Part VI: Natural potential
Music can be used as a tool by naturopaths because it apparently has a cumulative effect. Encouraging young patients to cultivate a love of intricate music has the potential to prime them for self actualization. The implication for those seeking to increase their IQ is evident. However, on a much more general every day level, music may be explored to help with mood and arousal, and to help balance depression and anxiety. Abraham Maslow defined the parameters needed to reach the ultimate in an individuals personality. Reasoning through the humanist perspective, all individuals have a positive push of inner-directedness that if unimpeded will move us towards our fullest potential and growth. Music can be a powerful guide in our journey for this self actualization. It can aide in this by giving us the tools to perform at our very best in several cognitive tasks, including spatial reasoning. There is also potential to rebuild the right hemisphere of the brain after the effects of trauma.

Unfortunately, research is severely lacking in research of varying forms of music. It is clear however, that music primes the brain to work harder, work better, increase capacity, regulate mood and arousal, and to perform spatial reasoning and other cognitive tasks. Repetition is key, the more you make use of this phenomenon the more you will get out of it. The earlier in life you begin to utilize this phenomenon the longer it will last and the more you will get out of it. Because the style of Mozart and his contemporaries in a up-tempo, major mode is ideal for performance, it is beneficial to cultivate a love for this style as early in life as possible. However, if that is not the case, more familiar and enjoyable forms of music will have similar or better results as listening to classical music of the like. Learning to play, read, and compose music will further increase your brain’s capacity to perform tasks, and memorize. Though hyper-focusing may have the potential to suppress some of your innate creativity and spatial reasoning abilities. However overall, the costs don’t outweigh the gains, as you will be more likely to be proficient in both hemispheres of the brain, just  not equally. Women and men may not differ nearly as much as would be expected in perceiving emotion in music. Though women did show a significant advancement over men in certain cognitive functions, spatial reasoning was not one of them. Spatial reasoning abilities among men and women are fairly consistent between the sexes when listening to classical music in both a major or minor mode, but music in the major mode (cheerful) has a more positive effect on cognitive tasks. Cultivating a love of music and thinking about it in both a right brain intuitive mode, and a left brain logical mode will help the individual reach their fullest potential.


Rauscher, F. H., Shaw, G. L., & Ky, K.N. (1995). Listening to Mozart enhances spatial-temporal reasoning: Towards a neurophsiological basis. Neuroscience Letters, 44-47.

Schellenberg, E. Glen. (2005). Music and Cognitive Abilities. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 14 (6), 317-320.

Brandler, S. & Rammsayer, T.H. (2003). Differences in mental abilities between musicians and non-musicians. Psychology of Music, 31(2), 123-138.

Rauscher, F. H., Shaw, G. L., & Ky, K.N. (1993). Music and spatial task performance. Nature, 365.

Sutton, C. J. C. & Lowis, M. J. (2008). The Effect of Musical Mode on Verbal and Spatial Task Performance. Creativity Research Journal, 20 (4), 420-426.

Campbell, D. (2001, 1997). The Mozart Effect. New York: Quill HaperCollins Publishers.

Leeds, J. (2001). The Power of Sound. Rochester, Vermont: Healing Arts Press.

Jausovec, N., & Habe, K. (2005). The influence of Mozart’s sonata K. 488 on brain activity during performance of spatial rotation and numerical tasks. Brain Topology, 17, 207–218.

Pert, C. (2000). Your Body is Your Subconscious Mind [CD]. Louisville, Colorado: Sounds True, Inc.


Part III: Style
Music’s benefits are vast. It can adapt mood, adapt positive thinking, strengthen survival skills, and sympathy (Leeds, 2003). These are among the improvements that music can make on peoples lives. All music genres have significant implications for the mind. Dr. Alfred Tomatis’ research on the workings of the inner ear were undoubtedly the precursor for the focus on Mozart’s music and spatial reasoning. Tomatis focused on Mozart’s music namely the violin concertos numbers 3 and 4 as having the strongest ability to positively effect students capacity to focus and concentrate. Music can have a positive or negative effect on spatial performance tasks. Sutton and Lowis found that when music is sad (often minor in composition) it can make the listener sad, and depressed people show impairment in spatial tasks because depression effects the arousal in the right cerebral hemisphere of the brain which is associated with cognitive spatial processing. Overall, the Sutton-Lowis study showed that cheerful music enhances spatial reasoning more than sad music, and that this is because music elicits and emotional response. They also found that the degree to which and emotional response is elicited is similar in both men and women.

