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ScienceIAMAn ecologist. I have studied pythons and marsh rabbits in the Everglades, squirrels, and endangered bats. AMA!

Apr 4th 2018 by IFAS_WEC_AMAs • 23 Questions • 4500 Points

I'm an artist, father of two girls, a husband, and an outdoors hunter and fisherman. My collection "COLORISM" is an amazing display of colorful expressionist brushstrokes that brings my subject matter to life. I was originally born in a small city in Albania and moved to Canada in 1998. Few people know that I love to ATV and snowmobile, it is a cold county so you have to enjoy the outdoors. I'll be at Silicon Valley Comic Con this weekend showcasing my latest DC Comics universe inspired works of art. https://blendcota.com/

Proof: https://i.redd.it/zylw06h1jip01.jpg

Q:

I couldn't help but notice you're a biologist with a JOB.

How does one acquire these?

A:

A, how?

B, link to your favorite composition, please.


Q:

Favourite superhero as a child?

A:

Yes, getting paid to do what I love has been a long journey. I studied Environmental science in undergrad at the University of Massachusetts, while there I had the opportunity to study abroad in Africa. That opportunity really changed my life and made me want to do field biology. My first few jobs were internships, where I was given a small stipend and housing. I worked hard at those and built from there to paid technician work until I got into graduate school.

Somethings that really helped me be able to do this were: 1) I had 0$ student debt (between going to a state school, my parents, scholarships, and grants)
2) not having a car 3) being on my parent's insurance until I was 26 4) being willing to move every 3-6 months for 6 years


Q:

A: I rely entirely on the printed score to understand music. I cannot identify what voice is singing, what instrument is being played, melody, harmony, form - anything - but once I see it on the page, I know in my head exactly what it sounds like.

I would say this is linked to playing the piano. The piano is such a big, physical instrument with a wide pitch range; when you press a key down, you feel the hammer hit the string, the vibrations travel up your arm and every note feels different. It's easy to relate the note you depress to the one printed on the musical stave/score and therefore easy to relate what you see to what you feel.

I say "easy" as I never recall having any trouble learning music. I started playing the piano when I was 5 and, over the years, have tried playing many other instruments so I have some idea of their tone, timbre, etc.

There are some kinds of music which are harder for me to access, such as Jazz and Electronic as this cannot be written down and therefore I can't read and understand it.

B: To answer your second question, my favourite piece of music depends on what mood I'm in! I often think about what recordings I would take to that mythical desert island, and there are a few pieces that would always make the list:

Carilion - Herbie Flowers and Ian Gomm (Recorded by SKY on their first album) Ave verum corpus, K. 618 - Mozart West Side Story - Bernstein

I am a massive James MacMillan fan - I think he's a genius!

A:

It is a toss up between batman and superman. Too hard to choose just one. Depends what comic book I was into at the time.


Q:

Thank you so much for replying! Any advice on how to get involved in internships?

A:

A, thank you for such a detailed answer. I think I kind of understand. I have zero musical talent besides being able to whistle a bit. But you helped me understand a bit what it's like to " be a musician".

B, I wasn't clear in my first B. I meant your favorite composition of your own.


Q:

They're not mistakes, they're happy accidents

A:

An indispensable resource for jobs: https://wfscjobs.tamu.edu/job-board/

Also, most parks have internship opportunities - reach out and ask how you can help.


Q:

As I'm not really a composer and have written very little stuff that I would share with anyone, I don't actually have a favourite of mine. There is one little piece I wrote for my chapel choir when I was at University which I like but that's about it, haha!

A:

true!


Q:

Have supportive parents, who are not poor, willing to drive you around, pay for college and be completely supportive of the education endevors that you choose. Too late for me, but I will try to do better for my kids.


Q:

I'd be interested to see your take on it, especially given that it would constrain some of your contrast.

A:

Yes, I am incredibly aware and grateful of my privileged and the opportunities that I have. In my lab, we are currently trying to research how to remove these barriers to entry to the field.

As for the car-less thing - my parents didn't drive me around, I worked in the middle of nowhere and stayed there


Q:

Thanks for sharing this.

