, visual and acoustic forms of experience,
which still remain functional even after the loss of one component …"11 as William Keller recognised, is of
especial significance for persons with hearing impairment. Hearing incorporates modes of reception such as
the ‘contact sense’ (body contact to the source of sound) as well as the ‘resonance sense’ (hollow parts of
the body vibrate accordingly.)
The development of SENSITIVITY is central in this area and can mean vibratory, tactile, vestibulary or
kinaesthetic stimuli or sensations as well as the emotional level of feeling and feeling for, i.e. sympathising
or empathising. In the case of hearing impairment, auditory perception is reduced or altered or lost, whereby
other areas of perception such as tactile, visual, vestibular or kinaesthetic senses are more developed in order
to compensate the missing or reduced auditory sense. Helen Keller (1880 - 1968), who at the age of eighteen
months became blind and deaf after an illness, often spoke of her extensive perception of vibrations.
The use of Orff-Schulwerk in the educational field of hearing impairment was first established by the
revolutionary work and untiring efforts of Prof. Dr. Karl Hofmarksrichter (1900 - 1976). Hofmarksrichter,
who drew Carl Orff’s attention to his work with hearing impaired children in the 1960s, was a teacher of the
deaf and, for many years, director of the "deaf and dumb institute" in Straubing. Hofmarksrichter discovered
i.a. the multiple opportunities of the Orff-Instrumentarium, whereby the beat of e.g. drum, tambourine, and
bass xylophone could be perceived not mainly by the (impaired) auditory but rather by the vibro-tactile
sense. At the occasion of the federal congress of German teachers of the deaf in Munich in 1955, he
organised a performance with 20 deaf and hard of hearing children who played several pieces from "Music
for Children". He made it clear that this musical accomplishment (group music making without a conductor)
could not be achieved merely by dressage but through the increased capacity for intense feeling of rhythmic
impulses offered by these instruments.12
Playing the beat on a well-discernible instrument with deep frequencies is generally used when making
music in a group with children with hearing impairment. When dancing, music with a clearly discernible
bass is an advantage.
Hofmarksrichter set out to achieve rhythmisation of oral language "thus shaping the entire personality of
each individual by broadening psychological horizons in the individual subjects as well as by arousing
hidden musical talent slumbering in these children in the true sense of humanity. For this reason instruction
in many different musical branches is especially important for hearing impaired persons (…). Here the Orff-
Approach fulfils a function within the framework of the education of the Hearing Impaired which, in ancient
times, was quite naturally assigned to music; that is a healing power conveyed not by passive listening but
by active participation.”13
An "enriched sensory environment" as well as the development of sensory sensitisation and movement
repertoire are especially important for children with hearing impairment as they often have fewer
opportunities for movement activities and the sense of balance is sometimes under-developed. The use of
tactile sounds and later body percussion is very useful as rhythms, beat and ostinati are visible as well as
9 Cp. Scheiblauer 1965, p. 5
10 Cp. Salmon: Music as Way to Dialogue for Children with Hearing Impairment. In; Salmon 2008
11 W. Keller 1975, p.176
12 Cp. Hofmarksrichter 1965, p. 723
13 Hofmarksrichter 1962, p.64
tactile. The dance teacher Naomi Benari discovered the significance of inner rhythm for deaf children and
subsequently developed her approach "Inner Rhythm". 14 Here rhythms within one’s own body are more
consciously experienced so that children can then better perceive and create the rhythm, dynamics, breathing
and phrasing of each movement.
PLAYING not only refers to playing rhymes, songs, instruments or enacting stories but also to play, the
importance of which is especially emphasised by Carl Orff:
“The urge to play develops into a patient activity leading to practice and from there to achievement”15
“What is important is that the child be allowed to play, undisturbed, expressing the internal externally. Word
and sound must arise simultaneously from improvisatory, rhythmic play.”16
Play is an integral component of the Orff music therapy, which was developed by Gertrud Orff (1914 -
2000) in the children's centre in Munich17. She applied the ISO rule (iso = same, similar) and described the
Orff music therapy as an active and multi-sensory therapy form, which developed from Orff-Schulwerk and
which considered the child in its developmental entirety (physical, mental, emotional development and
family environment). Orff music therapy is developmental music therapy, adopts the idea of creative
spontaneous music sessions and is also designed for children with hearing impairment. The Instrumentarium
serves to promote acoustic-active application, to widen or narrow the link between therapist and child and
offers the possibility of communication and social practise.18
"Within the phenomenon play and the phenomenon acoustic climate self-affirmation, understanding for
others and social integration are experienced and within them tested and consolidated.”19 Through Gertrud
Orff, Dr. Melanie Voigt and others the Orff music therapy was further developed, especially in the field of
rehabilitation of children with Cochlea implant by Neuhäusl, Sutter and Tjarks.20
The piano, due to its excellent vibro-tactile possibilities is used by many teachers, it is however not suitable
for ensemble work. Not only mallet but also wind and string instruments were developed by Clive and Carol
Robbins in the US and Australia. They recognised the innate musicality of hearing impaired children,
developed a music curriculum at the New York State School for the Deaf in Rome, USA and in 1980
published "Music for the Hearing Impaired. A resource manual and curriculum guide". Their aim was to
reach children with hearing impairment with appropriate musical experiences and thus release the inherent
musicality of these children. Claus Bang worked from 1961 - 1998 with deaf, hearing impaired and multiple
handicapped children at the Aalborg School in Denmark, played the piano, keyboard or accordion and used
a number of different types of drums and wind instruments as well as mallet instruments with children and
youths. The video documentation of these young people, singing, dancing and making music, spread the
knowledge of such possibilities and supplied valuable examples and impulses21.
