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.

3 comments:

Mike said...
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Mike said...

This has little to do with the post - all right, nothing at all, really - but last night I got the urge to read At Amberleaf Fair. I enjoyed it just as much as I did when I first read it 26 years ago; no backhanded compliment there, as I enjoyed it immensely then. I may be over 40 now, but it's still as charming to me as it was amazing to my 16 year-old self. Now that I've passed the character's ages, I'm surprised how good and true the voices seem, and even after all that time, I still think it's a clever book.
Back then, your work on the Arthurian mythos helped me realize that people still studied those stories, that there was room to continue. I studied the stories at Oxford a few years ago, and left my tutor with a copy of Idylls of the Queen, since I think anyone who loves the tales will find something new to love in your book. I have a soft spot for Kay forever, thanks to you.
Your books aren't the only reason I became a lit professor, but they were undeniably a part of that. More than that, they were without question something worth having in a time when worthwhile things were few and far between. They still are.
So what I meant to say is thank you.

Daniela said...

Hi Phyllis, I am finding you email for a contact with you. Please write to me. it's about translation rights of your novel.