A:

Disneyland and Space Mountain!


Q:

I read a research (cited in theguardian's recent biodiversity longform piece) that said climate change had eight times more media presence than biodiversity issues. What are your thoughts on this?

A:

In regards to the tones "feeling different" how does that relate to a synthesized instrument vs. an actual piano?


Q:

How often do people tell you you look like Hugh Jackman?

A:

Climate change has the potential to threaten human well being globally.

Floods, fires, and hurricanes are very salient threats to human security. The loss of over half of the worlds species in the next century is a more abstract idea.

The biodiversity crisis is also largely tied to climate change in that the drivers of climate change (fossil fuel use, forest destruction, and population increase) also contribute to species loss.


Q:

They are completely different. Every 'real' piano you play feels different whereas most synthesised instruments I've tried feel exactly the same. The latter are not alive to me at all whereas acoustic instruments have their own character and personality.

A:

All the time


Q:

Are you the same Everglade python and rabbit researcher that wrote a letter to the My Favorite Murder podcast about almost getting murdered/wandering into a crime scene????? If not, what are the odds and you should listen to that episode!

A:

So would this be similar to Beethoven when he went deaf, and relying on vibration? I imagine the experience being similar, but never having heard the actual sounds..kudos to you man, that's rather mindblowing! Is there no tech available or in the pipeline that you know of that might make it accessible? Do cochlear implants not work? Anyway, you're an inspiration man, like someone who's denser than water but swims the Channel, has no arms but takes up shot put, damn, I have no good analogy, like a guy who does what you do. Inspiring, makes me think I should do more with what I have. Hope the road ahead works out curiously wonderful for you.


Q:

Any hints relating to future Disney Kinkade releases?

A:

SSDGM -A


Q:

Love your comments, thank you so much. I don't feel an implant would work for me at all. I like my current curiously wonderful life. Hope yours is equally curiously wonderful!

A:

Mulan


Q:

I heard that there are nile crocodiles in the everglades now, is that true?

A:

Hey!

How did you get into music?

Also how do you describe the feeling of music?

Also congratulations and I think you are cool! X


Q:

Who is your favorite Disney character to paint?

A:

Occasionally the stray Nile crocodile shows up, but these are isolated incidents and they are captured as soon as possible.

I am never truly surprised of what shows up in the Everglades, Miami is the largest port for imported wildlife.


Q:

Thank you very much!

Even though I was born deaf, music was always around in the house when I was growing up. My Mum played the piano and my parents had the radio on or played records nearly all the time, so I was aware of this phenomenon which affected people in profound ways. Perhaps if I had grown up in an environment where there was lots of art or dance, I may have pursued that path instead!

Finding a teacher was often a challenge as they were unsure of how to communicate and to explain music to someone without hearing. I always rely on what I call the 'played example' where the teacher showed me what they wanted me to do, then I watched and copied it.

Describing the feeling of music is a tough one to answer. Sometimes, I can attend a performance of a piece of music and feel that I'm going to burst because it's so overpowering; at other times, it makes me happy or sad or makes me cry. Music can bring people together, and divide people, can be used as a political tool, can be experienced alone or in a crowd. You can have several thousand people attending one physical performance of a piece of music, but everyone goes away having responded to it differently. That's the power of music! For me, it's something that I just have to do and I can't imagine life without it.

A:

My favorite Disney character to paint has got to be Mickey Mouse. He is definitely my favorite but I love to paint him with Minnie Mouse.


Q:

So what are some of the stranger things that have shown up?

A:

Out of interest, if you're attending a performance, but do not hear the music, what is it that's affecting you? I can understand the physicality of playing music you can't hear and engaging with it, but watching someone else play but not being physically linked to the music, how does that work?


