It is ear training with hearing aids
I’m the totally deaf man who watches concerts through 10-by-50 binoculars.I am proposing the development of a laptop computer musical ear-training course for art music fans who are dependent on hearing aids.I myself began wearing one or two hearing aids in 1947, when I was 6. Until 1969, I was able to hear, memorize and whistle the melodic lines of dozens of compositions. I had not learned to read musical notation. After going completely deaf, because there had been no analytic component to my comprehension, my inner tape recordings began to disintegrate and fade away.In the last few years, I have worked through several courses in music theory, including the Practica Musica computer course (see http://www.ars-nova.com) by Jeff Evans of Seattle, and am familiar with basic texts such as Russell and Trubitt’s two-volume work: “The Shaping of Musical Elements” (Schirmer, 1990). I didn’t learn these elements when I could hear and I cannot imagine them into mental existence. Even if I had heard them and recognized them within a melody, I cannot recall combinations of two (intervals) or three (triads) and I can’t back-breed them into the tones themselves and build up from those elements.A few years ago, Richard Woodhams, the instructor of oboe at the Curtis Institute of Music and its librarian, Katherine Walker, helped me learn something about how the art music world reproduces itself. Producing and shaping musical sound is half the battle. Putting the sounds together to make art is the other half.The great pedagogue of the CIM, Marcel Tabuteau (1889-1966), defined the mission of conservatory training thusly: Every musical idea, whether melodic, rhythmic, chromatic, harmonic or textural, is made up of units of motion and repose that extend across the bar lines. At all levels of musical art, from the composer, to the conductor and to the performer, it was their duty to sculpt those units to make them apparent to the listener in the motion of the pulse.My proposal is the mirror image of Tabuteau’s: to use computer graphics to train listeners who all depend on hearing aids to recognize the morphological categories of musical sculpture. This would be a halfway house between a full music theory course and knowing nothing.A composer, in collaboration with a sound engineer, could construct a battery of musical discrimination tests using the methods of contrasting pairs, true false or multiple-choice presentations of the sonic combinations of intervals, chords, harmony and chromatics, etc. as struck once.For the significant percentage that I think would “pass,” I propose that a composer write a sequence of a few bars of music to illustrate the differences of mutation, that are at once both physical and abstract, between the melodic, rhythmic, chromatic, harmonic and textural categories. The sound would be combined with graphic representations on the laptop screen. As an example, I’ll quote from my little essay “As I Hear It” that ran in The Aspen Times on Aug. 14, 2002.”As a deaf person, I visualize listening to art music as a sort of a reversal of blindness. I’m floating in a dark room and see dim light congealing into a series of logarithmic ladders marked for octaves and intervals. Black dots of sonic pitch split themselves off the ladders and conjoin into floating parallel lines like those of a cable yet to be pulled together, crimped and braided. The black dots are carried along the lines in rhythmic pulses moving through past, present and future like waves heading for a beach.”I see the tonal key structure forming the ceiling and floor of a three-dimensional hologram and the architectonic structure forming the walls. The hologram expands to reveal threads of synapses connecting the dots on the lines into harmonies. The lines themselves wiggle as melodies. Lines of melody speed up and slow down in augmentation and diminution. The lines of melody join with their harmonics and intertwine in counterpoint. The hologram and the sound lines within it grow more detailed as the piece goes on. The art in art music is in the multiplicity of the connections revealed.”I imagined the above before I knew of Tabuteau’s five categories. I believe that learning to recognize the basic types of musical ideas is practical for most people who wear hearing aids. It would enhance their enjoyment and sharpen their memories.David Bentley is a resident of Aspen. Editor’s note: “Soapbox” runs on the Sunday opinion page. This spot is a forum for valley residents to comment on local topics. If you’d like to contribute, contact Naomi Havlen at The Aspen Times at 925-3414, ext. 17624, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.