Thursday, September 23, 2010

Do I Hear the Walls?

Ear training and hearing training are not the same thing. Ear training coaches us to listen to the structural elements of music - the chords, the intervals, the tonality shifts and the rhythmic complexities. Hearing training is going on all the time in the brain. It is the way we prioritize the sounds in our environment and make decisions based on the perception of those sounds.

Blind people use a process called echolocation to help them "hear" where they are in space.
The reflection of sound from different surfaces helps them to determine where objects are and what the density and consistency of those objects is.

Good news - sighted people do this, too. Not only do we hear reflected sound and determine the location of objects, but we can also determine the shape of an object based on the reflected sound, even when we are blindfolded. Isn't hearing grand? (Check out "See What I'm Saying" by Lawrence D. Rosenblum.)

It is not unusual for musicians to want to rehearse in a space before a performance because we want to know how the space "sounds". True enough, obvious even. We also know the sound will change when the audience moves into the space, and we hope they DO move into the space.

What we may not realize is that the way we perceive sound changes the way we move in a given space. If we are hearing the resonance of a large hall, we are more likely to move as though we have a lot of space to move through. If we are in a "dead" acoustical space, it is more difficult to feel the luscious reverberations that encourage free movement. We tend not to like the sound, both on an aural level and on a kinesthetic level.

Adding conscious hearing training to your day helps you to be more observant of your surroundings and helps you to make movement decisions that are more favorable in the worst of acoustical environments. Take a few minutes a day to sit in one spot and listen to all the sounds around you. Notice the ones you like, the ones you don't, the ones that encourage comfort and ease, and the ones that induce tension. Make a decision to move freely, wherever you are, whatever you hear.

Be surprised that you can hear the walls, and enjoy the conversation.

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