Q:

oh...so you are into the kink business ;)

A:

I caught a few peacocks on my game cameras, and there are wild capybaras in some parts of Florida

Here is a great website that has all the invasive species detected in FL http://www.eddmaps.org/Species/


Q:

Part of the attraction of attending a performance is sharing that experience with other people. Being at a live performance also exposes you to the full harmonic range and a greater sense of vibration. I enjoy watching people actually playing music and can pick up differences in interpretation from watching them. Aside from the Sondheim at 80 Prom in 2010, which I signed, the most profound live music experience was a performance of James MacMillan's 'Seven Last Words' at Birmingham Town Hall by Britten Sinfonia and chorus 2 years ago. It was just phenomenal.

A:

That is a great question... give me a moment to think about it.


Q:

I don’t have a question but a small story to let you know your research is making an impact on younger generations.

While babysitting a friend’s nearly 4 year old son, he piped up and asked me and my husband “Do you want to be on my team?” “What sort of team?” “We will work in the Everglades and return lost pets to their owners. We will be rescuers.” “Oh yeah? Tell us more.” “Well, we’re going to rescue Burmese pythons that got lost by their owners because they’re not supposed to be there.”

See, he’s addicted to watching National Geographic. He saw a show ep regarding the Everglades where they talked about dumping of snakes and the impact on the ecosystem. He understood the snakes are a problem and they’re there because of people but in his mind, the snakes were lost and not abandonded. He just turned five and he still wants to be part of an Everglade rescue team.

A:

Hello Dr. Whittaker. Thank you for doing this AMA. As a CoDA (also from the UK), it is really wonderful to see a member of the Deaf Community spreading positive information about the fact that people who are deaf really can do anything that a hearing person can do. Apart from hear, of course.

You mentioned we could ask questions about access issues. What kind of access issues do you face in your work and/or personal life? Is there anything you would want to highlight to hearing communities as a particular issue that you (and other deaf people face)?


Q:

How would you describe your style of painting? How long does a piece typically take you to finish?

A:

That is so sweet, thanks for sharing!


Q:

Hello, many thanks for your message and question. As we both know, deaf people can do anything that hearing people can do, apart from hear!

I'm fortunate in having a decent Access To Work agreement and have good interpreter support, but that doesn't stop me from occasionally wanting to pick up a phone and have a conversation with someone, or from wishing that I could listen to the radio. Generally speaking - I'm told - the level of conversion and debate on radio is far higher than it is on TV.

Probably the biggest access barriers are to do with every day leisure and entertainment. Things like not being able to go to the cinema or the theatre when you feel like it, but having to find when there is a captioned or signed performance. That restriction of choice is frustrating, especially if you're wanting to go with friends. Within that, there is the issue of whether the interpreter is actually any good, whether you can understand them, or whether the captions will actually work in the cinema.

Technology has improved the lives of deaf people in many ways and there is certainly far more choice and more opportunities than when I was young, but there is still a long way to go before deafness and deaf people are seen and accepted.

What still concerns me greatly is the quality and provision of deaf education in the UK. Teachers Of The Deaf often do a sterling job under difficult circumstances, but integration certainly does not work for all deaf children, and many deaf children fail to achieve their potential. Expectations can often be quite low and although this is not current political thinking, my view is that there should always be a place for schools for the deaf.

Greater recognition of BSL and having it as a curriculum subject in schools would make a vast difference, but we then have the issue of who would actually teach it as there aren't enough good BSL teachers around.

The amount of poor quality so called "BSL" signed song videos on YouTube and other social media is one of my bug bears. It's so disheartening reading glowing comments about how marvellous these videos are when they don't respect deaf people or their language, and shows just how ignorant a lot of people are about sign language.

What's your view on all this?

A:

The style is modern expressionism but I like to refer to it as "Colorism". It takes me probably a month or two month to finish a piece (from concept to final painting). I tend to work on two or more paintings at the same time so I can keep my mind fresh, take a break, and stay engaged!


Q:

Do the “bounty” programs for pythons have any real effect of the total numbers, and is there any hope of actual eradication of this particular invasive species or of restoring the ecosystem to its former state?

A:

Hi!

I am glad to read that you have good ATW support. It seems increasingly rare these days.

I know exactly what you mean regarding accessing other platforms for debate and discussion. Televised debates are indeed often so limited in topics and depth. One area that has been of great interest to me personally in the last couple of years have been podcasts. I listen to many different podcasts and regularly find myself wishing that there were more hours in the day for me to sit and transcribe some of the discussions and debates so I can share them with my Mother.

