Flipping the Blowing Sax

Most of you know that beyond our painting program A.R.T. has systems for photography, music and sculpture, that are a quantum leap ahead of the pack.

Why? How? Because A.R.T. comes from Art, not art therapy. The artist with severe mobility challenges wants to get out what’s inside them. To get at the real thing. So our systems know how to offer the full spectrum of choice to the artist.

Should I give you an example? There are devices such as those beach mine sweepers people use to hopefully find coins or a left behind rolex watch in the sand. The closer the sweeper gets to metal the higher the pitch of its audio signal.

Art therapists have used a post, a sensor that changes pitch based on how close your hand or arm is to it. A famous display of the musical instrument called the theremin is on Good Vibrations by the Beach Boys.

Oh my doesn’t this sound a creative art therapy move?
Well. It could be fun for a quadriplegic person to move their arm closer and further from the theremin. But how much fun will it be if:

  • You can’t move your arm.
  • You cannot control the movement of your arm in a way you could gain articulate control of the notes being created.

Fun? Yes. Okay. But music? No way. Creating real music that expresses the unique, individual, life within?

The A.R.T. music program empowers users to select every note, whole notes, half notes, quarter notes, and place them on a musical stanza on a computer screen. The user can listen to the notes they have compiled and make changes or move on to grab the next note of the melody. They can lay one track atop another track after track. Either keep it simple or pour it on in a torrent.

The point is it is the user who is creating the piece, liberated from the limitations of their bodies.

We don’t ask them to struggle to get their arm to move a certain exacting way it is not capable of.

Therapists see this physical struggle as a good thing. A form of stretching.

A.R.T. is not a physical therapy class, it is an art studio where the power is in making art.

An A.R.T. artist working at our Princeton studio composed a long line of notes. A nice long run, using the synth saxophone.

During audio playback, so Izzie could get a feel for the next note her jazz riff called for, she asked, “Tim?”


“Can we, uh, you know, flip it?”

Our Tracker informs me Izzie is looking at the illuminated notes on the stanza on the big computer monitor screen.

I asked the Tracker, “Can you flip the whole thing?”

“Not a problem.”

And so all her notes did a flip so the high notes were now the low notes, the low now the high.
The new configuration played back for all to hear it was so good, so jazzie cool, breaking the rule of not commenting on the artist’s work I blurted, “Izzie have you got any idea how good this is!?”

Catching her breath, giving a delighted chuckle, then, in her famously loud, imperious voice she called out, “And to think I know nothing about music!”

She started laughing. We all did. But I knew we were in the real zone of art, of music.