Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Ear: Tin, Satin, and In-Between

I was born with a satin ear: responsive, welcoming, warm.  When it became clear to me that this attribute was not going to get me anywhere I worked hard to change my mode of hearing.

I accomplished this by practicing what was preached to me: the false doctrine of equal temperament which holds that all keys on the piano are inter-changeable and that pitches do not have inherent attributes.  My method included transposing everything I played, shamelessly; and perfecting sight-reading to the point where it was irrelevant whether I was listening or not.  By this means I became extremely proficient in playing the music no one else wanted to play, i.e., student compositions.

By the time I was 22 I could no longer respond to the satin aspects of my own ear and had to relearn the art of listening without visual interference.

This continues to be a huge issue, witness an ongoing discussion on the Music Theory Society's talk-line over "inner ear."  The inner ear I am talking about is the one that works independent of the visual symbol.  It apparently does not even occur to the others taking part in the discussion that there is such a thing.