One frustrating thing for me over the years has been the attitude of people when it comes to watching subtitled films in the cinema. On one (very rare) occasion, Mum had the opportunity to attend a subtitled film showing. I was gobsmacked to learn that one person started complaining during the showing about the fact that the film was subtitled. The individual went out and complained to the cinema management about it. It was clearly advertised as a subtitled screening..... It's not the only occasion I've heard of where something like that has happened.

I worked for a few years in a charity providing practical support to deaf people across the UK. I met and worked with a couple of Teachers of the Deaf and was horrified to learn about the conditions they have to work under. Massive caseloads across huge areas mixed with cuts to these provisions by local authorities...... It was clear to me how demoralising it must be to have to provide such an essential service in the face of such adversity. Unfortunately my concerns about education in the UK at the moment are not just limited to provisions for deaf children. I have seen increasing numbers of stories in the news and from various other sources about the depth of cuts to education and how this is impacting on students who need extra support to follow the standard curriculum. I hope, for the sake of the current generation of school-age children, that we see major political change in the UK sooner rather than later.

My opinion is that you touched on a wider debate about differentiating between BSL and SSE re your comment about signed songs. However, what I struggle with most when it comes to signed songs is that (mostly) signers only focus on lyrics. I went through the 'usual' teenage phase of loud rock music and over time Mum learnt to identify the sounds of different instruments (e.g. guitar, drums, bass guitar) from how the vibrations felt. As far as music goes, there is so much more to communicate than just lyrics.


Q:

Hi Blend! I’m going to SVCC this weekend! Do you have anything like “group shots” of the Justice League or the Avengers? And where does your inspiration come from (dreams, comics, movies)?

A:

Currently, there is no "bounty" program for pythons.

There have been a few "Python Round-Ups" that have removed ~100 snakes each. Bounty programs can be complicated to run and often have unintended consequences, including the perverse incentive to release more snakes into the wild.

Also, pythons are very hard to find! Unfortunately, I do not think we can remove every one of them by hand. The round-ups do have a few positive benefits; they raise money for Everglades conservation and raise public awareness to keep non-native pets inside!!!!


Q:

Absolutely agree with your comment about people complaining at subtitle screenings. That's probably why cinemas always show them at stupid times when most deaf people can't go.

Yes, most signed songs only focus on lyrics rather than just music. Hopefully that's not an area that I fall down in!

A:

You can check out my "The Justice League" at Thomaskinkade.com. My inspiration comes from comics, movies, and life in general.


Q:

Is there anything I can do while living in the city to help any of those animals?

A:

What's your favorite genre? Deaf metal?


Q:

Of your work do you have a favorite piece? If so where is it now?

A:

Thank you so much for your interest in helping wildlife!

You may not realize it, but lots of wildlife live in cities! Urban parks are important places for birds to nest or stop in while they migrate and peregrine falcons even nest on sky scrapers!

So you can do things right in your neighborhood to help wildlife- make sure your trash is secure (its bad for raccoons to get at trash), keep your pets inside (dogs and cats scare wildlife), and even plant or put out potted plants that can provide food and cover for animals living in the city.

As for the animals in the Everglades, donating to The Everglades Foundation is a great way to help out. Also, share what you know about invasive species (like the pythons) so that other people won't introduce more.

Did I give you enough home work? :)


Q:

Ha ha. No, it's not, but even if I was exposed to metal, the volume level fortunately couldn't damage my hearing anymore than it already is.

A:

I have a few favorite ones, it is too hard to choose just one. But if I had pick right now it would be "King of the Jungle" or "Flamenco Dancer" you can check them out at BlendCota.com. They are currently in my studio but they will both be going to Artexpo New York in (booth 202) April 19-21.


Q:

Are you finding that the python population is the greatest threat to squirrels or is it merely an aggravating factor along with habitat loss and climate change issues?

A:

As a metalhead i find the phenomenon of insanely loud music at concerts very troubling. Even with earplugs, it is sometimes too loud.


