Rehearsal, revision: preview, prehear?

Do we have a word for imagining what something will sound like?

Beethoven, famously deaf, must have been able to imagine what his works sounded like without hearing them. Mozart? Saltzburgian lore suggests that he too heard compositions in his head before he committed them to paper. Jazz musicians must be able to imagine what their improvisation will sound like, how their notes will mesh with the other players’ ideas.

I experience the “preview” phenomenon. When I am creating a costume for my daughters without a pattern, I can see the finished piece in my head when I look at the fabric. I have always been able to imagine what the finished garment will look like, and that allows me a certain fearlessness as I cut into silk, woolens, and velvets. This has allowed me to make three wedding dresses appear from two-dimensional pieces of fabric (and yes, for those I used patterns and altered them to fit the visions of the brides). So we are back to the vision part.

We can envision. Can we enhear?

When we set out to use audio tools, do we know what we would like the product to sound like before we begin? Or do we just experiment? Is this why I can no longer play the cello? Is it because my ears’ expectations are at one place and my fingers’ skills are at another? Is this the same problem that our students have with writing and creating content for class? Do they have an expectation for their own performance and when the writing falls short, when the debate is flat, when the presentation is lacking information, when the group couldn’t gel, or when it’s just not perfect, they can’t hand it in? Knowing it will never be what they want it to be, should they even try?

Flight is not risk free
Flight is not risk free

Focusing on the product instead of the process seems to be what is hanging my thinking up. Maybe we don’t need a word for “to imagine what it will sound like”? Maybe what we need to do is open Garageband, toss in a few samples, swirl it around, and listen to what it sounds like. Maybe there is a tyranny to “what I thought.” Perhaps it is a corollary to the Anti-Creativity Manifesto that Ewan McIntosh posted about last week. Corollary #1 – Only create what you can fully imagine; that way you are closed to the innovative, the accidental, and the collaborative.  Which takes me back to 15 ways of looking at a stapler – my first post.

Collaborative – so then it’s back to the jazz musicians. Maybe they DON’T know what it will sound like. That’s oddly freeing.

But still, if we can preview, why do we not have a word for the same act of pre-hearing? I’m just asking…

3 Comments Add yours

  1. If you take a look at some of the presos that I’ve done recently (try my slideshare.net account, but I can’t think which one in particular has this reference…) you’ll see that I am of the view that the process is all important and, if we work hard enough at making the process seamless, the final product will take care of itself. It’s when we concentrate (and worry) about what the final product will resemble that we end up with mediocrity, and something we didn’t really envisage.

    Pedagogically, this all ties in with the highly successful strategies of Assessment for Learning:
    http://www.ltscotland.org.uk/assess

  2. Kate Tabor says:

    Thanks, Ewan – I work at a progressive school still trying to cling to the tenets of John Dewey and Francis Parker in a world that is consistently looking at end product. The tension between process and product, individual and community are palpable. Do we grade? How do we grade? Is there or do we need sectional parity? (Meaning is teacher x ‘easier’ than teacher y in two sections of the same class?) Assessment vs. process.

    Thanks for the link (and your time to read and comment).

  3. Liz says:

    Your ability to see it done is a rare gift, I think.

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