SPEECH AND SONG
Hearing impairment almost always means a delay in speech development. The use of music and movement
as a means of encouraging and furthering vocal and speech development has long been recognised. "The
call, the rhyme, the word, the song" can also be points of departure for hearing impaired children if both the
child's voice, linguistic development and level of articulation are taken into account. To this purpose simple
activities such as making and playing kazoos can motivate younger children. Although for many hardly
imaginable "deaf" children enjoy singing, are excited by new songs and can create their own texts. Clive and
14 Benari, Naomi (1995): Inner Rhythm - Dance Training for the Deaf. Harwood academic publishers. Chur.
15 Carl Orff 1932, p.669 transl. Margaret Murray
16 l.c. p.671 transl. Margaret Murray
17 The children's centre in Munich was founded by Professor Theodor Hellbrügge as the first social- paediatric centre in Germany
and is more than 30 years old. Heilbrügge recognised the importance of Orff music therapy, supported the theory and
introduced the method to the children's centre in Munich. An in-service training in Munich was also established.
18 Cp. G. Orff 1974 p. 13
19 l.c. p.9f
20 “Now I Can Hear the Grass Grow“ – Orff Music Therapy with Children following Cochlear Implant
In: Salmon (ed.) 2006
21 A complete documentation of Bang's work is now obtainable on 3 DVDs www.clausbang.com
Carol Robbins emphasise not only musical and linguistic aims when learning songs but also free vocal
activities which offer stimulation, happiness and relaxation and create more self-confidence.22
In his Musical Speech Therapy Claus Bang used bass tone bars in order to improve the accentuation in voice
intensity, duration, tonality and intonation.23 Lois Birkenshaw-Fleming (Toronto, Canada) wrote as early as
1965 about the "Use of Music" for children with hearing impairment and, together with Warren Estabrooks,
wrote diverse books on Music and Auditory-Verbal Therapy as well as song books for deaf and hearing
impaired children.24 Play songs have a special importance not only for hearing impaired children. They can
be stimulus and point of departure for diverse activities with music, movement, speech and other materials;
they can incorporate various senses and enable access and encourage to creative expression. Versatile play,
action and structure forms offer opportunities for individual experience and expression.25
An interesting extension here is the use of single signs in the relevant sign language which can support the
learning of texts as well as speech and song. These are also interesting for hearing children and can be
purposefully implemented in integrative groups. Singing together with signing is well-known in Anglo-
American countries and is becoming increasingly popular in German speaking areas.26 A current EU project
SILASO, in which I am taking part, together with schools for children with hearing impairment in Salzburg,
Würzburg and Aalborg, is intensively occupied with Sign Language and Song.27
Also at the Orff Institute work with children with hearing impairment has been established and further
developed. Since 1984 a teaching practice group with hearing and hearing impaired children within the class
"Practical didactics" is offered every term. Diverse projects with hearing impaired children and youths in
inclusive groups have been held and more than 10 final papers in this work area have been written. A DVD
documentation is planned.
The following basic ideas of Orff-Schulwerk28are fundamental:
1. The unity of music, movement and language through the element of rhythm and the possibility of
2. The all round stimulation to play, sing, move, speak and make music as well as independence of
activity and creativity according to individual ability.
3. The principle of playing and improvising which emanates from each child and allows individual
activity and self-expression.
4. An instrumentarium which can be heard, seen, felt and played and which accommodates physical
creation of music.
5. The interplay between cooperative learning and interdependent learning, which enables and supports
the interaction of persons with differing abilities in a (n) (inclusive) group.
Children with hearing impairment also have a right to "….. the immanent principle of rhythm in all living
things and the both challenging and promotional integral confrontation with ones own creativity according
to individual emotional, physical and mental abilities”29 that are the essence of Orff-Schulwerk. Through the
fundamental power of the arts it becomes possible to address and realize the original, essential potentiality
for music and dance that is also inherent in hearing impaired children.