Q:

If you could have any of your art displayed on any place in the world, which piece would you choose and where?

A:

My masters and PhD work are not related, my squirrel research is in southwest GA where fire suppression and habitat loss is the big problem.

However, I do have a few projects still going on in the Everglades and it seems that squirrels are one of the only mammal species still hanging on down there.

Potentially, being arboreal and diurnal (active during the day) helps keep them away from the snakes. As for the rest of the mammal populations, while habitat destruction, pollution, and water flow problems are certainly not making life easy - pythons are by far the biggest threat.

I did a study where I looked at the spacial distribution of mammals and how that lined up with habitat loss, water flow, pollution and other factors and found that pythons are the #1 problem for mammals.


Q:

I can imagine. Even though I am deaf I still find that loud music is painful. Not surprising that so many musicians develop hearing problems. You only need to be exposed to it for a few minutes before your hearing is permanently damaged. Dangerous stuff, is music!

A:

It would have to be in New York at Times Square on New Years Eve and it would be a toss up between "King of the Jungle" and "Dark Knight".


Q:

What species of squirrel is it that is in the Everglades? We’ve got a serious issue with invasive American grey squirrels out competing our native reds in the UK. Culling has been proven not massively cost effective, and no species specific contraception is available yet. Have there ever been any trapping and relocating of squirrels to America that you know of? Seems trapping squirrels and transporting them to America may be beneficial for both and therefore cost effective? Species specificity wouldn’t be an issue as the reds could just be rereleased, and wouldn’t take a whole lot of man power if they were multi catch traps. Although, not sure if they’ve been here so long now that gene issues may come into play.

A:

What influenced you to start playing music even though you couldn't hear it? Was Beethoven's loss of hearing and later works an influence on you?


Q:

Mr. Cota, my daughter is interested in a graphic arts career. Do you have any tips I can pass on to her to make a career of it?

A:

Eastern grey squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) and Fox squires (Sciurus niger) can both be found in the Everglades.

The Eastern grey is common in Florida and is invasive in many parts of the UK and Europe. Grey squirrels do great in human modified systems, here in the US I am studying how they are forcing out Fox squirrels from habitats that human alter.

Unfortunately, relocating squirrels is not very effective. The squirrels usually die shortly after release because they do not know where to hide from predators.


Q:

Despite my deafness, I was aware of a lot of music going on in the home, and at age 5 decided I wanted to play the piano. 2 years later, I joined the local church choir and through that developed an interest in the organ, which I started to learn when 12. At 14, I took charge of my own choir. Originally I considered a career as a concert pianist or organist, but couldn’t really be bothered to practice enough (!) so eventually decided to aim for a University place to read for a music degree. Over a 2-year period I applied to 12 Universities and was rejected by all of them because of my deafness :(

I wouldn't say that Beethoven's loss of hearing and his later works were an influence on me at all. The onset of his deafness was gradual so he had the benefit of hearing music when he was young; whereas I was born deaf so don't have that advantage.

Having said that, I do feel there are some strange ideas about how Beethoven's deafness affected him and I wrote an article about this a few years ago. If you want to see it, let me know.

A:

Have her practice her craft as often as possible to perfect her skill set. An immersive school for the arts might benefit her. Good luck!


Q:

I had never heard of marsh rabbits until moving to Florida. Are they a separate species or a subspecies? Do they have traits that make them more successful in the marsh? Does interbreeding occur?

A:

You mention how you can feel the vibrations from a piano. Is there anything similar when playing an organ?


Q:

What is your favorite dinosaur?

A:

Marsh rabbits are their own species (Sylvilagus palustris) and do not interbreed with other types of rabbits. The genus Sylvilagus includes Eastern cottontails (S. floridanus), swamp rabbits (S. aquaticus), and about 17 other species of "cottontails". Marsh rabbits, swamp rabbits, and Eastern cottontails all occur in the Southeast.

Marsh rabbits have a few adaptations that make them great at life in the Everglades. They have fully furred and slightly webbed feet that aid in swimming. They also have short hair to help keep the water off. Compared to Eastern cottontails they have darker coloring and no white tail to help them blend in.


