Thursday, January 12, 2012

Tone Deafness

This guy doesn't think anyone is tone deaf, yet he's the one who made me think I am.

The video depicts a talk by a guy trying to convince everyone to love classical music. Or more properly, make us realize that we already do love classical music and don't know it yet. (You may want to go and watch the video now.)

Firstly, he depicts the development of a hypothetical child learning piano. The 7 year old, to me, sounds really halting, but all the other ages sound equally good, except that the 11 year old is suddenly better.

And then he gets to the really annoying bit. He talks about different categories of people in relation to classical music, and the last category are 'people who think they're tone deaf'. He says you can't be tone deaf, and to illustrate that, he talks about all the things a tone deaf person would struggle with. Here's the list:
  • you couldn't change the gear on your car - I'm assuming he means by sound, like how my Dad can tell by sound when I need to shift gears. I shift gears by watching my spedometer, not by listening to the engine. Sometimes I notice the engine sound changes just before Dad tells me to shift gears, but usually it sounds no different. (Then again, I might change in this once I'm a more experienced driver, since I do just have my learner's.)
  • you couldn't tell the difference between somebody from Texas and somebody from Rome - Here I disagree. There's a lot more to accent than tone. If you can recognize phonemes you can tell when someone uses the 'wrong' phonemes or leaves them out, you can distinguish many accents. I do notice a twangy sound to Texas and a musical sound to Rome, but with many less obvious differences I'm a lot poorer at distinguishing accents than most people. Boston versus New York, for example, I can't tell. Or Australia versus Cockney.
  • you couldn't recognize different voices on the telephone - I can recognize immediate family, and people with very distinctive voices, but I confuse people very readily over the phone if they don't introduce themselves. Then again, other people confuse me with Mom, so maybe that's not that unusual.
  • you couldn't tell what mood a person's in by their voice - Yep, autistic. I can tell things like yelling, talking fast or slow, but I find telling how other people are feeling is a lot more difficult for me than it is for most people.
So I'm tone deaf, or at least tone hearing-impaired. And this guy doesn't think I exist. (His arrogance is also extremely annoying.)

Then the piece by Chopin. The BC thing, which he says the C should make the B sad, it doesn't really sound sad to me. I've learnt to recognize that it's supposed to seem sad when you have that kind of combination, and I can hear a difference between it and a 'happy' combination, but it doesn't have any emotional meaning for me.

I also don't expect anything next after BAGF. When the entire room hummed a next note, it really didn't make sense to me where they could've gotten that note. When he's doing the 'wrong' chords and then the right one, I can hear a difference, but neither sounds any better. The 'right' chord doesn't seem satisfying or anything.

And when he asks me to think of someone I loved who is dead, I found it extremely difficult to keep both that and the music in mind. I kept visualizing Timmy (my favorite cat) and tuning out the music altogether, then thinking about the music and forgetting to keep Timmy in mind, and constantly vacillating between the two. My brother says to him the music became the 'background music' for a mental movie about Timmy. His only criticism was that Timmy's meows don't harmonize well with Chopin.

To me, classical music is mainly just noise. I can hear some differences in it if I focus, but it doesn't hold any meaning to me. I do like music with lyrics, because I like the lyrics. But music without lyrics (or with lyrics in another language) is just noise to me. And that's why I say I'm tone deaf.


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