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Music, the brain, and science

Middle School Diana Deutsch lesson
I just taught this to my older students and I've got to tell you about it!  When I did some work for The Boston Symphony, I contacted Diana Deutsch of the University of California, San Diego.  I never used her work on the modules for the BSO, but I continue to be intrigued by her research.  This lesson is especially exciting when you mention to the children that Audacity is a shareware (free) opensource program that they can download and do these experiments themselves.

This is my favorite CD from Diana Deutsch.  It is the one
whose examples I played for my class.
I used this information as little snippets within a choral lesson.  I'm introducing some holiday pieces and, each time the students sang particularly well, I gave them some "ear candy" in the form of a new aural illusion or example.  For example: we began rehearsal for "Come Follow Me" by Linda Spevacek.  Students learned the A section on solfa and sang it in tune with proper syllables and a good, strong voice.  Their reward was to hear the phantom word illusion.  In this illusion the students hear two, one-syllable sounds spoken together.  With repeated hearing, the brain turns these chaotic sounds into words, sound effects, or other illusions.  I didn't tell students what they should hear, but asked them what they did hear.  Their answers were amazing!  One child heard a Spanish word. Another, a phrase about tests.  Still more heard silly words.  Here is a link to what my students heard.  What do you hear?

The children learned some other material and I gave them some more "ear candy."  This time it was the illusion of singing within speech.  Listen to this sentence.
Phantom words and phantom singing, just in time
for Halloween!
Thomas Jefferson and I raw
A typical sentence, right?  Well, let's see.  What if I play part of that sentence in a loop?
Thomas Jefferson and I loop
Now that you've heard that loop, go back and listen to the original clip.  Do you sense that this young man is suddenly breaking into song in the middle of his sentence?  That's the illusion!  It's also proof that speaking is singing and singing is speaking.

Here's another one.  I got this young lady to overcome her self-consciousness by talking about something that she finds annoying.  Getting their ire up is great for having them exaggerate inflection.  This also works when you have teachers discuss the teaching process, have a person talk about a hobby, or having a new parent talk about their baby.
I really don't like yogurt
Here's the loop.
I really don't like yogurt loop
What really jazzed my students was that they could download audacity and DO IT THEMSELVES!!!  I was so psyched!  Students who ordinarily need so much pushing were singing like canaries today, so anxious to hear the next illusion.


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