Sunday, October 3, 2010

Them Bones, Them Bones

Hammer, anvil, stirrup. One by one, these are large objects with a common connection to saddle and horseshoe construction. Together, they are three tiny bones that are critical to hearing. Together, they would fit on a dime.

The eardrum is the membrane which picks up sound vibrations. These vibrations need amplification to be perceived. Amplification is the job of these three little bones. Small as they are, they amplify sound. If such tiny bones can amplify sound, imagine what the other 203 bones could do!

When I get a tooth drilled, the sound is the worst part of the process. Thanks to novacaine, I don't feel much pain sensation, but I do "feel" the sound. Teeth are rooted in the jaw, a large bone that connects to the skull, an even larger bony structure. The jaw connects to the skull in very close proximity to the ear. The big bone amplifies the sound of the drill directly to the three little bones in the inner ear. When the drill is not in contact with the tooth, the sound is not as loud as when the drill touches the tooth.

Singers and wind players may be more aware of the way their sounds resonate in their bones than pianists and string players. Even so, they may forget that the whole body resonates, not just the ear bones, the skull and jaw. In fact, ancient healing chants were designed to resonate in order to activate the healing process throughout the body. Modern medicine has ever-developing uses of sound for diagnostic and healing purposes.

"Hearing" sound in the whole body can be a very freeing experience. It helps to put the performer smack dab in the middle of the sound. A constricted body does not amplify sound as well as a free, balanced body amplifies sound. Allowing the whole body to experience sound is a way to release unnecessary tension. The result of this is good for the performer and good for the audience.

And... you don't need electricity for these amplifiers. Or a roadie to carry them for you.

Practice feeling sound in your whole body. Notice where the sound gets blocked. Notice how pitch and volume change the sensations. Notice how certain spaces change your access to natural amplification. Enjoy being in the middle of the sound.

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