In a 1995 experiment done by Rausher, Shaw, and Ky, their work suggested that listening to a piano sonata composed by Mozart lead to increased spatial reasoning performance. They also found that listening to repetitive music does not aide in spatial reasoning. These findings are in correlation with Shaw’s statements, “We suspect that complex music facilitates certain complex neuronal patterns involved in high brain activities like math and chess. By contrast, simple and repetitive music could have the opposite effect.” Shaw suggests a possibility that banal music or sounds may have and adverse effect on the mind and brain functions. Just as highly intricate music containing complicated melodies and rhythms have a positive effect on he mind’s ability to reason spatially, simple, repetitive, monotonous music may have the opposite effect on the mind’s ability to reason spatially. The latter may actually regress the mind’s ability, if even for short periods of time.

Age Matters

It is found that the impact music has on spatial reasoning only last from 10 to 15 minutes in adults. This is a temporary effect. However, it can have cumulative effects concurrently. Therefore, the more you make use of this phenomenon the more readily and quicker it will manifest. It is also of note, that the younger the individual is when in a musical environment, the longer the effect has been shown to last (Schellenberg, 2005). It is apparent that music has a cumulative effect because the younger the person is when introduced to music the longer potential they have to hold on to the benefits of this phenomenon. Schellenberg noted that the phenomenon looses its longevity the later in life it begins to be implemented. He also said that the more it is used (even later in life) the greater its magnitude for positive results. Though listening is sufficient to prime the brain for a boost in spatial tasks performance, learning to play the music is significant in perpetuating longer lasting effects (Schellenberg, 2005). In a correlative test of 147 children and 150 undergraduate adults, (using the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-III, or WISC-III and the Wechsler Adult Intelligences Scale-III, or WAIS-III respectively) Schellenberg concluded that the effects of music on cognitive abilities are greater with more exposure to music regularly and can be long lasting.

To musician or to non-musician
Though differences in certain cognitive functions between musicians and non-musicians exist, the differences between the two in terms of spatial reasoning did not favor the musicians according to Brandler and Rammsayer (2003). Researchers were surprised to find this to be the case, but hold their finding as reliable as these results were consistently shown by four Cattell’s Culture Free Intelligence Test, Scale 3 (CFT) subscales. In explanation, that they warn is “a preliminary, highly speculative, possible explanation “, they suggest that perhaps our thinking of relegating music to the right hemisphere (because music stimulates the right brain more than the left brain) of the brain should be revised. It is certain that highly skilled musicians utilize both the right and left brains to carry out their musical lifestyles. However, the memory aspect of their mind may dominate over the reason part. This is indicative of a diverse array of mental abilities in musicians and contrasted by a stronger yet more base mental ability in non-musicians. Therefore, “early extensive musical training” results in a change to the cortical organization. This augments the left brain functions of the musician, while diminishing the innate musical abilities of the right brain.  This is reminiscent of how in Western education, schooling may lead to strengthening the left brain while neglecting the right brain.

Sounds of Sex
Though there were differences between certain cognitive functions between men and women, the differences in spatial reasoning between the two groups was not significant in the Sutton-Lowis experiment. Sutton and Lowis are interested in determining the differences between sexes when they listen to music on both their verbal and spatial reasoning skills. Overall, they tout that music has an ability to increase spatial and verbal reasoning, and their data supports this claim. However, the most significant correlation was found between women and verbal reasoning. Though the other sectors had over all improvement, their amount of improvement were nominal in comparison to the increase found with women in verbal reasoning. Their study is particularly noteworthy because there is a severe lack of research on the differences of how the sexes are effected by music. Sutton and Lowis found that the degree to which an emotional response is elicited is similar in both men and women.

References available in Part VI

Part II: Effects on the brain
Music’s uncanny influence on spatial reasoning was one of the key correlations that began the work to develop an understanding of music’s effect on the brain. Spatial reasoning functions are located in the right hemisphere of the brain. Spatial reasoning is a function processed and elicited in the right hemisphere of the brain. The right brain is categorized by emotion, id-based thinking, feeling, intuition, impetuousness, and creativity. This hemisphere is often marginalized in Western culture and relegated to dreams in most individuals. The left hemisphere is categorized by logic, reality, mathematics, language, and strategy. Music is also attributed to right brain functions because it stimulates the functions of the right brain more than the left brain.

