Saturday, July 14, 2012

Intonation deafness? The fix may be "psycho-or-somatic!"

Clip art: Clker

Clip art: Clker
Have students who have great difficulty imitating intonation contours? Could be tone deafness or "amusia," in varying degrees. (If you have a question, there is a self-administered test off the first link that may be of some help.) Both studies, summarized by Science Daily, relate to singing, not speech intonation directly. The "phenotypes" identified, however, are of interest to us: (a) those who have difficulty perceiving pitch and pitch change and (b) those who sing away, regardless. I have worked with several over the years of the latter type. (In diagnostic work I often will have learners sing along with me on some simple songs to check their singing pitch control.) The relationship between intonation problems and inability to sing is complex, of course. Occasionally, serious hearing or speech production disorders were involved; other times, there appeared to be interpersonal, psychological issues of identity and self-confidence. I have been unable to find credible, published research on effective "treatment" for tone deafness. Intonation "deafness" may be something of another matter, caused by a wider range of factors. Sometimes haptic anchoring of pitch (by using PMPs set high or low in the visual field as a phrase or word is articulated) can be moderately effective, or at least serve to enhance slightly the lack range or production of pitch change, such as "rise-fall" contours. That type of work, based loosely on Lessac and Observed Experiential Integration Therapy, has to be done one-on-one at this point in time and it can be time consuming, but the potential for "embodying" that concept in a computer-mediated system is intriguing. The approach, regardless, must be very much "whole-person," mind and body, "psycho(and)somatic!" 

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