I was out visiting my friend Megan at Step-Ahead yesterday, and what with one thing and another I found myself volunteering to teach beginning piano lessons to some of her day campers this summer. I’m pretty excited about this. I’ve never given piano lessons before. The added challenge here is that some of the people who will undoubtedly want to take a crack at this don’t read with any proficiency, if at all.
I’ve decided to resort to the colored dot technique, but with a twist. I’ll identify the octaves on both sides of Middle C with colored dots. Then I’ll paperpunch out more colored dots and put them over the music notes in the books. And then I’ll add a small dot of matching nail polish on each finger, and then we’ll match up colors. And that’ll do for the kids who can hear.
Annalee presents a different challenge; she’s deaf. I’ve been mulling it over in my mind for a couple days now. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far.
I’m thinking some sort of vibrating device to go behind the back or under the feet for the bass notes, and then a variety of small air jets that use size, possibly temperature, and position to compensate for pitch, pressure for volume, and a variety of slow and smooth and quick and sharp attacks and releases to help with dynamics.
My first thought was to start out with the principle of the pipe organ, but instead of translating the air pressure to sound just keeping it air pressure and feeding it through small tubes, but now I think that’s unnecessarily complex. I’m thinking that it could be run through an MP3player or computer, but with an added piece of software and a bit of hardware to hold a fan, the air ducts, and a link to the vibration pad.
What I love about this is that it does very much what the human body does when a sense is lost–it simply translates some of the functions to the remaining senses. And the reality is that music is a full-body experience, particularly in a concert hall. If I could find a way of simply transferring some of the sound functions to the sense of touch I think we could create an entirely new form of music, one that those without hearing could appreciate.
And of course once you’ve got the basic idea the possibilities are endless–it could be modified to a small headset like those with hearing use earphones while jogging. It could be expanded to include odors and fragrances, dry and damp, and direction in huge concert halls. Concerts could be written for it. Experts would appear to critique performances. The mind boggles. Silent music.
So here’s the hitch. I need a hardware geek and a software geek, ideally geeks with some music in their souls and an adventurous spirit, to help me build this. Any takers? I’m waiting…