Improving Braille Music Literacy
LISANNE: Hello, everyone. Welcome to our presentation about Improving braille music literacy. I would like to introduce ourselves first. My name is Lisanne Aardoom, and since January 2020, I'm working as a product manager of tactile images and braille music at Dedicon in the Netherlands. Dedicon is a non-profit organisation which makes existing texts and images accessible for people with reading disabilities at Dedicon, I'm coordinating all activities related to music. My colleague Geert Maessen is one of our two braille music transcribers. Today, he'll give his presentation based upon his many years of experience and expertise in the field of braille music. After his presentation, I will give you our contact details and ask you some questions to encourage a discussion.
GEERT: Hello, I am Geert Maessen. I will begin with a very short introduction into the nature of braille music. Then sketch the main problem we encounter in its production. And finally propose a general solution for this problem. Braille music notation, is an extension of the braille code which enables the blind to read musical scores with their fingers. It was invented by Louis Braille in the early 19th century and developed into an international standard through several conferences since. The latest code, has been presented as the new international manual of braille music notation published in Amsterdam in 1996. The braille music code, provides the means for blind musicians to access the same musical information that is available for sighted readers. All details of a musical score can be included in braille music. For many musicians, this is essential in order to perform, analyse and interpret the music of their choice independently. However, there is a problem. Although braille music notation can represent the same information as music notation for the sighted, the differences between the two create a huge educational problem. In general, people learn to read musical scores after they learned the alphabet and are able to read texts. This is even more true for the blind. Music notation for sighted, does not use the alphabet. Therefore it is possible to learn and read text and music separately. Since braille music makes use of the same braille characters as literary braille, in order to learn braille music it is necessary to have some fluency in literary braille. There is another important difference. Music notation for the sighted is two dimensional, time is displayed horizontally and pitch vertically. Braille music notation is one dimensional or linear, just like text. Because of these two differences, methods to learn these notations differ considerably. Methods to learn music notation for the sighted only presupposed knowledge about music. Methods for braille music however, presuppose knowledge about music and knowledge about braille. Therefore, most methods for the sighted are not suitable for the blind. The result of this is, an information gap, which in turn has created the misbelief that braille music is complicated and preferably should be avoided. Dedicon is basically a production house for books in adapted formats for users with reading impairments. Part of daily conservance is the transcription of music scores and music methods. And to braille music notation on request of blind customers. In transcribing several cited music methods into braille, we often came across the earlier mentioned problem. However, in order to solve the problem, we have to cooperate with experts and organisations outside our own organisation. Nevertheless, we try to handle the problem. We've translated and transcribed some specific braille methods and some sets of melodies for rehearsal. For instance, William McCann, Who's Afraid of Braille Music? This book is an elementary introduction into the musical scale. It teaches the student how to read and write the names of the notes in braille. And Bettye Krolick, How to read braille music: An introduction In this book, the editor of the new international manual explains the most common items of braille music notation with references for further study. Furthermore, several children's songs. These songs were transcribed specifically for the practise of braille reading. Our efforts so far did not solve the problem. Indeed, as a production house we might not be the right institution to do so. However we know the problem from experience and are eager to contribute to a solution. On that basis, in this paper we propose the general approach to solve the problem. In our view, the solution consists in a threefold path to bridge the information gap. First concerning sighted musicians, then concerning braille teachers and thirdly, concerning organisations and interest groups. Most sighted musicians do not even know about the existence of braille music. We think this should change. Every musician, should at least know about the existence of braille music notation. Most elementary books with introductions, overviews and histories of music do not mention braille music at all. In order to promote knowledge of braille music, this should change. To achieve this, we propose to select common educational music books and add Cochise paragraphs about braille music notation for inclusion. We also propose a do our educational course for conservatories, music schools and universities. A simple search on my bookshelves brought some titles for books used in conservatories, music schools and universities. Of course, this list can and should be updated and completed. It is simply to get an idea. Donald Crout and Claude Paliska, The History of Western Music. Richard Taruskin, Music from the Earliest Notations to the Sixteenth Century, Curt Sachs and Otto Humberg Our Musical Heritage, A Short History of Music. Derry Williamson, General Music Theory. In each of these books, a short paragraph could be included with the very basics of braille music notation. These paragraphs should not exceed the length of one page in these books and the format, title, font, examples, styles, et cetera should be in agreement with the formats used in these books. (microphone rumbling) Next to adding paragraphs to existing books. The course about braille music notation should be designed for sighted musicians, which can be implemented in conservatories, music schools and universities. This course should illustrate the most common items of the new international manual of braille music notation. That is, notes, rests and octave marks, clefs, accidentals, key and time signatures, intervals chords and in-accords slurs and ties, bar lines and repeats, fingering, ornaments and nuances differences between keyboard vocal, strings, wind and percussion instruments. Our second focus concerns braille teachers. It seems that most braille teachers today are sighted educational professionals that teach children the braille alphabet and how to read texts. However, braille is more. It also includes mathematics, shorthand and music notation. In order to improve knowledge about braille music it would be good to include basics of braille music in the curriculum as early as possible. Since basics of braille music does not require a musical background, but simply knowledge of some simple songs, it should be easy for braille teachers to familiarise with the basics of braille music and learn how to include these in their courses. Since braille music does presuppose knowledge of braille, these basics should be taught starting in the second year of the braille education. When the pupil has some fluency in reading elementary braille texts. For the teacher, it would be good enough to sing some simple songs already known to the pupil and show and explain them the corresponding braille music. In the next stage, some songs of the hit parade might be included. Here are some examples that can be included in Dutch and English courses. It would be good to discuss details with educational experts.
