Autistic musicians

Music provokes emotions that everyone can feel. Discover the accounts of Percujam’s autistic musicians.

What is autism?

It is a developmental disorder. People with autism often find it extremely difficult to socialise and communicate. There is no set list of symptoms as autism affects each autistic individual in different ways.

You have probably heard of “autistic savants”. They excel in one particular field but are often not interested in other areas. There are autistic mathematicians, physicians, philosophers, painters and musicians. Their performances are often exceptional. Just like Stephen Wiltshire who can draw an entire city right down to the number of windows on buildings after having seen it only once.

In music, there are autistic people who have perfect pitch even though they have never played a note. Others are able to memorise a staggering number of melodies and verses and reproduce them perfectly after listening to them just once. Some of them even find it very easy to transpose melodies into a different key.

Certain articles, reports and films show the exceptional talents that these people have developed alongside their disorder. One should not however forget that such autistic savants only represent a tiny percentage of autistic people. Even if most of them don’t develop these types of talents, they can still love music and work hard to learn how to play it.


That is the case of the young autistic people from the Alternote project who, together with their teachers, have started a long-term undertaking: Percujam. Music and belonging to a band improves these young people’s socialisation skills. They are often excluded from society because of their disorder and Percujam allows them to take action. It gives them a different status: they are no longer simply “autistic”, they are a “singer, “drummer” or “guitarist” and this gives them a strong sense of fulfilment.

Meludia and Percujam are now partners. The band members tested Meludia’s exercises and used the feelings and sensations created by music to complete them. Here, three Percujam musicians give us their extraordinary accounts:

“During the tension/release test, I imagined a funny situation for each chord. A tension chord made me think of something distressing and a release chord made me feel good. For example, tension = I don’t like “fromage blanc” and release = I like caramel custard or tension = Disneyland is closed or release = oh, great, it’s open. Thanks to that, I got everything in the exercise right. In the micro-melody game, I also imagined going up to heaven for the ascending melodies and going to hell, underground, for descending melodies.” – Kévin

“During the stable/unstable exercise, I felt pleasant and unpleasant emotions. I enjoyed getting it wrong because it made me realise that I sometimes find unstable chords beautiful. I like being surprised. You can’t always get it right but it’s always useful because you’re always learning.” – Raphaël

“I want to keep playing Meludia regularly because I feel really good about myself when I do well in the exercises. I enjoyed playing stable/unstable, identifying more or less colourful chords and I like the percussion exercises.” – Diane

What can we learn from these accounts? Firstly, that even though they are too often overlooked, the feelings and sensations we experience when we listen to music are good analytical tools. And also, that music is accessible to all, without distinction.  All you need to improve is to like it and enjoy it. Discover Percujam!

Photo credit: woodleywonderworks/CC BY