Saturday, May 16, 2009

More on the subject of speed: ear speed. We expect blind children to hear more acutely than sighted children. I suspect this is only because we dumb down sighted hearing by simplifying the notion of what is heard so that we can connect it to visual symbols and to motor responses that leave out the fascinating parts of sound, the invisible parts, the overtones.

Yesterday I witnessed a vivid demonstration of this. A young student, blind since birth, is obviously stimulated by overtones, which he hears and responds to powerfully. His sister is composing a piece of her own. With no knowledge of theory (I don't impose such "right/wrong" perceptions on my students) she fools around, finding sonorities I would never dream of, touching them as if they are alive--which, in her hands and in her ear, they are. The result is entirely unconventional, entirely original, entirely compelling.

Does her piece need to be like everyone else's? like anyone else's?
The ear is many times faster than any other perception system--in fact, hundreds of times faster. I think of musicians as people who aspire to that almost immeasurable rate of speed. Musical children experience music at that speed. Everything in my experience supports this observation.

My question: Why is so much time spent slowing their ear responses down to the level at which they can control their motor function? Shouldn't it be the other way around? Shouldn't the motor function be left free to respond at the -- here we go! -- speed of sound?

This observation applies mostly to learning at the piano. It's completely different with stringed instruments which come in child sizes, and where the feedback in sound is directly connected to motor skills--a whole different ball of wax.