Do you consider yourself to be tone deaf?
You're not alone - there must be countless millions of people out
there who have convinced themselves that they suffer from this terrible
affliction, though I wonder sometimes whether it's just an excuse
to sweeten the bitter pill of never having realised a secret ambition
to sing, or play a musical instrument. But take heart - actual bona
fide tone deafness is a rare phenomenon, if you can distinguish
between the sound of a phone ringing and your front door bell then
you're clearly and very evidently not tone deaf.
The father who brought his young son in with a clarinet for a
service expressed his regret that he'd never taken up the saxophone.
"Why not?", I asked - "All it takes is half a grand
and a fat wadge of free time?" "Tone deaf", came
the reply, "can't hold a tune to save my life."
I was about to launch into my phone/doorbell analogy when my thoughts
were interrupted by the growing roar of a piston engine, an aeroplane
engine no less. The workshop resounded with the low, urgent drone
as something small and fast shot right over the roof of the workshop.
"Sounds like a Mustang to me" said the chap.
Now, I know it was a Mustang as there's a local chap round here
who owns one, and many's the evening I sit on my doorstep at home
and watch him as he pitches his aeroplane through loops, twists,
stall turns and dives - and despite being somewhat unadventurous
when it comes to thrills and spills (I go green on the kid's teacup
waltzers at the fairground) I can't help but envy the pilot's obvious
sense of elation as he chucks a good few tons of metal and oil around
I asked the father how he knew it was a Mustang - neither of us
saw the plane fly over. "No mistaking the engine sound, all
those warbirds have their own sound". And he's right, pretty
much anyone with a passing interest in old planes will be able to
tell the difference between a Spitfire and a Hurricane approaching
- and some people can even tell when the starboard outer engine
on a Lancaster is running lumpy. And so my case was made - I told
him he couldn't be tone deaf if his ears could make that kind of
distinction. There's a very intimate relationship between sound
and music. Not all sound is music, but all music is most certainly