Music can place the brain in an optimal arousal mode (Schellenberg, 2005). Music can effect emotion (Sutton and Lowis, 2008). This happens on a psychological and physiological level. Much in the same way some narcotics mimic the neuronal patterns of some neurotransmitters such as epinephrine and endorphins, to mimic their pleasurable sensations (Pert, 2000), music effects spatial reasoning by mimicking the same firing pathways neurons undergo when we successfully concentrate and focus (Campbell, 2001, 1997). This is why increased concentrating and focus occurs in close proximity of listening for adults. The younger the individual, the longer the effect last because their brains are at the start of creating familiar firing pathways. In addition, their cells divide more often creating the potential to create more daughter cells with receptors primed to perpetuate the pathway. Explained in part by the idea of association and the Hebbian theory of synaptic activity and efficiency which is often summarized as “the cells that fire together, wire together”. Sutton and Lowis suggest that music is a communicator that is adept at communicating emotion. In a 2005 experiment conducted by E. Glenn Schellenberg he found that music effects spatial reasoning in part by arousing the mind of the participant. By putting the brain in an optimal state of arousal, this attributed to increased performance. He also attributed increased performance in spatial reasoning to changes in mood directly linked to the major (cheerful sounding), up tempo Mozart selections. Therefore, arousal primes the brain to do more work, and music works as a exercise to strengthen the brain.

References available in Part VI

Part I: In the beginning
Music is a part of every culture, and yet it is often taken for granted as it is so ingrained in daily life. Music is one of the broadest elements in our world. New genres seem to sprout every day. It is always developing and evolving, ebbing and flowing. There is little doubt as to why it is listed as one of the seven intellectual fields enumerated by Howard Gardner. Scientist and researchers give a thorough explanation of music’s link to cognition and spatial reasoning. These works can give anyone a basic working knowledge of how music effects spatial reasoning, and how it may be used for self improvement. Exploring music’s effects on spatial reasoning may help unlock a valuable tool for health and healing.

Professor of Education at Harvard University, Howard Gardner listed music and spatial reasoning as two of seven types of intelligence in the 1980s. Spatial reasoning is called various things including spacial intellect and spatial-temporal reasoning, among others. Though differing phrases may attempt to evoke a particular tone, spatial reasoning is at the core of each understanding. Spatial reasoning is involved in manipulating 2-D images into 3-D images with your mind’s eye. This may involve physical navigation, mental imagery, hand eye coordination, and spatial relationships. This skill is used by all. However, it is particularly important to engineers, architects, and computer game programmers. From playing video games to planning out how to arrange furniture in an empty room (topography), spatial reasoning is the core component. The degree of an individual’s spatial reasoning capacity can be tested for via an IQ test, as it is a component of intelligence. On IQ tests, spatial reasoning is often tested by the individual attempting to recreate a particular sequence of colored blocks. Some IQ test utilized by the following studies include the Stadford-Binet Intelligence Scale, the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-III ( WISC-III), the Wechsler Adult Intelligences Scale-III (WAIS-III), and the Cattell’s Culture Free Intelligence Test, Scale 3 (CFT). I have reviewed six articles that explore the relationship between music and spatial reasoning.

What’s the phenomenon?
It has been found that music, to varying degrees, positively or negatively prime the cells in the brain to perform spatial reasoning tasks (Jausavec and Habe, 2005). An experiment conducted by Rauscher, Shaw and Ky with undergraduate students in the mid 1990s showed that their IQ scores (Stanford-Binet) rose by 8 to 9 points after listening to music composed by Mozart. It was also found that this effect lasted only temporarily, approximately 10 to 15 minutes. This phenomenon was dubbed “The Mozart Effect” (Rauscher et al., 1995). Sutton and Lowis (2008) note that “Rauscher, Shaw, and Ky reported a short-term enhancement in spatial-temporal reasoning following listening to Mozart music”. Rauscher conducted an additional experiment in 1998 where he found that certain music increases test subjects’ performance, concentration, focus, and spatial reasoning tasks. These results were elicited through a testing format. Rauscher concentrated on the effects of classical music. Don Campbell, author of “The Mozart Effect” credits the music of Mozart and his contemporaries with the ability to “stimulate learning and memory” and “strengthen concentration abilities”. Sutton and Lowis found that the phenomenon works without the listener focusing on the music. The emotions elicited by the music act on a subconscious level. The music was not a focal point but rather background music predominately relegated to the preconscious. Furthermore, none of the participants expressed a conscious awareness of the music during their debriefing sessions with the researchers.

