Tonal Sensation in Silence. Ragnhildur Gísladóttir - PDF

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Tonal Sensation in Silence Ragnhildur Gísladóttir 1 2 Iceland Academy of the Arts Department of Music Composition Tonal Sensation in Silence MA THESIS IN COMPOSITION ICELAND ACADEMY OF THE ARTS Ragnhildur

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Tonal Sensation in Silence Ragnhildur Gísladóttir 1 2 Iceland Academy of the Arts Department of Music Composition Tonal Sensation in Silence MA THESIS IN COMPOSITION ICELAND ACADEMY OF THE ARTS Ragnhildur Gísladóttir Supervisor: Kjartan Ólafsson English Translation: Steinunn Þorvaldsdóttir Autumn Abstract This research involves an observation of the way in which people with an inoperative auditory system perceive music. A study is made of whether they distinguish between music and other sounds and a comparison made between their reactions. Their reactions are also compared with those of hearers who are presented with the same sound clips. The possibility of approaching the intent of the composers in writing these pieces of music is also examined, as well as their thoughts and emotions, by using different methods in listening to music. Inflated balloons, on the one hand, were used when the sound clips were presented to the participants, and sound boards on the other. An effort was made to avoid deep and heavy percussion with an even beat, to the extent possible, in chosen pieces of music. The majority of the compositions were well known and covered a wide range of musical history. Their selection was based on their revealing a broad scale of emotions and their being known for that characteristic. The analysis of the experience of the sound clips is based on interviews with the participants; a comparison of their answers, and how these answers conform to the defined description of the music pieces. The conclusion of the research indicates a consistency in the deaf participants perception of the music pieces and that there is a concordance between their experience of music and that of hearers. Thus, it appears as if deaf people make a distinction between music and sound. The latter part of this thesis is a musical composition rooted in the above-mentioned research. Clearly drawn and strong descriptions of the emotional reactions of people, who are normally not considered able to perceive music, aroused both curiosity and promise of new musical dimensions. The descriptions opened a door to the cultural world of deaf people; the deaf culture that is based on perception in silence. Its form of expression is often more direct than that of hearers and contrasts are more definite. It is the opinion of the undersigned that music has a definite part in this world and with the composition an effort is made to juxtapose positive and negative impressions in order to reflect the participants descriptions of their musical perception. 4 Table of Contents 1. Introduction Related Researches The Research The Participants The Sign Language Interpreters The Research Method The Sound Clips The Answers of the Participants Krzysztof Penderescki, Threnody (1960) Stomu Yamash ta, Bergmál (Echo) (2005) Stomu Yamash ta: Destiny, (2005) Trevor Wishart: Feeder (1979) Ben Frost: Killshot (2009) Olga Neuwirth: Vamphyrotheone (1995) Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony no 3, The Eroica, 2nd Movement, Funeral March Edvard Grieg: Wedding Days in Troldhaugen (1892) Orchestral Version Igor Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring, ( ), Dances of the Young Girls Claude Debussy: Nuages (Clouds) (1899) 1st Movement of Nocturnes Hildegard von Bingen: Ordo Virtudum, (1151) In Principio Omnes Jón Leifs: Dettifoss Waterfall, (1964), poem by Einar Benediktsson Jean Sibelius: Valse Triste (1903) Joh. Seb. Bach: Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, Cantata No Environmental Sounds The Gullfoss Watefall Sinus Tones Conclusion Comparison of Participants Perceptions The Experience of the Participants and the Sign Language of the Composition The Composition Epilogue Appendixes i movement ii movement iii movement iv movement References 1. Introduction What originated this research was the question what we perceive when we listen to musical pieces. It is intriguing to consider whether we perceive feelings, thoughts, or even something of which the composers are unconscious when we listen to their compositions. In order to find answers to these questions, information to this effect would have to be available beforehand which is understandably not an easy matter. It is however interesting to consider whether composers unconsciously realize what it is that originates their musical creation. Are there possibly some repeated musical characteristics in their compositions? The thought of estimating such attributes led to the idea of approaching the participants perception of music and sound in a novel way. Studying how deaf people perceive music and comparing that perception with the musical perception of hearers, offered a research base that would possibly throw an interesting