Friday, 4 December 2015

Musical Dyslexia: What Is It And Does It Really Exist?

Music teachers sometimes come across students that consistently skip notes, don’t keep to the time values, add their own rhythms and find it hard or impossible to keep in time or maintain a steady pulse. You might be tempted to write it off as disinterest, lack of talent or being disorganized, and you may be right, but there are times you will feel like the student really is doing his or her best and is struggling with something else. Some research has been done into what is referred to as musical dyslexia, a learning ability that occurs as a result of the brain being unable to process musical symbols, even when the person has had proper training in reading music. This definition has simply been lifted off the definition for dyslexia, except for dyslexia, the brain is unable to process written words. The idea that dyslexia could affect the reading of non-language symbols is not new. For instance, dyscalculia is the difficulty reading and understanding mathematical symbols. Recent research supports dyslexia and dyscalculia as separate conditions with unique causes (dyscalculia is thought to be caused by a deficit in spatial processing in the parietal lobe). If the brain processes words and mathematical symbols differently, why not musical symbols too? Via PsyPost The term ‘musical dyslexia’ was coined by retired pediatric neurologist Neil Gordon in 2000 as a result of growing evidence indicating that the areas of the brain involved in reading music differed from those involved in reading text. Unlike letters in text, pitches can be stacked, indicating simultaneous performance (chords). Music also uses a system of symbols to indicate how pitches should be played. Symbols can indicate duration (rhythm), volume (dynamics) and other performance cues. Music also utilizes written words to indicate both the expressive features of the music and the lyrics in vocal music. Lyrics may be in languages not spoken by the performer. Via PsyPost The coding system for music is as highly evolved as that for language, which is why it can be written down and transmitted from the composer to the performer and down through generations. A musical piece 100 years old can still be played by a performer today even though the composer is long gone. The difference between music and language is that for music, a spatial arrangement is used for pitch. Staffs are used and the pitch of a note depends on where it is placed on the staff. And that’s just where the complexity starts. The physical features of written language and music differ quite significantly, which leads to the notion that the brain also reads text and music differently. Cases where music and language seem to be differently affected by brain damage have fascinated researchers for centuries. The earliest reported case of someone who was unable to speak, but retained his ability to sing, was in the 1745 article, On a Mute who Can Sing. More recently, the Russian composer, Vissarion Shebalin, lost his language abilities after a severe stroke, [...]

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