Further research (Schellenberg, 2005) has found that music improves social skills, mood, and other cognitive functions in addition to spatial reasoning. This phenomenon is significant and unique because though music is the method, the benefits and improvements extend to non-music related abilities, the results are consistent, and they are most likely to occur by listening or playing music than by other activities. Schellenberg broadened the research substantiated by Rauscher (1993) by noting spatial reasoning and other cognitive ability links to music other than classical. He found that music that is familiar, or enjoyable to the individual often has even greater potential to strengthen these cognitive tasks, with spatial reasoning being at the forefront. To broaden the term, Schellenberg renamed this phenomenon the “arousal-and-mood hypothesis”, thus indicating the link between the benefits and the emotional state of the individual. Schellenberg also noted that the emotional state of the individual primes cognitive functions to enhance in ability. Thus, listening to music has the capacity to effect the brain, emotions, and mind set.

References available in Part VI

“Synecdoche, New York” is an intriguing, thought-provoking drama about_______________________________________. (fill in the blank)

I’m formulating my ideas and processing my feelings about this work, and have chosen to do so before I research any reviews or analysis so that I can keep my thoughts as pure as possible. But artist and cultural activist Erykah Badu’s lyrics come to mind, “What good do your words do, if they can’t understand you?” Can art be too abstract for its own good?

This film reminded me of a well thought out play. It’s no secret that plays are generally thought to have more depth than movies. I believe this is because (among many things*) the generally short time span plays encompass as opposed to films, and therefore the audience in invited to experience the entire world of the piece infinitely more than with cinema. However, this film spans nearly 2 decades (I think). I still felt like I was watching Angles in America by Tony Kushner or perhaps In the Blood by Suzan-Lori Parks. That delightful heavy feeling you experience with a show like that, was felt while watching this film. I was so impressed.

Generally, plays tend to lean towards the abstract more than films. Synecdoche, New York was definitely abstract. In this work we follow a theatre director named Caden though several romantic and familial relationships as he attempts to understand himself, a goal he never achieves (or perhaps only slightly achieves by having his life completely manipulated by a theatre director playing himself). He is awarded a MacArthur Fellowship (“Genius Award”) and plans to create a huge production to tout his skills. He sets his pseudo-performance art style play in a warehouse and has a cast as large as the community of people he surrounds himself with. Let’s just say its a MASSIVE production. The play is never fully mounted (I think).

It’s not an easy film to describe. I recommend everyone see this thought-provoking film. What did I take away? A reinforced idea that life is obscure, and the relationships within are based on an innumerable amount of absurd details.  That happen to be fascinating because of what they may suggest about one another. (Why where the psychiatrist’s shoes so damaging to her feet and why did she ignore it? Why was Hazel’s house always on fire?) I also remember that life is not about the individual. Keeping this in mind should put ego, paranoia, anxiety, and selfishness in perspective.

It seemed that Caden (was he ever really sick? and was there anything significant about Olive’s green poop at the film’s start?) was unable to overcome the stress with directing his own life, though he was astute in directing actors. Eventually, an actor, playing Caden as a theatre director had to direct him in his everyday life until his death. Or had he become just another actor in the play?

This film will leave you with plenty of questions.

* films make more money and have the luxury of being as trivial as they want because they have a larger audience

A full length version (though unrendered) of the unreleased movie X-Men Origins: Wolverine was leaked on the internet.

Ethics-noun [in sing. ]
a set of moral principles, esp. ones relating to or affirming a specified group, field, or form of conduct

Let’s talk about nethics- (a new word as far as I know- I like making words lol). ethics using the medium of the internet.

I only found out around this past January that you can watch (without downloading, but streaming video)full length feature films online (I can hear the youth laughing cuz I’m way behind the times). I told my 60 something yr old mother, and she didn’t believe me. ‘How could you possibly in any way be able to watch feature films online, soon after their their releases (let alone before!) for free?’ Mai  own mother didn’t believe me, until I showed her.