GEERT (sings): De-ze vuist op de-ze vuist, De-ze vuist op de-ze vuist, De-ze vuist op de-ze vuist , De-ze vuist op de-ze vuist en, Zo klim ik naar bo -ven, Twinkle, twinkle, little star, How I wonder what you are, Up above the world so high, Like a diamond in the sky, Twinkle, twinkle, little star, How I wonder what you are.
GEERT: In order to solve the information gap and implement the above two issues, concerning sighted musicians and braille teachers, it is necessary to handle these issues across borders. That is institutions, expertise and languages. The first border is that between braille music and music for the sighted to cross this border, we have to find the right music institutions for the sighted that is, schools, institutions and publishers of music books. And within these, the right persons in order to implement the input sketch above that is, explanatory paragraphs and introductory courses. The crucial point here is not to find a single institution or person, but basically to find them all. This is not a simple thing to do very quickly. It'll takes time and effort. The second border to cross, is that between literary braille and braille music. In particular which should provide braille teachers with basic knowledge of braille music as sketched above that is simple songs and their braille equivalent. Therefore we have to find these braille experts. We have to be able to offer them the right knowledge and the crucial point here again, is not to find a single expert, but basically to find them all. Again, this is not a simple thing to do. This will take time and effort. The third border is between languages or countries. Each language has its own music books favourite children's songs and specific educational peculiarities. Education for the blind also is organised differently across the world. Here again, it is important to find the right national and local institutions and people, that is, publishers and schools, as well as braille experts. The crucial point again is not to find a single foreign language publisher or braille expert, but as much as possible that is basically to find them all. And of course, this takes a lot of time and effort. The result of the top-down handling of these three borders, that is between braille and sighted music, between literary braille and music and between languages, ideally would be three comprehensive lists. The first list would include the music book titles and its publishers, the contact persons of these publishers completed music paragraphs for inclusion in these books and signed agreements to implement these paragraphs and new books for print. The second list would include educational institutions, conservatories and music schools, and universities contact persons of these institutions completed introductory courses about braille music to implement in these institutions and finally, signed agreements to implement these courses in curricula for years to come. The third list would include educational institutions for the blind and braille experts. Elementary braille music, examples, elementary braille music tutorials and signed agreements to teach the braille experts how to implement elementary braille music in their next braille courses.
LISANNE: So far our proposal in this presentation we have tried to present a plan for a general solution to bridge the information gap causing serious problems in braille music literacy for the blind. The crux of this solution is improving basic knowledge about braille music in a general musical public as well as in the general blind public. The success of this plan, of course lies in its realisation, more specific in the realisation of the three lists of agreements. For some people, this plan may seem a bit unrealistic or too ambitious. Others may see the whole idea to improve braille music literacy simply as wrong or outdated. Others may find it a great idea. We are here to reach out to you and are eager to hear what you think. Any suggestions to improve our approach or our braille music services, are warmly welcomed. We also formulated five specific questions for you and it would be great if you can send us your reaction. After these questions, I will give you our contact details. So the first question is, do you recognise the problem sketched in his presentation? If so, can you be a bit more specific about what you recognise and can you tell us a bit more about if you have any approach for this problem? The second question is, how is braille music educated in your country? In what way and what kind of materials are used? The third question is, what do you think about implementing paragraphs on braille music and music books for the sighted? And the fourth question is, what do you think about including braille music courses in the curriculum for sighted musicians? And the last question, what do you think about including elementary songs with a braille music notation in braille courses? Our details are on the Congress website and on this slide, please send us your reaction. If you have any questions or other remarks or ideas about braille music or other accessible forms of music don't hesitate to contact us. We are looking forward to hear from you. Thank you for your attention. (soft music)