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Synthesizers and Autism


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A couple of years ago I remember seeing a poll at Matrixsynth that was interesting. They asked the pollees whether they used their synths more for making sounds than music. The majority of the respondents reported that they spent more time making sounds than music. For years, I thought I was the only one, or one of the few. This is illustrated by all the videos on Youtube of people just noodling on various synths, both hardware and software. Surprisingly, these videos get a surprising number of views.


Although I am a compulsive noodler, and my house is full of synthesizers hard and soft, neither of my kids picked up the bug, and both of them have had more piano lessons than me. I have a theory theory that there is something in the brain that is related to the autistic spectrum that is especially soothed or placated by noodling on synthesizers. What do you think?

Come out with your hands up! I have a synthesizer, and I'm not afraid to use it.
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Darn...I left my neuroscience degree in my other pants! :D


If that's your hypothesis, is it informed by related research, or is it just idle chat? Not that it really matters. If the KC excels in anything, it's idle chat! ;)


Meanwhile, putting "sound autism" into the Google-o-matic gives you links like this:




...and Gary Numan reportedly has an autism-like disorder. I don't know if the question has been posed to him.


I think the whole "move-this-knob-get-this-effect" thing would be of interest to anyone who likes making cool noises.



I make software noises.
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I could asked my wife but when she starts talking neurology it quickly gets pretty complicated. Heck I can't spell most the words she uses.

"It doesn't have to be difficult to be cool" - Mitch Towne


"A great musician can bring tears to your eyes!!!

So can a auto Mechanic." - Stokes Hunt


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I don't know anything about that, but as John says it's an interesting hypothesis. I'd say, just from general observation, it's probably not so much that synth players don't make music, but that when they get on a SYNTH, the majority of their time on it is spent programming and discovering the sounds they can make, since by their nature they are highly programmable and allow a user who's put the programming time in to make signature sounds -- sounds that they can later apply to performances or recording, ie, making music.


But the fact that synths encourage this focus and even demand are exactly why I don't really use them currently; since my goal is to be a very good improviser and composer on piano and fully exploit the real-time demands of performing on that instrument, I don't have enough time to delve into synth work. I did at one time, though.


I'd say, from knowing autistic children and adults affected to varying degrees on the spectrum, both modes of addressing music I mentioned above could be, and are, attractive to those with autism. One 3-yr-old boy I know has promising talent as a drummer, he has good rhythm ... at an age where most kids don't concentrate on anything real-time like that longer than 2 seconds. (Ever try to get a room of 3-yr-olds to clap along to a sing-along? Pretty amusing. It's like herding a roomful of puppies, LOL.) I knew of another child with Asperger's who was a violin student of a teacher at the music studios I taught at, and that kid could memorize and play back anything.


So I'm not really sure about synths in particular ... maybe someone else here knows of actual research in this area; I'd be interested in what the findings are.

Original Latin Jazz

CD Baby


"I am not certain how original my contribution to music is as I am obviously an amateur." Patti Smith

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