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Ask Slashdot: How Can a Blind Singer 'See' the Choirmaster's Baton? 189

Posted by timothy
from the vinz-clortho-the-choirmaster dept.
New submitter krid4 writes "Question from a blind friend: 'My ears replace my eyes. However, when it comes to the very moment of starting, or the change of tempi, my start will always come too late. Neither tuning in with the voices around me, nor listening to the moment of their breathing-in helps to solve this problem. Fancy that it might be possible to produce tactile pressure or even lines at the top of my right hand, head or body. Even pulses would do, because what finally counts is the moment of the 'beat' produced by the choirmasters baton.' What simple, possibly DIY solutions are possible? It would help many blind chorus singers."
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Ask Slashdot: How Can a Blind Singer 'See' the Choirmaster's Baton?

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  • by femtobyte (710429) on Sunday April 07, 2013 @06:12PM (#43386419)

    Motion tracking video of the baton (cheap webcam view from the side, colored foam ball on the baton end, track up/down motion with some very simple image processing); convert to a usable signal (e.g. audible clicks through an earpiece when the baton reaches maximum/minimum positions and turns around).

  • by sanpitch (9206) on Sunday April 07, 2013 @06:20PM (#43386481)

    If you're singing in a choir, then you're standing next to someone else, who is likely sighted. Just have them give you the cue. It could be that they hold your upper arm, and slide it down to the elbow it as the choirmaster's baton drops. If the choirmaster gives a four-count before starting, then the helper's signal may be four squeezes on your arm, or four taps on your shoe. I don't imagine that it would take much training for a new person to help you with this, and it's much cheaper than some high-tech solution which may not work.

  • Re:No way to see! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sanman2 (928866) on Sunday April 07, 2013 @06:30PM (#43386551)

    In Marvel Comics, lawyer Matt Murdock found a way... ... and became Daredevil!

  • by newcastlejon (1483695) on Sunday April 07, 2013 @06:34PM (#43386593)

    Motion tracking seems excessive when the poster would be satisfied with a simple pulse. I would suggest an accelerometer mounted to baton/conductor and a rumble motor ripped from an old gamepad for the singer (or an earpiece).

    For a no-tech alternative try having the singer sit/stand near the conductor and have the latter tap their feet (hard) along with the baton.

  • Re:Counting down (Score:4, Insightful)

    by digitig (1056110) on Sunday April 07, 2013 @06:36PM (#43386605)
    "when it comes to the very moment of starting, or the change of tempi" (My emphasis). No, it won't come with practice, because the conductor won't necessarily set exactly the same tempi every time. Not all music is done to click-tracks.
  • by femtobyte (710429) on Sunday April 07, 2013 @06:38PM (#43386627)

    The downside of using "specific pitch tones" is confusing the heck out of the subconscious of someone trying to sing at some other particular pitch (to match the voices around them). Something broad-spectrum and atonal (a click, hiss, tick, or thump) can relay timing and position information, without interfering with (competing for attention in the brain) tonal perception.

  • by robbak (775424) on Sunday April 07, 2013 @07:03PM (#43386769) Homepage
    Although the choir starts singing on the large downward movement of the baton, that is not the cue the choir is using - if the started singing after seeing the downward movement, they would always be late. They are actually taking their cue from the very subtle upward movement just before the downward sweep. Even detecting this would be difficult. The size of this movement, and the delay between this movement and the drop, whether a movement is the of the 'get ready' upward sweep... all very difficult and confusing things. And the nature of the movements will change depending on conductor, the nature of the music, or even the conductors mood. The human brain sorts all of these things out just fine. The best idea is one I read from another poster here - have the neighbour of blind singer give them their cue.
  • Re:No way to see! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by larry bagina (561269) on Sunday April 07, 2013 @07:42PM (#43387001) Journal
    Yes. Instead of a baton, use a cattle prod.
  • by gd2shoe (747932) on Sunday April 07, 2013 @07:45PM (#43387021) Journal

    Gah. No. That'd throw your pitch off terribly.

    There's only one answer I can come up with. Have someone stand next to the blind friend and give him/her tactile cues. Hand squeezes would work, but be very basic. If the sighted friend has any skill, holding hands (down by their side) and making a very small pattern would be even better.

    Either way, the sighted person would need to pay extraordinarily close attention to tempo changes and cuing. I'd be a hard job, but it would be doable.

    As for the aesthetics of the performance? Nobody cares when you're helping a friend like this. If you're really concerned about how it looks, then make it obvious somehow that they're blind. (have them wear the great big stereotypical black glasses, etc)

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