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How I Hear Things: Notes From An Audio-Tactile-Kinesthetic Learner

Following the Emotionz show at DV8 last week, I’ve been asked roughly a bazillion times what the f*ck I’m doing when I’ve got my headphones in (or, whem I’m at a live show) and I gesticulate wildly along with snapping Bob Fosse-style, bobbing my head, lip syncing, and et cetera. Now, I’m not going to comment on my overall mental health (haha) but, I am neither having a nervous breakdown, nor am I schizophrenic.

What I am doing is counting

I come from a strange background. My mother was a dancer and my father is a mathematician; and I grew up dancing, singing, playing piano, and doing musical theatre. In addition, I am a voracious reader, writer, and lover of music – there is literally next to no time in the day when I don’t have music bumping. From my mother, I inherited a need to attach a tactile element to my counting. Attribute this as well to dance and a piano teacher that taught me how to dissect complicated time signatures by walking them and there’s the first aspect. This gets more complicated and impossible to explain, but certain time signatures have elements I intrinsically tie to certain dance moves or body parts (for example, a heavy three is a pas de chat accented on the third; whereas a straight 4 is a cross the floor Fosse pas de bourre. If the beat is a heavy bass on the 2, it’s tied to my hips and I walk it through). From there, I tie things to my body. Head nods, arms swinging, fingers, wrists….

From there, I get a little bit of my father’s aptitude for numbers and over-complication shining through. I love to find the intricacies and complexities of both the rhymes and the beats that are coming through my ears. Rarely is a straight across 4/4 actually just that – in fact, it’s exceedingly rare. A good DJ will give me a CRUNCHY 4/4 and make it delicious by taking that and subdividing or counterpointing or even simply accenting things with a little bit of grime or a sound effect. A good MC will hear the divisions available and play with the time signature to give me something interesting, accented creatively. punctuated and played with in order to take the everyday and make it extraordinary.

Finally, I happen to be the type of woman who listens to lyrics with a fine tooth comb. As much as the entirety of (and of course, the individual sonic aspects from the cadence of the lyrics to the timbre of the vocals to the particulars of production) a track matters, at the end of the day, I’m in it for the lyrics. RAP stands for Rapidly Announced Poetry – that’s your tidbit of the day – and as a poet, there is little else that makes my heart beat quite the way a beautiful line does.

So, that’s a badly phrased but honest breakdown of how I hear music. I hear it through feeling it, dancing it, and picking it apart; all the while looking insane, and always while enjoying the whole event in my multi-sensory playground. 


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