News Stories

Music of the Blind

People who become blind early in life often develop greatmusical ability because they depend more on sound. RayCharles and Stevie Wonder are examples of this.

Researcher Pascal Belin asked 26 blind and sighted adults,ages 21 to 46, to judge whether two sounds were rising orfalling in pitch. Some of the blind people had lost theirsight before the age of two, others between the ages of fiveand 45. They found that the blind people who lost theirsight at an early age performed better than those who couldsee, and the earlier they went blind, the better they did onthe test. Berline says, "Early-blind subjects were betterthan both late-blind and sighted subjects at determining thedirection of pitch change."

Adam Ockelford, of the U.K.'s Royal National Institute forthe Blind, says, "RNIB's own research has shown that babieswho are born blind or who lose their sight in the first fewmonths of life are more likely to develop absolute pitch. Toput this in perspective, around 1 in 10,000 of thepopulation as a whole has the ability to recognize orreproduce pitches in isolation. However among a group ofblind children studied in London in the late 1980's, 40% hadabsolute pitch.

"Despite this, we need to be careful not to stereotype blindchildren?there is more to musicality than absolute pitch andwe can't assume that all will grow, or indeed want to grow,into the talents of Stevie Wonder?"

Handicaps can't stop us if we have thepowerof intention.

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