Tone Blindness

In fact, after years of experience with many, students both in voice and memory courses, I am willing to hazard the assertion that far more people are tone-blind than are color-blind. Some are so gone-blind that they cannot raise or lower the pitch of their own voices at will, or tell whether the pitch of the tone is higher or lower as they listen to others. All the finer shades of tone color are entirely lost to them. Possibly the rush and roar and noise and din of this driving industrial age have helped to dull the fineness of our hearing and blunt the keenness of our aural faculties. If so, training is the more imperative, to offset this influence. On the other hand, the visual sense has been stimulated by certain tendencies of the age, such as love of the spectacular as manifested in parades, fire-works, aerial exhibitions, bathing-beauty con-tests, and displays of every kind, vieing to surpass each other in dazzling brilliancy and show. But we have one modem development, at least, which will do much to stimulate the aural ability of the masses. Radio—everywhere–catching up countless tone waves on the air—Radio carrying its message to millions of listening ears is bound to have a tremendous influence upon the aural efficiency of modern civilization.

Of course, a well-balanced mind has both the visual and aural memory well developed. The strong visual sense is usually accompanied by a keen perceptive faculty. Its owner has this sense so well developed that he never forgets a face, but he may be at a loss to recall the name. He has only heard it, and his aural memory was not able to retain it. Herein lies the explanation of the fact that most people can remember faces much better than ‘they can remember names. Such people are quick to remember dates, statistics, figures, and numbers, but they cannot carry a tune.

In the memory tests which I have used many times in large classes, I found on an average only one man out of forty whose aural memory was stronger than his visual; that one out of twenty had the two equally developed. All the rest were very weak on any test they could not see. Some could not repeat a stanza or paragraph accurately after hearing it twenty-five times. How rarely, too, do you find any one who can repro-duce for you a lecture or a play which he has heard, or any part of it.

Undoubtedly, the aural sense can be cultivated and stimulated by giving more attention to the cultural side of life. It is said that the art of conversation is a lost art, but it is an art, which would tend to develop a better aural discrimination. Reading aloud, too, is a valuable means to this end. We have heard how difficult it is ” To see ourselves as others see us,” but it is far more difficult ” To hear ourselves as others hear us.” To be able to read well is a rare accomplishment. It, too, is almost a lost art, but how delightful it is in the home or as a social accomplishment in a circle of friends. The effort to use the voice efficiently—to make it convey the finer shades of thought and feeling—to modulate it so that its tones are melodious and pleasing to others, will not only improve the speaking voice, but will have a wonderfully stimulating effect upon the aural sense of both reader and listener. Atkin-son says, ” Reading aloud will prove a great help in commiitting to memory that which is being read, and also in impressing upon the mind the meaning of the words.” Longeve says:

“Reading aloud gives a power of analysis which silent reading can never know. The eye runs over the page, skips tedious bits, glides over dangerous spots. But the ear hears everything. The ear makes no cuts: The ear is delicate, sensitive and clairvoyant to a degree inconceivable by the eye. A word which glanced at, passed unnoticed, assumes vast proportions when read aloud.”






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