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Functional Classifications
Make things as simple as possible. But no simpler. (Albert Einstein)


The language used in news broadcasts varies from day to day as social and environmental contexts change. New words are introduced which fall outside the fixed vocabulary of speech recognition systems. There is a need for continual adaptation to be able to recognise changes and comprehend new vocabularly over time. Choosing vocabulary for music functioning is one way of facilitating standardisation of terminology that can be extended for local, regional, national and global relevance. 

The term 'temporal adaptation' is a useful concept that is used widely within occupational therapy practice and research. It can be applied to:

Temporal understandings of culture.
There is wide variation in cultural understandings of time and how this applies to music functioning. Temporal awareness and time perceptions may be influenced by participation in music and other daily living activities. Musicians can deliberately influence people's temporal understanding and scheduled routines through education, cross-cultural experiences, or negotiating adaptation of musical traditions and practices with culture bearers. Variations in over time are often unplanned and involuntary.

Pace and Cycles
The pace or tempo of music may reflect cycles in seasons or the rhythms of human biological functioning (eg. pulse, breathing). There is a rhythm to our daily routines that is habitual, and to many music customs and traditions. People can control and alter the pace of their daily activities. This is especially evident in musicians ability to alter tempo and control rhythmic expression in music compositions and improvisions. Synchronisation can be important for socio-cultural connections of music events and relationship building. Historical events can be coded diachronologically (eg. on a timeline) or synchronologically (focussing on simultaneous happenings that may occur in various places or across cultures). Symbolic recording through language and/or music performance is important to building collective memory over time.

Time management
Terminology that we use which relates to time can be adapted to various purposes such as time management functions. This can be relevant to the socio-cultural impact of music participation. The timing of music festivals and the duration of music activities will affect people's functioning in music roles at the societal, community or personal level. People can organise and manage their own schedules. For example, if they devote more time to musicking, then performance may change for the better. Having limited time for music practice may reduce capacity for skilled performance. People's values and priorities are expressed through how much time they devote to music occupations.

In summary, the temporal adaptation occurs through people regulating their music customs and decision making over the choice of language or performance practice. Music health professionals can assist with temporal adaptation. Support and education may be required in this area because it has not yet been incorporated into music education programs and is a new application that I have devised from my experience as an occupational therapist.

Farnworth, Louise (2003) Time use, tempo and temporality: Occupational therapy's core business or someone else's business. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 50(3), 116-126.

Kielhofner, Gary (1977). Temporal adaptation: A conceptual framework for occupational therapy. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 31, 235-247.

Meyer, A. (1922/ reprint 1977). The philosophy of occupational therapy. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 31, 639-642.

Currently exploring the usefulness of 'ethnomusicking' as a new term to describe peoples' cultural engagement with music; in the sense of doing, being, and becoming more musical. This interfaces with the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (WHO, 2001) through the 'Activities and Participation' category, but also has associations to other components such as 'Body Functions and Structures,' 'Environmental Factors,' and 'Personal Factors' which impact on occupational performance.

One challenge in presenting music health services is that approaches need to be negotiated and delivered through language that is suitable to people from a wide range of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. There is presently no common international language for discussing all aspects of musical functioning in society across different professional domains such as, Music Education, Music Health, Music Performance, and Music Communication Science.

The International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (WHO, 2001) provides some guidelines on terminology for musical activity participation. Excerpts from the International Classification of Functioning (ICF) that are relevant to music are outlined below. There may be possibilities for refining and extending this classification for musical functioning, but this has not yet been explored with the World Health Organisation who consulted with over 200 countries to develop the International Classification of Functioning (ICF). It appears that musicians are yet to make a comment on the suitability of the classification for the music sector. 

The ICF is a beginning, but it is not yet comprehensive enough to cover all aspects of musical functioning and every musical environment. There is a strong argument for individualising and tailoring language about music to the environmental context and people's circumstances. At the same time, the need for a universal system of nomenclature, especially for research is recognised.

Perhaps communities can experiment with the broad categories of the ICF and develop local variations and extensions to suit their needs. It would be helpful to have feedback on how relevant the ICF terminology is for music in Australia and other countires. Copies of the ICF can be purchased from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and there is an online version that can be searched at 



 Production of notes

Functions of production of musical vocal sounds. Inclusions: sustaining, modulating and terminating production of single or connected vocalizations with variation in pitch such as in singing, humming and chanting.


b340 Alternative vocalization functions

Functions of the production of other manners of vocalization. Inclusions: functions of the production of notes and range of sounds, such as in singing, chanting, babbling and humming; crying aloud and screaming. Exclusions: mental functions of language (b167); voice functions (b310); articulation functions (b320); fluency and rhythm of speech functions (b330).

d115 Listening
Using the sense of hearing intentionally to experience auditory stimuli, such as listening to a radio, music or a lecture.

d3151 Communicating with - receiving - general signs and symbols

Comprehending the meaning represented by public signs and symbols, such as traffic signs, warning symbols, musical or scientific notations, and icons.

d3351 Producing signs and symbols

Conveying meaning by using signs and symbols (e.g. icons, Bliss board, scientific symbols) and symbolic notation systems, such as using musical notation to convey a melody.

d920 Recreation and leisure

Engaging in any form of play, recreational or leisure activity, such as informal or organized play and sports, programmes of physical fitness, relaxation, amusement or diversion, going to art galleries, museums, cinemas or theatres; engaging in crafts or hobbies, reading for enjoyment, playing musical instruments; sightseeing, tourism and travelling for pleasure. Inclusions: play, sports, arts and culture, crafts, hobbies and socializing. Exclusions: riding animals for transportation (d480); remunerative and non-remunerative work (d850 and d855); religion and spirituality (d930); political life and citizenship (d950).

d9202 Arts and culture

Engaging in, or appreciating, fine arts or cultural events, such as going to the theatre, cinema, museum or art gallery, or acting in a play, reading for enjoyment or playing a musical instrument.


General products and technology for culture, recreation and sport

Equipment, products and technology used for the conduct and enhancement of cultural, recreational and sporting activities, such as toys, skis, tennis balls and musical instruments, not adapted or specially designed.

Assistive products and technology for culture, recreation and sport

Adapted or specially designed equipment, products and technology used for the conduct and enhancement of cultural, recreational and sporting activities, such as modified mobility devices for sports, adaptations for musical and other artistic performance.




A phenomenon that is or may be heard, such as banging, ringing, thumping, singing, whistling, yelling or buzzing, in any volume, timbre or tone, and that may provide useful or distracting information about the world. Inclusions: sound intensity; sound quality.

It could be argued that many other categories that do not specifically mention music would also be rele
vant, such as remunerative and non-remunerative work (d850 and d855); religion and spirituality (d930; political life and citizenship (d950).



Articles written by Sandra Kirkwood: Commenced 12 November, 2008; last updated 16 November, 2016.
© Sandra Kirkwood, 2008

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