Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Oliver Sacks - Musicophilia

Leído entre: Mar 29, 2011 – Abr 01, 2011 (4 días).

Lo cool: Pretty much everything... Aprender acerca de "musical seizures". El capítulo 6 (Musical Hallucinations). El capítulo 9 (Papa blows his nose in G: Absolute Pitch), donde habla —por ejemplo— de que aparentemente hay mucha correlación entre el grado de "tonalidad" del idioma que habla una persona, y su habilidad o predisposición para "aprender" absolute pitch de niño (usando como ejemplo a estudiantes de música chinos y estadounidenses). El capítulo 14 (The Key of Clear Green: Synesthesia and Music). El capítulo 16 (Speech and Song: Aphasia and Music Therapy) donde habla de cómo personas que no pueden hablar, extrañamente pueden cantar sin problemas, y cómo eso se ha usado como terapia para regresarles parte de su capacidad de hablar.

Lo no cool: Nothing...

En general: Buen libro, bastante recomendable.

Amazon lo tiene aquí.

Notas y citas:

[Hablando de earworms]
The duration of such loops is generally about fifteen to twenty seconds, and this is similar to the duration of the visual loops or cycles which occur in a rare condition called palinopsia where a short scene —a person walking across a room, for example, seen a few seconds before— may be repeated before the inner eye again and again. That a similar periodicity of cycling occurs in both visual and auditory realms suggests that some physiological constant, perhaps related to working memory, may underlie both. (p.49)
And yet and earworm may also, more rarely, include a visual aspect, especially for those musicians who automatically visualize a score as they are hearing or imagining music. One of my correspondents, a French horn player, finds that when her brain is occupied by a brainworm,

reading, writing, and doing spatial tasks like arithmetic are all disturbed by it. My brain seems to be pretty well taken up with processing the [brainworm] in various ways, mainly spatial and kinesthetic: I ponder the relative sizes of the intervals between the notes, I see them laid out in space, I consider the layout of the harmonic structure that they are a part of, I feel the fingerings in my hand, and the muscular movements required to play them, although I don't actually act these out. It's not a particularly intellectual activity; it's rather careless and I don't put any intentional effort into it; it just happens...
I should mention that these unbidden [brainworms] never interfere with physical activity or with activities that don't require visual thought, like engaging in normal conversation.

I asked her why she spoke of musical "hallucinations" rather than musical "imagery".
"They are completely unlike each other!" she exclaimed. "They are as different as thinking of music and actually hearing it." Her hallucinations, she emphasized, were unlike anything she had ever experienced before. They tended to be fragmentary —a few bars of this, a few bars of that— and to switch at random, sometimes even in mid-bar, as if broken records were being turned on on and off in her brain. All of this was quite unlike her normal, coherent, and usually "obedient" imagery — though it did have a little resemblance, she granted, to the catchy tunes that she, like everyone, sometimes heard in her head. But unlike catchy tunes, and unlike anything in her normal imagery, the hallucinations had the startling quality of actual perception. (p.55)

Even Tchaikovsky was keenly aware that his great fertility in melody was not matched by a comparable grasp of musical structure — but he had no desire to be a great architectonic composer like Beethoven; he was perfectly happy to be a great melodic one. (p.98)

The fact that most people with congenital amusia are virtually normal in their speech perceptions and patterns, while profoundly disabled in musical perception, is very startling. Can speech and music be that tonally different? Ayotte et al. at first thought that the ability of amusic people to perceive the intonations of speech might be because speech was less exacting than music in its requirements for fine pitch discrimination. But Patel, Foxton, and Friffiths have shown that if intonation contours are extracted from speech, amusic individuals have severe difficulties discriminating these. It is clear, therefore, that other factors, such as the recognition of words, syllables, and sentence structure, must play a crucial part in allowing sevely tone-deaf people to speak and understand nuances of speech almost normally. (p.111-112)

The Finnish entomologist Olavi Sotavalta, an expert on the sounds of insects in flight, was greatly assisted in his studies by having absolute pitch — for the sound pitch of an insect in flight is produced by the frequency of its wingbeats. Not content with musical notation, Sotavalta was able to estimate very exact frequencies by ear. The sound pitch made by the moth Plusia gamma approximates a low F-sharp, but Sotavalta could estimate it more precisely as having a frequency of 46 cycles per second. (p.130)

When people with absolute pitch "hear a familiar piece of music played in the wrong key", Daniel Levitin and Susan Rogers write, "they often become agitated or disturbed... To get a sense of what it is like, imagine going to the produce market and finding that, because of a temporary disorder of visual processing, the bananas all appear orange, the lettuce yellow and the apples purple." (p.131)

Absolute pitch can shift with age, and this has often been a problem for older musicians. Mark Damashek, a piano tuner, wrote to me about such a problem:
When I was four, my older sister discovered that I had perfect pitch —could instantly identify any note across the keyboard without looking... I've been surprised (and disturbed) to find that my perceived piano pitch has shifted upwards by perhaps 150 cents [a semitone and a half]... Now when I hear a recorded piece or a live performance, my best guess at what note is being played is consistently, absurdly high. (p.133)

To give you a sense of how strange a lack of absolute pitch appears to those of us who have it, take color naming as an analogy. Suppose you showed someone a red object and asked him to name the color. And suppose he answered, "I can recognize the color, and I can discriminate it from other colors, but I just can't name it." Then you juxtaposed a blue object and named its color, and he responded, "OK, since the second color is blue, the first one must be red." I believe that most people would find this process rather bizarre. Yet from the perspective of someone with absolute pitch this is precisely how most people name pitches — they evaluate the relationship between the pitch to be named and another pitch whose name they already know... (p.134-135)