Most online movies are usually ‘bootleg’ copies, where someone paid to see the movie at the theatre, videotaped it and put it on the Net. But honestly, I still don’t know how an unreleased movie like Wolverine could be leaked UNLESS by someone working on the film. However, before the net, you could BUY bootleg copies from street vendors, but now they just put it on the net for no profit? That’s kinda weird. A sort of recession time, entertainment- Robin Hooding? You decide…

It’s theft. It’s wrong. But its a de facto practice by many.

Movies require millions of dollars, and make millions of dollars, movie stars and celebrities make exorbitant amounts of money performing (often producing great works of art) essentially a needless service.

When I was about 8 or 9yrs old, I was angered, confused, and saddened to the point of tears when I understood the wage differences between athletes (celebrities) and teachers. I didn’t understand how such an important job (teaching), was so less monetarily valued. Now of course I understand the industry of art and the industry of education…

We are in a recession, and it’s survival of the fittest, would Darwin watch movies for free online??? I’m not sure, but I believe many who watch movies online wouldn’t wouldn’t bother to watch them at all if they weren’t online.

Bootlegged films will make less money. The stars will be the last to suffer.
Sure the studios loose money, but in the most direct of ways the movie theatres will be hurt. Their janitors, popcorn vendors, ticket sellers, the average working people. Not to mention the people who work tirelessly at places like BlockBuster.

With this in mind, are they still worth watching in this manner?

Deciding to join the naturopathic profession definitely requires me to make mature sacrifices in the life of my family. I must scrutinize my finances, postpone plans for children, uproot my family, abandon the theatre, leave a President Barack Obama administration, and conquer general anxieties. However, enumerating these sacrifices makes it all the more apparent how I cherish the naturopathic profession. Immigrating to Canada is an expensive and nerve-racking transition requiring our entire savings. Visas, passports, tuition, and housing are just some of the expensive necessities. The immigration process has taken years of planning and budgeting. Our search for new housing, banking, phone carrier, and employment for my husband has been a series of uphill battles. Even now, there is a high level of uncertainty about our financial future in this new country. My husband and I live quite frugally. I look forward to the day when we won’t have to be so restricted by our finances. The next five years will not afford us this luxury. How could they with the time, money, and effort required to transition into returning to college and immigrating? I have been married for nearly five years. We have a blessed marriage and are anxiously thinking about starting a family. Initially, we planned to try for children next year in 2010. However, when I decided to study naturopathy we determined that the time and expense required to provide for a child couldn’t even be considered until the 3rd year of the program. Even then it will still depend on where I stand at that time in the future and in the program. Though many say there is never a specific “right” time to have a child, there is definitely a “wrong” time to have a child, and beginning my education at CCNM would be one of them. Expenses are compounded by living away from loved ones for half a decade. This is daunting. Family and friends provide a ready-made moral, spiritual, financial, and emotional support. Our loved ones are quick to note that we will be a whole other country away. I feel I’ve neglected loved ones for the past eight years since I’ve left my beloved hometown; first moving to Chicago, then to Los Angeles. Oftentimes, it seems I abandon my friends right when our bonds are growing and they need me the most. I feel guilty about leaving my family and not being a present role model for my nieces and nephews in such a critical time in their youth. Theatre and art have been a consistent passion in my life. In undergraduate studies, I attained a Bachelor’s degree from Columbia College Chicago in Theatre with a concentration in directing. When I decided to start naturopathy I didn’t anticipate the extent this intensive program would demand. Though I will be a lifelong patron of the theatre, I fear there will be no immediate time to participate. No directing, acting, stage managing, designing, or anything of that nature until my education is well underway. I’ve spent my last twelve years training in theatre, building up several professional relationships, and establishing the building blocks of a career. Theatre had been my future, so entering into a fresh discipline will be an added challenge. I must immerse myself into this new world yet keep sharp skills I’ve spent so long developing. This is an historic time that is especially poignant for Americans. Most of the citizens of the States are very excited and looking forward to living under a President Obama administration. It is somewhat bittersweet that we can’t be in the States while he is leading the country. These past eight years, under the former Bush Administration, have been a time of fear, anxiety, and trepidation for the country and in fact the world. We all have tremendous anticipation for the next four years to come. In some respect, I will be missing out of a firsthand experience. General anxieties about healthcare, employment, travel, and maintaining a fitness routine flood my thoughts daily. I have poly-cystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) but hate taking oral contraception to regulate my cycle. School makes it impossible to start a family or afford a child. Through naturopathy, I hope to find an alternate solution for my PCOS. I’m proud of working with the Girl Scouts of the San Fernando Valley. I set up their curriculum and fostered positive girl to girl relations. My thoughts of working with the affiliated Girl Guides were crushed with the realization that my student status doesn’t allow for a work permit. I love to travel but have had to delay plans to explore Northern Africa with my parents and husband for years. Ideally, I’ll quell my wanderlust by travelling to Europe, Asia, and Africa during the summers when classes are out. I worry this goal will not be attainable. I’m not thoroughly optimistic that these next five years of school will allow the time or expense for exploration abroad. I’ve recently made changes in my lifestyle that benefit my health. They have enabled me to loose an excessive 50 lbs. I’ve become much more active. I realize that keeping up with my lifestyle will be hard because I will not be able to resume my gym routine for several weeks while we are getting settled. I worry that falling out of my routine will cause me to never get back on track. In spite of this, I have a healthy outlook. Loved ones are afforded comfort in that we used to live in California, which is three times farther from Midwest America than Toronto. The distance will inspire some to attain a passport and travel abroad for the first time. I am blessed to have their love and support for my future. I hope to show my nieces and nephews that a career in medicine is not out of reach. I’m optimistic that a warm, receptive, diverse faculty, staff, and student body will aide us in developing new community. There is potential to stay within the theatre arts loop by volunteering at box office or ushering. I’m mindful that Obama’s influence is sure to be felt worldwide, and planning is always in the works to fulfill lifelong travel dreams. This transition is giving me an invaluable opportunity to grow as a person and as a professional. My education requires me to give in to my passion for community service and social activism. It also prompts me to face a fear of taking risks. Most importantly, naturopathic medicine gives me the chance to have a life of passion, educate others, and provide alternate options for their healthcare future. This is quite satisfying.

