Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Collaborative Pianist Experiences the Full Range of Senses at the Piano

In talking about piano playing, we often discuss the modalities of the senses to discuss the vastness of human experience when at the instrument. But it is often overlooked that the notion of five single senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell) is no longer accepted as fact, since they were teachings put forward by Aristotle several thousand years ago. Listverse corrects this misconception in an informative post with a quick rundown of the full range of human senses. In the quote below, I've annotated each sense to attempt to explain how a collaborative pianist might experience each one of these extended modalities while at the piano:
The nervous system has an area dedicated to each sense. Apart from the traditional abilities, humans can sense high and low temperatures (thermoception) [it sucks that there's no AC at this summer festival], balance (equilibrioception) [whaddya mean I'm too loud?], acceleration (kinesthesioception) [that violinist's tempo is INSANE], body and limb position (proprioception) [aren't there any low benches in this classroom?] and pain (nociception) [what frightful intonation in the slow movement].

Other natural abilities include the sense of time [OMG I'm gonna be late for the next lesson], itching [I've been sitting on this bench how many hours?], pressure [I'll never learn these notes in time for the first rehearsal], hunger [only 70 minutes until lunch], thirst [shoulda brought that second Evian], fullness of the stomach [too many spring rolls at Pho Hung], need to urinate [shouldn't have brought that second Evian], need to defecate [only with certain composers] and blood carbon dioxide levels [first day of playing for staging rehearsals at Aspen]. People also hold a large collection of internal senses. This includes the chemoreceptor trigger zone of the brain which receives input from the blood and communicates with the vomiting center [auditions for crossover artists]. Cutaneous receptors in the skin not only respond to touch, pressure and temperature, but also other emotions such as embarrassment [you mean _____ was actually YOUR teacher?], which will make your skin blush. Pulmonary stretch receptors are found in the lungs and control respiratory rate [OMG I lost count in the rests again].


  1. This made me actually laugh out loud. Well done, I'm sure it speaks truth to many, myself included!