Tuesday, April 5, 2011


Proprioception is a vital component of music making, but rarely expressly mentioned. Here are some snips from the current Wikipedia entry:

Proprioception . . . from Latin proprius, meaning "one's own" and perception, is the sense of the relative position of neighbouring parts of the body. . . a . . .  distinct sensory modality that provides feedback solely on the status of the body internally. It is the sense that indicates whether the body is moving with the required effort, as well as where the various parts of the body are located in relation to each other. . . 

. . . Kinesthesia is another term that is often used interchangeably with proprioception, though use of the term "kinesthesia" can place a greater emphasis on motion. Some differentiate the kinesthetic sense from proprioception by excluding the sense of equilibrium or balance from kinesthesia. An inner ear infection, for example, might degrade the sense of balance. This would degrade the proprioceptive sense, but not the kinesthetic sense. The affected individual would be able to walk, but only by using the sense of sight to maintain balance; the person would be unable to walk with eyes closed. . . .

 . . .The proprioceptive sense is believed to be composed of information from sensory neurons located in the inner ear (motion and orientation) and in the stretch receptors located in the muscles and the joint-supporting ligaments (stance). There are specific nerve receptors for this form of perception termed "proprioreceptors," just as there are specific receptors for pressure, light, temperature, sound, and other sensory experiences. . . .

. . . Proprioception is what allows someone to learn to walk in complete darkness without losing balance. During the learning of any new skill, sport, or art, it is usually necessary to become familiar with some proprioceptive tasks specific to that activity. Without the appropriate integration of proprioceptive input, an artist would not be able to brush paint onto a canvas without looking at the hand as it moved the brush over the canvas; it would be impossible to drive an automobile because a motorist would not be able to steer or use the foot pedals while looking at the road ahead; a person could not touch type or perform ballet; and people would not even be able to walk without watching where they put their feet.

One thing about music making is that there is really no end to how much we can develop and deepen our ability to do so. Part of that is our becoming more and more proprioceptively aware of how we play our instrument. One reason for this post is for it to be here as foundation for a flute diary post on how an advancement in technique was based on increased proprioceptive awareness in my fingers.

Advances in technique can lead to advances in our more fully inhabiting the music, and our growing interpretive sense can lead to advances in technique. Nurturing that interplay can keep music making fresh and rewarding for a lifetime.

I also have the intuitive sense that there's an overlap between our proprioceptive sense of balance and the ways we can feel "balance" in music making and in music we listen to, particularly in rhythm, but in all the other elements of music as well. How well and in what ways music is "balanced" is sort of a primal gesture to which all the others contribute.

No comments:

Post a Comment