Last night we had our first meeting between a small group of CI users and the composers who are making new works, especially designed for cochlear implant recipients. I have to say it was pretty promising!
This first meeting was quite unstructured, and was more of an introduction session. Everyone seemed to get along fairly well, and there was alot of discussion about the types of sounds (not only musical sounds, but also environmental sounds) that the CI users liked and disliked. Some of the interesting points that came up were
- The use of gestural or other types of visual cues in live performances. Being able to see the performer can apparently help. This could be due to expressions and gesture indicating high-level aspects of the music, such as phrasing and emotion, or it could be more simple observation of which notes are being played by the musician.
- “Feeling” the sound through tactile sensation – either through the floor and feet, or directly on the body.
- The “dynamic range” – or range of loudness levels available to a CI recipient is much reduced, and how this may affect music appreciation.
Then there were a few musical experiments. One of the reasons we have a group of “experimental” composers working on this project is precisely because we actually need to do experiments to see what kinds of musical sounds will work, so it was great to see this start to happen even at this early stage. The most exciting thing was hearing how all the CI users agreeing on how lovely the sound of a tam-tam was. The tam-tam is a quite large percussion instrument, and it has a few different types of sounds that it makes depending on how fast and with what weight you strike it. With a light stroke you get a very deep and resonant sound, and as you increase the weight, it gets alot louder and brassy, or noisier – like a crash cymbal. Eugene, one of the musicians, played a few different rolls on the tam-tam, initially to get an idea of how loudly he would have to play before the CI users started to hear it, and then whether they would detect this change in timbre as the loudness increased. As well as starting to hear the sound at about the same time that the rest of us with normal hearing, the most positive thing was the huge smile that started to appear on everyone’s faces as they started to hear to sound. It was a great start to the experiments, and hopefully a sign of things to come!
We also had a film crew from Art Nation document some of the meeting, and we all did a few interviews with Fenella Kernebone, the presenter of the show. I think it might be going to air quite soon, in a few weeks. I have no idea how it’s going to turn out. I know I had quite a few awkward phrases, hopefully they’re good editors!
Next meeting in a few weeks time.