Saturday, May 12, 2012

Tone Deafness?

Some years ago, running an Internet search on "tone deafness" got me very little. Trying one a few months ago got quite a lot, which is promising. Maybe people are starting to notice that there is indeed a legitimate disability here. But ... One of the most prominent sites i found offered a free online test for tone deafness. Out of curiosity to learn how they'd classify mine, i took this test ... and actually got contratulated on scoring 17 out of a possible 20 and having excellent tonal hearing! With more than half a century of direct evidence and testimony to the opposite, i knew better than to take these test results at face value. I must in fact be about as tone deaf as we come short of total and general deafness (which would probably be more socially acceptable). How could the professionals (i assume) who devised the test have gotten it so wildly inaccurate? A little thought showed me the answer: All it really tests is recognition of correct intervals in simple and very well-known tunes (e.g. "Happy Birthday to You") when played in simple, unadorned melody line. THIS, i can hear. But add instrumental accompaniment, and i'm hopelessly confused. Add harmonization of any complexity, and i don't even know where the melody line is, let alone recognize it. As for singing along in the same key as everybody else -- forget it! I can neither hear the difference nor understand, except as a purely intellecutal exercise, why it should be important. Nor do i possess enough sense of rhythm to clap along with everybody else, a lack which accompanies tone deafness. My fear is that other people as tone deaf as myself, but with less experience to recognize the fact, may suffer a false sense of security from such a flawed and imperceptive test as this. Incidentally, one sometimes meets the opinion that "there is no such thing as tone deafness." Of course there is! Though i will admit the name we commonly use for it is misleading, causing many of us -- including some who are actually affected -- to suppose that tone deaf people cannot hear music at all, only monotones. After years of casting about for a better tag, let me propose "untunable" as one to which i would feel little objection.