light on the nature of music and its perception. The intention of this research is to study the musical perception of deaf people and hearers and whether it is possible to approach the intention, feelings, or thoughts of the musical composer, by listening to musical pieces in ways that differ from the traditional ones. The research methods are qualitative and personal interviews are made. The analytical procedure used in assessing the experience of deaf people and hearers of the sound clips, along with the comparison and definition of the musical pieces, as well as the comments, is an addition to what has been done before and described above. Comparable research on the musical perception of deaf people, to what is described in this research paper, does not seem to have been made before in Iceland, apart from the research on which the BA thesis of the undersigned is based. That research revealed that in order to gain more significant results, the scope and execution of the research would have to be changed. In the former research there were only three listeners and they listened to the music simultaneously. Every time it was the same sign language interpreter who interpreted the expressions of the participants of their experience and all the listening hours took place in different locations. There are thirteen participants in this research and only one listens at each time to prevent any possible influence others might have on the answers. In order to get as exact interpretation of the participants answers as possible, it was decided, in collaboration with the sign language interpretation services, to have more interpreters involved in the research this time. In this way an effort is made to ensure that the interpretation of the answers is as exact as possible to make sure that the right feelings of the participants are communicated. Furthermore, all the interviews were videotaped in order to enable the verification of the answers by watching the expression of the participants simultaneous to listening to the interpretation. During the interviews the interviewer and the interpreter did their best not to reveal any reactions to the accounts of the listeners. 6 2. Related Researches A group of scientists at the University of Oregon has revealed that deaf people use the auditory cortex for processing touch stimuli and visual stimuli to a considerably greater extent than hearers. These results indicate that when the auditory cortex develops without sound stimuli in deaf people, its role changes to the effect that it overtakes the processing of other kind of perception. 1 The research reveals that the brain can adjust and develop new abilities and connections, as when the auditory cortex does not receive any sound stimuli, it begins to feel touch. Comparable researches have been conducted in other countries e.g. where it is measured whether deaf people can enjoy music to the same extent as hearers. In a research made by Dr. Dean Shibata, Radiologist at the University of Washington, in 2001, it was revealed that deaf people appear to process sound waves in the same area of the brain as people who can hear. The research was made on a group of people consisting of 10 hearing impaired individuals and 11 hearers. The former group held inflated balloons in order to perceive the sound waves of the music. Shibata used an fmri, functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, in order to be able to compare the brain function of both teams. This technique enabled Shibata to reveal illuminated areas in the brain when music was played and the surprising thing was that the hearing impaired showed function in a specific area of the brain that is usually only functioning during normal auditory stimulation. Those who could hear showed considerably less function in the same area. 2 The use of blown balloons for transmitting sound waves to deaf people is not an unknown method here in Iceland. Anna Jóna Lárusdóttir, who is a playschool teacher and also deaf, has described how she works with a group of four year old children who are either hearing impaired or able to hear. When they are restless she makes them sit down, each with their inflated balloon and then she plays loud music for them. When the balloon starts vibrating they relax. She says that it makes a difference what kind of music she plays, but that in this way she succeeds in calming them down. She says that the feeling gets through to them even though they can not hear anything, because they learn to listen with the heart. Anna Jóna says that there is a great difference in how much sooner the hearing impaired children receive and process the music than the other children do. She realizes this because they calm down sooner than the ones who hear. When they listen to music they see pictures in it and their feelings seem to be more open than those of the hearers. Children who get to work with poems and listen to music with an inflated balloon get to mature emotionally, even though they use different methods in their development than those who hear. They learn to perceive the