All kids like music. Music not only make learning words and sound fun, it actually helps with the memorizing the order of words when there is the sequence of a melody and rhyming. Music often is associated with a mood, an emotion. The association of an event with an emotion helps my memorization. I never could learn more than a few lines of a song or the chorus. As a child, I sure like singing a chorus I new over and over again. I remembers songs like “How Much is that Doggie in the Window?”, “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth”, “It was an one eyed one horned flying purple people eater” or “She wore an itsy, bitsy, tiny winy, yellow pokka-dotted bikinis”. There was something about the silliness of the songs and visual picture that they created in my mind as I sung along.
Elementary School Choir
I practice singing “way down upon the swaming river”. I like the way the “way down” lyrics went way down. When I tried out for the choir with this song, I was told that I could be the light-monitor, that I wasn’t ready to be in the choir. A fourth grader that hand not been clued in that he might not be a great or even a good singer one day.
Mixing in some lyrics while trying to stay on the melody and doing a simple dance was an exercise. However, the music and the body movements made it seem so fun. The singing came after the dance improvisation to the rhythm of the music. Also what was in my favor is the simplicity of the lyrics for the songs I liked. Chubby Checker’s “Let’s Twist Again”, Joey Dee’s “Peppermint Twist”, or even the Beatle’s “Twist Shout”. A couple of lines and then the chorus. What a sense of achievement . . . music, singing, and dancing! I didn’t know that putting it all together and then maybe even memorizing the song may have been easier for many of my friends. I felt good about it. I felt good about myself. And oh I could dance. Up and Down, all around, one foot, two foot, and sometimes synchronized hand movements. No partner required and no conformity to specific pattern of steps. This was just about me moving with the music. Get a song on I knew, and I was ready to perform. I even won a twist contest at a carnival set up behind our church. I was good and I knew it! I was a happy ten year old that wouldn’t hear the word dyslexia for 30 years later.
Connecting with My Piano
My mother started me on piano lessons in I think the 2nd grade. Memorizing was from the notes on the paper to the keys on the piano. This was like reading but I only had 8 white keys and 5 black keys and then they repeat themselves in the next octave. The duration of the note and pause was clearly notated. What a great uniform language. There was a one-to-one match between the written note and how it was to be voiced. Every syllable of a phrase was written exactly like it was to be voiced . . . including indication of volume! I hit the note represented on the page, the piano did the perfect voicing. I could “speak” middle C perfectly. Find the key and press it. Sound without speaking. Even the teacher would correct me by pressing the right key or keys.
I wasn’t taught with phonics. With English I may have thought I was speaking correctly but the letters could sound different depending on the order. There was no rules to learn. This word sounds like this and that word sounds like that. Parroting and memorizing what you heard was the way to acquire a language. But want if you didn’t hear correctly OR you memorized the spelling but didn’t memorize the pronunciation because the capability wasn’t nature.
I created a relationship with my piano that was based on audio and touch. I touched and the piano instantly validated my communication. In my first month, I started improvising. I don’t think the teach knew. Most teachers are teaching the basics and moving into the harder and harder classics. I spent more time playing with my piano than practicing the music. I usually practiced the music enough to avoid embarrassment at the next lesson.
There was something satisfying about creating patterns of sounds that communicate a feeling, a mood. Improvisation gave me the ability to express my intended emotions. I’m not talking elaborate multi-key pieces. Even noodling on single note melodies was satisfying because I was creating it AND I was hearing my creations. Reacting to what I was hearing and creating more sounds from what I just played was like a co-creative process with me and my piano. Music is the universal language because it doesn’t require words. I can discerned variations in sound without processing a word-based language.
I loved the part in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” were they tried to communicate with the aliens through an elaborate speaker system and a keyboard. Whether the alien ship was learning from the earthlings to talk our musical language or the earthlings found the sequence that meant something, the aliens and the earthlings started to jam back and forth like a duet. THEY WERE COMMUNICATING! This was a Steven Spielberg moving by the way who has learned of his dyslexia.
Communicating with the Mother Ship
I know a piano is an inanimate object and it is weird or inaccurate to say I had an relation ship with my piano . . .but it was more real than a invisible friend. This relationship grew and changed as my skills increased. The sophistication and depth of our relationship was based on how much time we spent together over the years. Reviewing the memories together was as easy as playing a piece I learn or a composition that I created.
Between when I began at about 6 to when I took piano classes in college, I only had about 4 years of formal instruction. As a teenager, I had just enough lessons and music theory behind me that I could sit down at the piano and improvise a piece that would express my anger, my joy, my frustration, my disappointment, and even the emotions of a new found love. Most of my pieces were piano only. Song writing was just not my thing though I remember a couple of songs that had a few phrases with a girl’s name in it. “——– (girls name) I think I love you ….. ——– (girls name) I really do”.
My piano was a constant relationship in my life from the time we were introduce. Just as constant as my parents and siblings. As a teenage, I spent as much time with my piano, as I did improving my gymnastics. Dating was a closed third. Tying my listening through ears and vibrations more directly to my right-side of my brain and the looping of emotional creativity is not a satisfaction unique to dyslexics but I will say most dyslexics are lacking in two-way highly emotional communications.
In future postings I will write about my interest and experience with:
- Learning to Sing Bass in a Choir
- Early Karaoke-based startup
- TakeTiNa Rhythm, Song and Dance Workshops
- Brazilian Capoeira combines Rhythm, Song, Dance and Acrobatics
- The Listening Program – audio therapy for many neurological conditions