Q:

It is harder playing an organ than a piano because the tactile sensation is far less. Also quite often, the organ console is separate from the actual workings of the instrument so you have additional acoustic barriers to manage.

With an older organ, the action of the instrument may be quite slow anyway, so there is a delay between pressing a key down and a sound coming out of a pipe. That's just one of those things that you have to learn to deal with! Playing an organ with tracker action, where you have a kind of double pressing of the key (like on a harpsichord) is fun because it's incredible tactile.

Linked to this question - I've always had problems playing electric pianos or keyboards due to an almost total lack of tactile sensation and numerous occasions have been playing away very happily without realising there is no sound being produced whatsoever.

A:

t-rex!


Q:

I live on a preserve in Southwest FL (FM) and have been working with a couple local groups on ocean conservation as a normal citizen. Is there a way to get involved in helping everglades conservation as a volunteer? The invasive species killing our migratory birds is something I don't see being addressed.

A:

Your sight-reading skills must have been very well developed at 12 to start playing organ!


Q:

Do you speak Albanian? I always get interested when I meet figures who are Albanian because they're so rare! (I am Albanian too, but Macedonian Albanian.)

A:

Reach out to the park! Everglades National Park has an active volunteer program.

The Everglades Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area is another great organization.


Q:

My sight reading skills were very well developed by the time I was 8. The challenge with the organ was reading 3 staves of music at once rather than just 2 for the piano.

A:

I do speak Albanian.


Q:

Slightly off-topic, but relevant since your papers are affected:

So many white paper publications are stuck behind paywalls, and I'm not about to fork up $39.95 USD for full access to your paper on invasive pythons, even though I'd be very interested in reading the full-text if the content were affordable.

As an engaged citizen (but not a student, nor employed by a scientific / academic employer), I hit these white paper paywalls once every week or two and was wondering if you have any advice. Specifically: What is the most affordable (and still ethical) means to access the wonderful world of full-text white papers?

A:

Regarding the Universities rejecting you due to deafness, was this because they didn't know what to do with you, or because they wouldn't/couldn't alter the ear training requirements for you?

For my undergraduate degree the ear training was intense, and a huge part of the program. We had to pass a 64 Interval test, sight singing, and dictation exams to even stay in the program. The music department at my University had the highest non-completion rate because people couldn't pass the 64 Interval Test, so counselors would actually discourage people from being a music major. I imagine most of those things would have been difficult for you, except perhaps for sight singing?

Did you try any music conservatories instead? They tend to be less concerned with the above and more centered on performance practice.


Q:

Thoughts on Justice League movie?

A:

My go to is google scholar, they often have links to PDFs. Authors have the right to share full-text papers personally, so try emailing the author. Most scientists will be ecstatic that you are interested in their very specific topic.

If you keep hitting pay walls try using the internet at a local library or university. Their IP addresses will usually let you get past paywalls.


Q:

I suspect it was a bit of both. No doubt they were scared of how to cope with a deaf musician. I'm sure the aural requirements were part of it, too.

I took one diploma exam where they completely refused to change the aural test in any way and only backed down after a media campaign gave them bad publicity. I feel the situation would not happen now but I'm not always comfortable with the alternative arrangements that are sometimes made for deaf candidates. We want the same diploma/degree qualifications as anyone else - not a lesser version of it. There are other ways of assessing someones musicality and musicianship aside from aural tests.

I didn't apply for music conservatories because I wanted a music degree with more focus on academic and theoretical work than on performing.

A:

Amazing


Q:

I have some bats on my land, What can I do/plant to help them thrive?

A:

Have you ever considered helping develop guidelines for musical education and a testing standard that enables deaf musicians to get such a degree? You seem like the perfect person to get the ball rolling.


Q:

What are your thoughts on digital comics vs. print comics?

A:

Thank you so much for thinking about how to help bats on your property!

If you live in Florida, most bats like to sleep under bark and in hollow trees. If at all possible, keep older trees and snags on your property. If you do need to remove these habitats try to replace them with bat boxes.

