Tidying up at the end of a primary school day, I was delighted when two P5 girls helped out without being asked. For some reason, best known to themselves, they burst into an animated version of Two Little Dickie Birds. Then one suggested, “why don’t we play that song?” I replied, “we could, but I’m wondering if it’s more of a poem than a song. If we took the words away, would there be any tune left for us to play?” After a moment’s reflection, one said:
Da dada dada da, dada dada da –
Da da dada – , da da da –
Dada da dada – , dada da da –
Da da dada – , da da da –
The inflections in the voice were identical to the version with words.
So, what is the prosodic equivalent of the popular line, “I’m a poet and didn’t know it?”
Somewhere in here is the reason I make such a fuss about phrase endings in lessons/rehearsals:
Many will not find it surprising that the word “music” appears 23 times in this New Scientist article.
I found this paragraph especially interesting:
“Musically trained people perform better on tests of auditory memory – the ability to remember lists of spoken words, for example – and auditory attention. Children with a musical training have larger vocabularies and higher reading ability than those who do not (Nature Reviews Neuroscience, vol 11, p 599). There is even some evidence that early musical training increases IQ (Psychological Science, vol 15, p 511).”
From the people who brought you The Biology Of Learning, Luminosity now brings to lovers of learning about learning, Your Nervous System At Work. Some of the numbers are staggering and there are interesting links to related posts on cognition, memory & learning.
I once debated with an intelligent and able amateur musician what I believed to be going on when I was playing from memory – which is most of the time. I claimed that I was playing by ear and monitoring accuracy with my memory. He claimed the opposite. Listening to Sergio della Sala’s talk at last year’s SLF I was interested to hear him suggest that our memories are not so much accessed as recreated and that the solidity of each memory is destabilised in the accessing.
As if there weren’t sufficient things to sustain the interest in memory as we know it, there is also the increasing phenomenon of outsourcing our memories to online and external data storage facilities – a kind of prosthetic memory. Dr. Susan Blackmore discussed the effect this trend might have on our memories last night on Radio 3’s Sunday Feature – Remember, Remember. One interesting application might be to help remove the distress caused by uncertainty in sufferers of dementia. You can listen again to the programme until Sunday 28th. Dr. Blackmore’s website also sports an article on the programme from the Radio Times
Returning to the memory monitors ear/ear monitors memory debate I’d say from, watching pupils over the years, that both processes are equally in evidence – although rarely in the same person.
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?