Always a source of fascination, Radio 4 is launching Vox Project – researching the oldest instrument on Earth – the human voice. Listeners/readers are invited to send recordings of their voice, engaged in one of various comparative tasks, to the researchers at UCL. The one which particularly interested me (and possibly many of you) is the difference in one’s voice when teaching as opposed, say, to chatting to friends. Schools are full of digital recorders now so why not get involved.
You can send recordings via Audioboo (if you have a iPhone or Android Phone) – otherwise you can upload to Youtube and email a link to firstname.lastname@example.org
The site also features:
I’ve said it before but I’m often struck by how important our voices are in teaching and how little we really know about them. Or is it just me?
I recently read something in Steven Mithen‘s excellently written and thought provoking book The Singing Neanderthals which stopped me in my tracks. The passage concerned the research, by Professor Willi Steinke of Queens University in Kingston, Canada, into the melodic recall of a subject with amusia, following a stroke at the age of 64. The subject was unable to identify many well-known instrumental themes. However, when themes with lyrics were played, recall was normal – even although the lyrics were not present! Steinke and his colleagues concluded that melody and lyrics were stored in different parts of the brain – the prosody of the lyrics helping to summon up the tune, and the rhythms of the tune aiding the reverse.
Suddenly my mind jumped back 42 years to my first piano tutor book, in which every melody featured lyrics – added after the event by the author, John W. Schaum. At the time I regarded them as a slightly annoying irrelevance because I was six years old and knew everything. Now the aspiration behind them seems clear. I began to think that, although the beginners’ materials I use have no lyrics, there may be an argument for adding some – more particularly for asking the pupils to add their own.
By an amazing coincidence of timing, this topic was brought up at our in service on Thursday, by one of my colleagues who was keen to discover similarities and differences in our approaches to teaching rhythm. Recommendations and reservations were expressed – the latter concerning examples where words had been forced to fit rhythms in an unnatural way, and possible confusion arising from the differing prosody of varying accents and dialects.
Still – it’s something interesting to think about. Any experiences, views, recommendations to offer?