world in this way. Deaf people can not experience the same thing by using headphones, because they have to feel the sound waves and perceive them with their bodies.3 1 Karns, C.M, Deaf Brain Processes Touch Differently: Lacking Sound input, the Primary Auditory Cortex feels Touch, ScienceDaily, , retrieved from 2 Brains Of Deaf People Rewire To Hear Music, ScienceDaily, , retrieved from 3 Anna Jóna Lárusdóttir, Alice-Ann Darrow, writer and Professor in Music Education and Music Therapy, made a similar research in The subject of that research was to study whether hearing impaired students who are related to deaf culture, connect the same kind of feeling to music as the students who have full hearing. Sixty-two elementary and junior high school students at a public school for the deaf in the Mid-Western states of the US participated. The music clips in the research consisted of music from twelve films, which had been composed with the aim of describing the elementary emotions happiness, sadness and fear. The deaf participants used hearing aids inserted in the ear and four to five were placed before two speakers in a Hi-Fi stereo equipment standing on a table. All the participants, both deaf and hearing, were instructed to highlight the appropriate emotion for each music clip. The deaf participants were encouraged to touch the speakers and the tables as they wished. The volume was kept as loud as possible without spoiling the quality of the music. The conclusion indicated a significant difference between the answers of the deaf participants and those who could hear, as the answers of the latter were more in accordance with the intention of the composer. However, it is mentioned in the conclusions of the research that an emotional assessment of music is dependent on culturally traditional experience. As the musical maturity of the deaf is often later to develop than that of hearers, the researchers believed that it would have been more appropriate to use more personal methods in order to study the tonal perception of the deaf participants.4 In a research made by Suranga Chandima Nanayakkara, Lonce Wyse, S. H. Ong and Elizabeth Taylor at the National University of Singapore in the year 2008, the possibility of enhancing the musical perception of the hearing impaired was studied. First, the technique that the hearing impaired used in order to listen to music was examined and then how it could be possible to strengthen their listening experience. This research revealed that it is possible to use an interaction between haptic and visual information in order to enhance the musical experience of the hearing impaired. For that purpose the Haptic Chair was designed and visual interpretation of the music was used as well. With the Haptic Chair it was possible to obtain perceptual information in the form of vibration, as it conducts sound waves well and amplifies the vibrations sent out by the music. The visual display transcoded sequences of information about a piece of music into various visual sequences in real-time. The proposed solution consisted of a vibrating Haptic Chair and a computer display of informative visual effects. The research revealed the unequivocal satisfaction of the participants with the Haptic Chair and one of them even remarked, when he no longer had access to it, that now he was going to be deaf again.5 4 Alice-Anne Darrow, The Role of Music in Deaf Culture: Deaf Students Perception of Emotion in Music, Journal of Music Therapy, spring 2006, 43(1), p. 2-15, retrieved from 5 Nanayakkara, S.C., Wyse, L., Ong, S.H. and Elizabeth Taylor, Enhancing Musical Experience for the Hearing-impaired using Visual and Haptic Displays, National University of Singapore, 2008, retrieved , from ayakkara%20et%20al_final_v5.pdf 8 The research made by Dr. Dean Shibata, which indicates that the deaf seem to process sound waves to the same extent as those who hear, is indubitably an incentive to this research. Furthermore, the above mentioned methods that have been used in order to study the musical perception of the deaf, have provided an important research basis. In that respect, the research made by Alice-Ann Darrow reveals the necessity of using a more personal method in order to interpret the answers of the deaf than of the hearers. The research made by Nanayakkara, Wyse, Ong and Taylor, where the Haptic Chair is used, reveals the importance of enabling the deaf to experience the perceptual information that music gives in the form of vibrations. Furthermore, that research revealed that the deaf were able to enjoy music with the aid of haptic and visual stimulation. 