Blargue: Slanguage 103

January 22, 2009

BLARGUE- (blahr-ghyoo) to argue via text especially in a web log (blog) format.

This freewrite blog is an excuse for me to enter a new word into your vocabulary (blogcabulary?-ok maybe that’s pushing it). I devised the two hybrid words: blargue & slanguage. Let’s talk about them…

Though it should never be encouraged, I don’t think there is any way around blarguing except ignoring the offending blarguments altogether. This is because too many misunderstandings occur. I’ve noticed this for years. First over AIM, then emails, now text messages, and blogs.

Blarguing goes a bit deeper than just arguing via text. While misunderstandings and miscommunications occur via voice in person, over the phone, etc. it doesn’t happen with the same frequency as via text. This is because of the inability to detect tone of voice and therefore tone of message. We try to compensate for this by using emoticons 🙂 smily 😦 frowny 😉 winky and many many more, but even those never quite fully transcend the obstacles and hardships of the blargument.

Avoiding the blargument is made more difficult by those with the intention to incite blarguments. Sometimes people warp what they really believe just to play devil’s advocate. I’ve never been a fan of this method, but I’ve seen other mature, responsible people employ this method with wisdom to much benefit. Advocating the devil can bring about thoughtful discussions. Of course, most of the time those playing devil’s advocate go down that dark unwholesome path.

Is there significant difference between the terms “argue” and “blargue”?  Do you think “blargue” is a valuable word?  Will you adopt this term into your vocabulary? What do you do to mitigate blarguments?

I love language and that it develops every day. I enjoy examining culture, vernacular, colloquialisms, and slang. I sign (ASL), speak French, English, and have been working on Spanish. I began learning foreign languages at 7, took a 5 year hiatus, and resumed at 12. I only wish I had been introduced to foreign language at a younger age.

Slanguage 102: Slang On!!

January 22, 2009

SLANGUAGE: (slang-ooage) communication mainly comprised of colloquialisms and street or informal stripped down speech; decomposition

This freewrite blog is an excuse for me to enter a new word into your vocabulary (blogcabulary?-ok maybe that’s pushing it). I devised the two hybrid words: blargue & slanguage. Let’s talk about them…

Slanguage is a word I’ve used here many times before. It is useful in communicating a style of communication. There are times when people use slanguage to communicate and it may be mistaken for poor speech and grammar. This is a BIG MISTAKE. Nearly all my friends are college educated, professional people who engage the use of slanguage on a daily basis.

