Monday, September 10, 2007

You Have a Weakness in That!

A little knowledge about a condition can sometimes be a dangerous thing. People may assume that since your disability involves a particular area, you can't possibly have any strengths in that area.
Amanda Baggs made a new blog entry about the assumption that 'if you can do X, you can do Y', using the analogy of being able to identify colors but not notes, despite having normal sight and hearing. At one point she mentions how assuming everyone could identify notes easily may result in a musically talented person with good relative pitch not being able to persue a career in music simply because they can't identify notes in isolation.
I also thought of another problem. Even if their disability was fairly well understood, people might think 'why would someone with a musical disability want to be a musician? They must be in denial'.
I actually heard an example of this. In the book Learning Outside the Lines, Jonathan Mooney, a dyslexic person, was told by a college professor that he might want to consider a different major than English. When in fact he had difficulty with the mechanics of reading and writing but was excellent at expressing himself in words - a far more important skill for being a good writer. There are accomodations for difficulty reading and writing - it's much harder to accomodate for difficulty expressing yourself in words. He would write the stuff and his mother would proofread, or he'd dictate it to her. He had the ideas, she just made sure his grammar and spelling were correct. Similarly, a musician without perfect pitch has the ability to express themselves with sound patterns and make things that sound good, but may not be any good at identifying tones, at least without a reference tone. If not, they will need some accomodation for that - which is generally given. For example, when tuning a piano, most people use a tuning fork as a reference. The fact that they can't tune a piano without that does not mean that piano tuning should be left solely to people with perfect pitch. Even if you can't tune a piano, that doesn't mean you can't play it.



Blogger ballastexistenz said...

And in fact perfect pitch is not necessarily enough to tune an instrument by.

Sort of like being able to identify the basic colors doesn't mean a person can identify all sorts of subtle shades (or at least identify them in the right way to use them in a practical sense).

I use a tuner, not to identify notes, but to identify subtle gradations of distance from the exact frequency I'm after. I don't look at the digital part that gives the name of the note, I look over at the analog needle that identifies precise gradations of pitch.

I did startle my parents once a couple years ago by telling them something like, "There's a roughly 18 KHz sound that I can hear all over the house but seems loudest in your bathroom." Seems one of their supposedly ultrasonic air purifiers wasn't really ultrasonic. My parents are too old to hear sounds at that pitch, so they took out some kind of instrument to measure frequency and I had gotten the frequency right. I hadn't even realized I'd memorized some of the higher-pitched frequencies when playing around with them once.

10:41 AM  
Blogger Ashley's Mom said...

Have you read Jonathan Mooney's latest book - Short Bus Stories? I loved it, and not just because my daughter was featured in one of the chapters (How To Curse in Sign Language).

8:04 AM  

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