Bang, Claus (1978): Ein Weg zum vollen Erlebnis und zur Selbstverwirklichung für gehörlose Kinder. In:
22 Robbins and Robbins 1980, p.32
23 Bang 1984; Bang in: Salmon 2006
24 E.g. Songs for Listening, Songs for Life! (2003); Hear and Listen! Talk and Sing! (1994)
25 Salmon 2003; Salmon The Importance of Play Songs in Inclusive Teaching In: Salmon 2008
26 Together with song signing or sign singing there are also silent song choirs. Other artistic forms are sign poetry and sign
dancing and recently also sign music
28 Cp. Schumacher 1999; Jungmair 1992, p. 200ff
29 Haselbach 1990, p.187
Wolfgart, H. (Hg.) 1971
Bang, Claus(1984): Eine Welt von Klang und Musik. Hörgeschädigten Pädagogik Sonderdruck 8. Jg. (2) Julius
Groos Verlag, Heidelberg.
Bang, Claus (1980): A World of Sound & Music. In: Journal British Association Teachers of the Deaf, Nr. 4.
Bang, Claus (2008) A World of Sound and Music – Music Therapy and Musical Speech Therapy with Deaf,
Hearing Impaired and Multi-Handicapped Children. In: Salmon (2008)
Benari, Naomi (1995): Inner Rhythm - Dance Training for the Deaf. Harwood academic publishers. Chur.
Birkenshaw-Fleming, Lois (1965): Teaching Music to Deaf Children. An application of Carl Orff’s “Musik
for Children”. In: The Volta Review Vol. 67
Birkenshaw Fleming, Lois (2008): Music and Auditory-Verbal Therapy. In: Salmon (2008)
Glennie, Evelyn (2004) Interview. In: Orff-Schulwerk-Informationen Nr. 73, Winter 2004
Reprinted in: Musicworks. Journal of the Australian Council of Orff Schulwerk. Sydney Vol. 15 2010 p. 9 - 15
Haselbach, Barbara (1990) Orff-Schulwerk - Elementare Musik- und Bewegungserziehung. In:
Bannmüller/Röthig (Hg.): Grundlagen und Perspektiven ästhetischer und
rhythmischer Bewegungserziehung. Stuttgart
Hofmarksrichter, Karl (1965): Schulung und Bildung gehörloser und resthöriger Kinder.
Sonderdruck aus "Studium Generale" Jg. 18. Heft 11, Springer, Berlin
Hofmarksrichter,Karl(1962): Orff Schulwerk in den Taubstummeninstitutionen, in: Orff
Schulwerk Jahrbuch 1962. Salzburg.
Jungmair, Ulrike E. (1992): Das Elementare. Zur Musik- und Bewegungserziehung im Sinne
Carl Orffs. Mainz: Schott
Keller, Wilhelm (1996): Musikalische Lebenshilfe. Schott, Mainz
Orff, Carl (1964): Orff-Schulwerk Past and Future. In: Orff-Institut, Jahrbuch 1963
Mainz: Schott. http://www.vosa.org/paul/orff_speech.htm
Orff, Carl (1932): Gedanken über Musik mit Kindern und Laien. In: Die Musik. Berlin
Orff, Gertrud (1980) The Orff Music Therapy. Translated by Margaret Murray. Schott, London.
Orff, Gertrud (1989) Key Concepts in the Orff Music Therapy. Translated by Jeremy Day and
Shirley Salmon. Schott, London.
Robbins, Clive und Robbins, Carol (1980): Music for the Hearing Impaired. Magnamusic-Baton, St.Louis/Missouri,
Salmon, Shirley (2003): Spiellieder in der multi-sensorischen Förderung von Kindern mit
Hörbeeinträchtigungen. Leopold-Franzens-Universität Innsbruck. http://bidok.uibk.ac.at/library/salmon-dipl-
Salmon, Shirley und Schumacher, Karin (Hrsg.) (2001): Symposion Musikalische Lebenshilfe. Die
Bedeutung des Orff-Schulwerks für Musiktherapie, Sozial- und Integrations-
Salmon, Shirley (Hrsg.) (2008): Hearing Feeling Playing. Music and Movement with deaf and hard of hearing
children. Reichert, Wiesbaden.
Scheiblauer, Mimi (1965): Bewegung und Musik als Erziehungs- und Bildungshilfe in der Heilpädagogik. Blätter für
Musikerziehung und für allgemeine Erziehung. Hrsg. M. Scheiblauer. 24. Jahrgang Nr. 2. Sämann-Verlag, Zürich.
Scheiblauer, Mimi (1973): Musikerziehung und Heilpädagogik. In: Pahlen, K (Hrsg.): Musiktherapie. München.
Schumacher, Karin (1999): Die Bedeutung des Orff-Schulwerkes für die musikalische Sozial-
und Integrationspädagogik und die Musiktherapie. In: Orff-Schulwerk-Informationen, Nr. 62, Salzburg
Wolfgart, Hans (Hrsg.) (1971): Das Orff-Schulwerk im Dienste der Erziehung und Therapie behinderter Kinder.
Festschrift zum 75. Geburtstag von Carl Orff. Marhold, Berlin.
Wolfgart, Hans (Hrsg.) (1975): Orff-Schulwerk und Therapie. Marhold, Berlin.