Jenny Safran and Gregory Griepentrog at the University of Wisconsin compared eight-month-old infants to adults with and without musical training in a learning test of tone sequences. The infants, they found, relied much more heavily on absolute pitch cues; the adults; on relative pitch cues. This suggested to them that absolute pitch may be universal and highly adaptive in infancy, but becomes maladaptive later and is therefore lost. "Infants limited to grouping melodies by perfect pitches", they pointed out, "would never discover that the songs they hear are the same when sung in different keys or that words spoken at different fundamental frequencies are the same." In particular, they argued, the development of language necessitates the inhibition of absolute pitch, and only unusual conditions enable it to be retained. (The acquisition of a tonal language may be one of the "unusual conditions" that lead to the retention and perhaps heightening of absolute pitch.) (p.138)

He could do this because his musical imagery and memory were intact. He knew how music —his own music and others'— should sound. It was only his perception of music that was distorted.
In this way, he differed radically from Mr. I., the painter who became totally unable to see color because of damage to the color-constructing areas of his visual cortex. Mr. I. became not only unable to perceive colors, but unable to imagine or see them in his mind's eye. (p.143-144)

For many years, the only patient I knew to be a synesthete was a painter who suddenly became totally coloblind following a head injury. He lost not only the ability to perceive or even imagine color, but also the automatic seeing of color with music which he had had all his life. Though this was, in a sense, the least of his losses, it was nevertheless a significant one, for music had always been “enriched,” as he put it, by the colors that accompanied it.
This persuaded me that synesthesia was a physiological phenomenon, dependent on the integrity of certain areas of the cortex and the connections between them — in his case, between specific areas of the in the visual cortex needed to construct the perception or imagery of color. The destruction of these areas in this man had left him unable to experience any color, including “colored” music. (p.179)

She describes her experience this way:
I always see images when I hear music, but I do not associate specific colors with particular musical keys or musical intervals. I wish that I could say that a minor third is always a blue-green color, but I do not distinguish the intervals all that well. My musical skills are pretty modest. When I hear music, I see little circles or vertical bars of light getting brighter, whiter, or more silvery for higher pitches and turning a lovely, deep maroon for the lower pitches. A run up the scale will produce a succession of increasingly brighter spots or vertical bars moving upward, while a trill, like in a Mozart piano sonata, will produce a flicker. High distinct notes on a violin evoke sharp bright lines, while notes played with vibrato seem to shimmer. Several stringed instruments playing together evoke overlapping, parallel bars or, depending on the melody, spirals of light of different shades shimmering together. Sounds made by brass instruments produce a fan-like image. High notes are positioned slightly in front of my body, at head level, and toward the right, while bass notes are located deep in the center of my abdomen. A chord will envelop me.(p.190)

It may be that Clive, incapable of remembering or anticipating events because of his amnesia, is able to sing and play and conduct music because remembering music is not, in the usual sense, remembering at all. Remembering music, listening to it, or playing it, is entirely in the present. (p.228, my emphasis)

Extraordinary, creative interactions can occur when someone with Tourette's performs as a musician. Ray G. was a man strongly drawn to jazz who played drums in a band on the weekends. He was noted for his sudden and wild solos, which would often arise from a convulsive drum-hitting tic — but the tic could initiate a cascade of percussive speed and invention and elaboration. (p.249)

[Hablando de personas que dejan de sentir una parte del cuerpo, ya sea por atrofia debida a falta de uso o a que fue amputada]
There may be inhibition or deactivation not only peripherally, in the nerve elements of the damaged tendons and muscles and perhaps in the spinal cord, but also centrally, in the "body image," the mapping or representation of the body in the brain. A. R. Luria, in a letter to me, once referred to this as "the central resonances of a peripheral injury." The affected limb may lose its place in the body image, while the rest of the body's representation then expands to fill the vacancy (p.257)

Ignacy Paderewski, the Polish pianist and composer, gives a very detailed account in his memoirs about a spider which could apparently distinguish thirds from sixths, and would come down from the ceiling to the piano whenever he played Chopin études in thirds, only to decamp ("sometimes, I used to think, quite angrily") when he switched to études in sixths (p.261)

[Hablando de un experimento en el que se le pedía a diferentes personas que agruparan una serie de notas largas y cortas]
They found that while Japanese speakers preferred to group the tones in a long-short parsing, the English speakers preferred a short-long parsing. Iversen et al. propose that "experience with the native language creates rhythmic templates which influence the processing of nonlinguistic sound patterns." (p.265)

[Hablando de música que le vino al autor a la mente, con percepción completa, y no se la podía quitar]
Orlan asked me to sing or hum some of the songs. I did so, and there was a long pause.
"Have you abandoned some of your young patients?" he asked. "Or destroyed some of you literary children?"
"Both," I answered. "Yesterday. I resigned from the children's unit at the hospital where I have been working, and I burned a book of essays I had just written... How did you guess?"
"Your mind is playing Mahler's Kindertotenlieder," he said, "his songs of mourning for the death of children". I was amazed by this, for I rather dislike Mahler's music and would normally find it quite difficult to remember in detail, let alone sing, any of his Kindertotenlieder. But here my dreaming mind, with infallible precision, had come up with an appropriate symbol of the previous day's events.(p.304-305)

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