3. The Research The research and the composition of the musical piece, on which the MA project is based, were started at the same time. The composition developed in the direction of communicating the tonal experience of people whose hearing is impaired. The composition is divided into four parts. The first one is twofold in an ABA form and covers the compactness of the listening examples used in the research where a choir performs the participants descriptions of their musical perception. The second part is written for a quintet of singers and an acoustic image based on the poem Skuggi minn ( My Shadow ) by Kristín Ómarsdóttir. In the third part an effort is made to call forth two emotional images that the choir is assigned to perform in silence. The last part is based on the poem Neðansjávar ( Underseas ) by Kristín Ómarsdóttir and is written for a chamber orchestra and alto. This thesis deals with a research on the musical perception of deaf people, as well as the comparison between the perception of deaf people and those who can hear. Listening sessions are described where the deaf listen to sound clips by known and not well known composers and give an account of their experiences. The research involves studying their reactions and assessing how they perceive music, sounds and tones, with the purpose of examining what it is that kindles their different emotions, feelings, images, colours, etc. The objective is to: Study whether there is consistency in the deaf people s perception of the sound clips used in the research and examine whether they make a distinction between music, sound and simple tones. Study whether the sound clips call forth comparable emotions in deaf people and hearers. Furthermore, it is considered whether hearers base their perception of music on preconceived ideas of which the deaf can make no use and whether the perception of hearers is thus more limited than that of the others. It is interesting to study how the deaf experience music and whether they distinguish between certain musical factors in a comparable way to that of hearers, such as the different timbre of the instruments; whether only one instrument or a symphonic orchestra is involved; electronic music, or the drone of a waterfall, sinus tones, or a singing voice. While listening to the musical pieces, answers were sought to whether the given listening examples had a comparable influence on all those who listened to them, irrespective of whether they were deaf or hearers. In order to examine that further, a group of hearers was called in to listen to a few of the musical pieces to which the deaf people were listening. Although it was impossible to block the hearing of these people completely, arrangements were made to preclude their hearing to the extent possible and study whether they perceived the music differently from the way to which they were accustomed. 9 3.1. The Participants The group that participated in the research consisted of thirteen deaf people and six people with full hearing. The deaf participants in the research have either been deaf from birth, or lost their hearing later in life, after having experienced sound and music. Some of the deaf people attended the sessions twice and some three times. The age of the people is between 24 to 55 years. The deaf participants have different musical experiences. Opera music is the favorite of some of them, especially if it is accompanied by film or dramatization; others prefer music on stage, but the majority watch music videos where the visual aspect is obviously important and even plays the biggest part in the experience. Sign language singing, sign language choirs, rap and Lied singing is growing considerably within the deaf culture around the world and there has been a great increase in making music videos. One of the deaf listeners in this project is a professional actress and a (sign language) singer The Sign Language Interpreters The Communication Centre for The Deaf and Hard of Hearing, represented by Valgerður Stefansdóttir, joined this program. A meeting was held with the staff and sign language interpreters where the research was presented. Some of the staff knew about the project as they took part in the work preceding it in connection with the BA thesis of the undersigned (2008) on the same topic. At a meeting with a group of deaf people, sign language interpreters and the staff of the centre, it was decided to make a schedule and assign listening sessions that would take one hour each, with one listener at a time accompanied by a sign language interpreter. A total of four sign language interpreters took part in the research. It is preferable to have more than one sign language interpreter take part in such a research in order to prevent any unconscious communication taking place that could possibly change the intended answers of the participants. One sign language interpreter was present in each listening session and it varied each time who interpreted for whom. The questions and answers were sound- and video recorded to enable later reading of the sign language if necessary The Research Method This research involves studying the way in which deaf people perceive sound clips and comparing their experiences. The way in which the deaf perceive the sound clips in comparison to that of hearers is also studied. The most convenient methods in a research like this one are qualitative as such researches are based on conversations. Qualitative researches have mostly been used in order to gain under
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