How the Brain Allows the Deaf to Experience Music

BY ELENA RENKEN: For Complete Post, Click Here…

velyn Glennie began percussion lessons around age 12, after losing much of her hearing to nerve deterioration. Her teacher struck a timpani drum and let the sound resonate, wondering aloud how they could make use of the drum’s vibrations. “He asked me to put my hands on the wall of the music room,” Glennie said recently, in a conversation from her home in England. She could feel the first impact of a drumbeat, but she could also feel the vibrations reverberating afterward. “It really slowed the body down, because I was paying attention to the whole journey of that sound,” she explained. “The whole body was participating in paying attention to the sound. And it really then just changed everything for me. It changed my sensitivity toward touch.” Glennie learned to discern the different pitches of musical notes this way, and eventually built a career as a celebrated solo percussionist.

Glennie’s exquisite sensitivity to vibration and remarkable talent for composing music is emblematic of the powerful relationship that millions of deaf and hearing-disabled people have to music. Many go to concerts and enjoy music in their homes through touch, vision, and movement.1 A select few, like Glennie, play musical instruments or sing professionally. But as scientists learn more about how our bodies and brains process vibration, they are producing a wealth of new research that will help deaf people better appreciate the complexities and emotional range of music, both as listeners and performers. In the process, they are also discovering how music moves through us to create symphonies of feeling.

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