Slanguage is often more useful and valuable than conventional language because it helps to convey and denote geography, attitude, culture, and swagger or self image. I warn, DO NOT SQUELCH others from using this form of expression. I also encourage all people to further develop their own personalized slanguage. This will help define a people and give diversity to all.

Slanguage often reminds me of my hearing impaired friends. Often times, families with hearing impaired ones develop shorthand signs. This is done to communicate quicker, be more to the point, and to individualize their language. One of my friends calls this “home SL” or home sign language. For example she may shorten or abbreviate the movements for “restroom”, “grandfather”, or any number of words. If she were to sign with her interpreter or other hearing impaired people they may not readily understand what she was signing, but her mother or siblings do. Therefore, she of course would use the more traditional signs with anyone not at home.

Develop the slanguage of your home, your family, your friends, your community, and your hood. Slang on!


I would be remiss if I didn’t note that there is a time and place to use all manners of speech. Though I would discourage others to squelch the use of slanguage, there are obviously times when it would be inappropriate. Such as speaking to elders, (some) authority figures, work place, interviews, etc. I advocate the development of slang language but not all slang words/terms.

Is there significant difference between the terms “language” and “slanguage”? Do you think this is a valuable word? Will you adopt this term into your vocabulary? What terms have you developed?

I love language and that it develops every day. I enjoy examining culture, vernacular, colloquialisms, and slang. I sign (ASL), speak French, English, and have been working on Spanish. I began learning foreign languages at 7, took a 5 year hiatus, and resumed at 12. I only wish I had been introduced to foreign language at a younger age.

