‘Music changes everything’: Student with autism composes for string quartet

Mohammed Basit, 17, composed and conducted a piece for string quartet 

Mohammed Basit, 17, composed and conducted a piece for string quartet - Credit: Gary Manhine

A student from a Hackney special needs school composed and conducted a piece for string quartet at Round Chapel.  

Mohammed Basit, who has autism and was a student at Stormont House, composed The Journey’s End to accompany the end credits of one of his self-produced animated videos.  

The 17-year-old first performed and conducted the piece with help from students and musicians from the Music Service at his Stormont House leaving ceremony, a celebration for Year 12 students about to leave the school.  

He said: “Music has lots of feeling inside it and changes weather. It has feelings and it changes my feelings as well. With music it could be major or not. Music changes everything, especially the atmosphere.”  

Mo, as he is known, has never received formal musical training and even his parents were unaware of his musical talent.   

The student, who has perfect pitch, meaning he can identify notes by ear without reference, composed the piece entirely by himself on digital music production software.  

He said: “A couple of months ago, I was using Logic Pro 10 and I used a midi keyboard. It’s like a piano that can play sounds from the computer. And I just experimented with my keyboard until I found out I could do it. It sounded good so I had to give it the best shot.”  

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David Harries, Mo’s music teacher, became aware of the student’s talent after he showed him his animation series, soundtracked by Mo’s musical compositions, and encouraged Mo to develop the piece and perform it live.   

David said: “I’ve been at Stormont House quite a long time and we’ve never had something like this, it was quite special for us.”  

After the performances in July, Mo and David are now working on a full orchestra piece which they hope will be debuted next January at The Hackney Empire. 

Mo, who will start studying at college soon, describes himself as a digital media creator as well as composer, music producer and animator. Whether he would conduct again, Mo said: “I’m not sure to be honest with you. I’m a busy person at this point.”