Adaptive Use Musical Instruments (AUMI)

What are the Adaptive Use Musical Instruments (AUMI)?

Adaptive Use Musical Instrument (AUMI) software interface and iOS App are new musical instruments that enable people who have very limited controlled (voluntary) movement to independently engage in music making.

AUMI enables the user to play sounds and musical phrases through movement and gestures. This is an entry to improvisation that enables exploration of sounds ranging from pitches to noises rather than learning set pieces. This open approach to music enables anyone to explore and express a range of affects, both by themselves and in response to, or in conversation with, others. While AUMI can be used by anyone, the focus has been on working with children who have profound physical disabilities.

In taking these participants as its starting point, the AUMI project attempts to make musical improvisation and collaboration accessible to the widest possible range of individuals. This approach also opens up the possibility of learning more about the relations between ability, the body, creativity and improvisation, from within a cultural context that does not always acknowledge or accept people with disabilities.

The AUMI project continues to be revised and improved with input from the technologists, students, therapists and feedback from registered users.  An on-site training program is now available. The latest initiative is the development of an AUMI iPad App.

We celebrate the brand new update of AUMI for iPad and iPhone, now available in iTunes!


Led by musician, composer, and humanitarian Pauline Oliveros, the Adaptive Use Musical Instrument (AUMI) project brings together the expertise of technicians at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) and the community education initiatives of the Deep Listening Institute.

In collaboration with musician and occupational therapist Leaf Miller, the AUMI software interface was first used in drum workshops with children with disabilities at Abilities First School located in Poughkeepsie, New York in 2007. Since these initial workshops, the software interface has been made available as a free internet download and is now in use by musicians and therapists both nationally and internationally.

AUMI was adopted by the Gender and the Body research group of an international research project on Improvisation, Community, and Social Practice (ICASP). ICASP is centered at the University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada and directed by Ajay Heble. ICASP researchers are exploring improvisation as a model for social change in a variety of teams drawn from 33 researchers.

In 2013 the first six years of ICASP concluded with AUMI named as a top rated project and transformed to a new project: International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation (IICSI). Gender and the Body research group continues with research on AUMI and its value to students with special needs as part of IICSI through 2020.

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