And now, the latest research by scientists just confirms this: music can not only be heard, but also touched!
Even deaf musicians can understand the complex emotions conveyed by music through touch.
Enjoy music without hearing it
In people with normal hearing, we hear when vibrations of a specific frequency (20Hz-20,000Hz) travel through the air and are captured by tiny sensory cells in the cochlea.
But in fact, sound can also be felt through touch. If you’ve been to a frenetic concert scene, you can feel it: the exciting music not only hits your eardrums, but can even drive your body to sway.
Yes, the skin can directly feel the pressure generated by the sound waves, and at the same time, the sound waves can also be transmitted to the hands, feet, body, and even deep bones and inner cavity walls (such as lungs and chest) through the intermediary of guitar picks, stage floors, etc. ) between the membranes.
Therefore, some hearing-impaired people will clasp the surface of the balloon with their hands when listening to a concert, and feel the music better through the vibration of the thin rubber.
Musician Frank Russo, a professor of psychology at the City University of Toronto, also found in his research that people who can’t hear tend to be more sensitive to touch.
In the hearing-impaired brain, the auditory cortex is often repurposed in other ways, rewiring signals from other senses, such as touch and vision.
Especially for those with acquired deafness, the entire brain retunes to accommodate hearing loss. For example, a neural network involved in attention was found to be more closely connected to the neural network that coordinates motor responses, the visual system, and memory.
The advantage of feeling music through touch is that touch can effectively transmit rhythm. Russo found through the comparison of EEG that whether it is through ear listening or tactile touch, the rhythm of music felt by both is basically the same.
Not only that, touch can also feel other information in the music, such as the volume change through the amplitude.
As for whether you can feel the complex emotions in the music, Russo said: Most of them can be felt. Specifically, low-frequency vibrations convey more emotion, while high-frequency vibrations sound less emotional.
Byron Remache-Vinueza from the University of Malaga describes this feeling vividly:
Switching music from sound to vibration is like swapping out the best dish your mom made for soup, it’s just a different experience.
It is worth mentioning that, up to now, the method of feeling music with touch has changed the lives of many hearing-impaired people.
Musical Vibrations at the University of Liverpool, an organisation that specialises in devices that convert music into vibrations, provided their technology to deaf rapper SignKid.
The research team imported one of his songs into the device, converted the sound of guitar, kick drum and snare drum into vibrations, and had SignKid put his bare feet on two vibrators to feel the music through his heel and forefoot.
“I love this,” SignKid told the Music Vibration team, “it really gives me confidence.”
In the end, SignKid used the equipment loaned to him by the team to produce his solo EP, The Visual Experience.
Vibrators are still simple to operate, and a health care company has designed a wearable device — a series of sensors strapped to a person’s back, shoulders, waist, ankles, and wrists that look like a combination of a seat belt and a backpack , which can be used to amplify and transmit vibrations of different frequencies.
The kit has been tested at a concert in downtown Las Vegas, and hearing-impaired people who participated in the test said they felt their bodies become musical instruments through which music was being played.
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A hearing-impaired person said he was “living in a piano” after wearing a device to experience the third movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.
However, even though tactile perception of music has been proven, some problems have been encountered in the process.
still needs improvement
If you want to feel music with touch, the first problem you encounter is that the frequency of music and the frequency of vibration do not exactly correspond.
Compared to our ears which are most sensitive to 2000Hz-5000Hz sound, the range of sound transmitted by vibration is usually between 5Hz-1000Hz.
This means that many high-pitched tones that can be heard by the ear cannot be picked up by touch, or precisely identified. Instead, we can tactilely feel certain basses even though we can’t hear them.
The second obstacle to converting existing music into vibrations is how to distinguish between different sounds.
Mark Fletcher, from the Institute of Sound and Vibration at the University of Southampton, said that many current technologies can only handle music that has been divided into separate tracks of different instruments, and it is difficult to “break down” complex music well.
Even state-of-the-art algorithms now struggle to account for more intense vibrations masking other vibrations, and the fact that different instruments can vary in volume over the course of a song.
Without a strong way to separate the different instruments and compile a balanced signal in the form of vibrations, it would be impossible to identify the nuances of music from the vibrations alone.
One thing to say, although these technical difficulties are still to be solved, the changes brought by the invention of this technology to the lives of hearing-impaired people are real. A team of researchers from the University of Liverpool took their vibrating device to a school for the deaf.
The teachers responded as follows:
The students were more engaged in music lessons, the kids really enjoyed it, and a boy always came back during recess and knocked on the door asking, “Can I play again?”