Black Theater: Ritual Performance in the African Diaspora by Paul Carter Harrison, Victor Leo Walker II, and Gus Edwards is not a book that focuses on directing theater. Its focus is not even directing “Black Theater.” Rather, it is a study of African-American theater and how it is produced today. However, by examining African-American theater practices, traditions and history, the book highlights key points that directors should not forget. Any director that takes on the task of bringing Black drama to life on stage must acknowledge the need for call and response, repetition and ritual, and finding the relevance of African traditions in theater.
A large part of African-American culture and performance history is the usage of call and response. In call and response the performers and the audience share in the experience as participants in a time-honored ritual. This technique can be observed throughout the history and present day activities of African-American people, from church and religious gatherings to all different forms and variations of music. Call and response is a large part of blues, gospel, Negro spirituals, rhythm and blues, rock ‘n’ roll, and hiphop. Musical selections like Stevie Wonder’s rhythm and blues hit “Fingertips”, Ray Charles’ blues anthem “It’s Alright”, and Donny Hathaway’s gospel ballad “I Love the Lord” welcome, demand, and even require audience participation. Hiphop’s Emcee, popularly referred to as a “rapper”, is derived from the initials M.C. which stand for Master/Mistress of Ceremonies. At social gatherings where hiphop was present, M.C.’s began to host such events with crowd participation routines, which later grew into full-scale verses of musical spoken word. The writers within this book insists that these traditions in African-American storytelling are also found at the core of Black theater.
It is important for a director of Black theater to understand the important role of call and response and that proper arrangements are made to accommodate it. Black audiences will respond to a moving and compelling story and the way it is presented, with both verbal and non-verbal communication such as claps and stomps. It is important that they not be discouraged by this or bound to the rules of traditional “western theater”. In Paul Carter Harrison’s essay Forms and Transformation, he asserts that Black Theatrical tradition dates back to a slave ritual know as “The Ring Shout”; in this event Africans in the Americas shared their stories while witnessing the stories of others in a circle with dance and audible praise. This tradition is similar to religious testimonies and hiphop ciphers, where the audience and performers are peers sharing experiences. The essay explains that this builds an unbreakable kinship between the performers and the audience, allowing for a give and take of energy and security between the two parties. A writer from the Negro Ensemble Company states, “We never needed to look in the papers to find out whether or not we had a hit, we could tell by the way the audience responded” (pg.325).
Repetition and ritual are focal points, often mentioned throughout the book. A continuous pattern of actions and words are the building blocks of Black performances. In other words, rhythm is a needed storytelling tool when dealing with the African Diaspora. This is also reflected in music and religious ceremonies. Paul Carter Harrison says that rituals are spiritual and that spirituality is a cornerstone of the Black drama. “Without the benefit of a forceful, spiritually expressive character, the dramatization of black experience becomes frozen in sociological analysis” (pg.323). The contributors argue that Black theater is rooted in ritual not realism.
They proclaim that the overtly spiritual rituals found in plays like Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow’s Enuf, are what causes the audience to respond. It is not a simple portrayal of events, but a dramatized, sermon-like depiction of true life experiences, that draws the audience into the story. “It is widely accepted that, owing to the incantory power of the preacher to rouse emanations of the spirit, few leave the black church ritual the way they entered. At work here is not merely representation of the Gospel…; it is the mimetic figuration of myths conjured with a language that signifies the conjunction of ethos and cosmos, a ritual reenactment of earthly issues” (pg.326).
“Transformation requires a procreative process whereby the retrieval of the old is transmuted into concrete image or idea in the new experience. Thus in addition to rhythm, one of the important performance devices found in African Diaspora cultures is repetition…”(pg. 327 Snead:50-57). The usage of repetitious action and speech is vital to the communication of Black theater. So it is important that even if there isn’t repetition in the text, repeated words or phrases, that characters performing African-American stories exercise repetition in the way that they speak or in their actions. A character rhythm must be created, actors must conjure up the ideas expressed throughout the piece. It is important that the performance follow a ritualistic pattern of rhythm and repetition.
Finally, it is important that directors of Black theater understand the importance of the history of African traditions in theater. This is important for contextualizing your work, as well as breaking new ground as an artist and storyteller. In her essay The Sense of Self in Ritualizing New Performance Spaces for Survival, contributing writer Beverly J. Robinson describes briefly the history of African drama in the Americas. According to the text, dances like “The Limbo” were formed during the Middle Passage to “keep Africans as physically presentable as possible”. She also contends that Negro spirituals and later songs developed on the “chain gangs” by African-American prisoners were games and codes, that not only aided the escape and revolt of Africans, but kept them safe from harm during their demeaning tasks. Mrs. Bessie Jones, granddaughter of slaves, recounts, “the older men would teach the younger ones how to sing certain songs to keep the field boss at bay. Because if you get too still the captain will think you might be doing something wrong.” “If you want to please your captain/Sink em’ low boys, raise em’ high,” went one slave song. “Sink the shovel low in the dirt to get a shovel full, and then throw it up high. A light shovel always meant a whipping or punishment” (Robinson 334). We can gather from this that the traditional usage for Black drama and performance are practical at their core. For example, certain games, codes, and dances developed by slaves are still used as teaching tools for children today.
“Two ritual elements universally common to theater are dance/movement and storytelling/oral tradition” (Robinson 332). It is clear that African-American movement and storytelling techniques are different in style and culture than traditional western ones, so directors of Black theater would need to acquaint themselves with African-American styles of dance and oral tradition in order to successfully direct Black drama. It is also necessary that we take into account the context of each performance tradition for Black Americans. These dances, words, and other forms of expression are often created as defense mechanisms in hostile environments and tools for everyday survival. It is important that we not minimize or forget that history when addressing each performance method.
African-American theater must not be an imitation of mainstream white theater that is most common. Rather it is something wholly different and should be directed as such. It should use the methods of call and response to engage its audience in fellowship and camaraderie. “Stanislavsky’s ‘magic if’ treats ‘if’ as a word that can transform our thoughts… This particular doctrine becomes destructive for many African Americans, whom ‘if’ can make very angry. ‘If there had not been slavery,’ ‘If I were white,’ ‘If there were no racism,’ ‘If I could get a job’ …” (pg.353). It is clear that our methods must be different. Black theater should be based in ritual and repetition so as to serve the play and drive home the spiritual core of the story. The director should utilize the history that it is built on as a blueprint for the future or as possible rules to strategically break while setting a new standard and covering new ground. Barbara Ann Teer, founder of the National Black Theatre of Harlem said, “My vision of theater is one rooted in the heart, not the mind. I want to add another dimension to theater-the dimension of human spirit, so that people will get to experience who they are when they come to the theater…”(pg.352).