Avoid using pesticides on your property, bats can be your natural pesticide! Depending on what types of bats you have you can plant vegetation that will encourage their prey (i.e.moths). No matter what, before you do anything, make sure bats can't get into your home! Seal up any cracks, chimneys, or crawl spaces so the bats stay outside. The best way to help wildlife is to reduce any chance of conflict/interaction with people!


Q:

For 27 years, I ran a charity - 'Music And The Deaf' - and spent a lot of time dealing with music education, including creating a guide to teaching music for deaf children. I left over 3 years ago and now work freelance.

Although we achieved a lot, there is still much to be done - particularly in ensuring that exam board really do meet the needs of deaf candidates and that Universities and conservatoires encourage and welcome applications from deaf musicians.

A:

I love print comics but digital are convenient. Either way a lot of work goes into the artwork; a computer is a tool just like a brush is.


Q:

What is one thing you think everyone should know about squirrels?

A:

How is it playing an instrument without hearing it? Is it even still fun? Do you imagine the sounds in your head?


Q:

Are you saying you are a sexy fine artist? Or are you saying you're fine as in you're okay? Or do you even go so far as to say you are a fine artist as in a very good one?

A:

Squirrels structure forests! Squirrels are important seed predators and disperses, they not only eat many acorns and pine cones but they also store them. Often, squirrels forget where the stash is or they die before they dig it back up - so the seed has a chance to sprout. Where the squirrels chose to stash the acorn or pine cone determines how the forest develops!


Q:

I may not hear the instrument, but I can certainly feel it and there is an immense amount of fun and pleasure from that. My main instruments are the piano and organ and, having tried many other instruments over the years, I have a good imagination and was actually told by one of my tutors that I was really good at orchestrating and arranging music because my imagination was so vivid.

I would say that your ears are not actually that important when playing music; your heart and soul and emotion play a bigger role. Musicality is not linked to hearing ability. There are thousands of hearing people who say they don't like music and many deaf people who do!

A:

That is up to interpretation... but I like the way I look and my art. Judge for yourself at blendcota.com


Q:

Have you recorded the Florida Bonneted Bat (Eumops floridanus) at all in the Everglades or anywhere else where you have surveyed? Either acoustically or by capture.

A:

I would like to add that as a (almost) deaf former professional musician, my ears prevent me from hearing music as I know it should sound. If I could somehow disconnect my ears and stop the tinnitus and distortion I would enjoy music a lot more than I do now. I miss the good old days.


Q:

Calgary is a bigger Con than Silicon Valley Comic Con.

A:

My collaborators detected Fl. bonneted bats acoustically in many habitats in South Florida. Here is a great write up of that research: https://academic.oup.com/jmammal/article/98/6/1586/4160385


Q:

Tinnitus is horrendous, so sorry you suffer from that. What caused your hearing loss? Hearing aids can - as you may know - add to the distortion rather than clear it.

A:

Good to know, I will have to put it on the list.


Q:

How did the Burmese pythons got to the Everglades? Were they purposely put there for eradicating some other invasive species?

A:

Is there any feedback loop that you use when playing music to make sure you are keeping time/pitch? Can you feel any vibrations that help you keep on track or is it just a matter of accurately transcribing sheet music into movement for you?


Q:

Calgary is a bigger Con than Silicon Valley Comic Con.

A:

Pythons were introduced to the Everglades accidentally via the pet trade.

The most likely scenario is that in the 1980's a few owners released their pets when they got too large. These released pets found each other and started to breed in the wild. Another possibility is that breeding facilities in Florida were damaged by hurricanes and many baby snakes were released.


Q:

I guess this question is linked to signed song. I don't use any equipment apart from my hearing aids, but can only translate a song when I've seen the sheet music, learned it, and memorised it. I then spend time going through the song with my interpreters, checking timing, multi-tracking, and other musical elements. Once I've completed that process, the recording of a song is pretty well implanted in my brain, though I still have to rely on vibrations to follow it when performing.

On occasions, I do keep an eye on my interpreter so that they can mouth lyrics if I get out of time but this doesn't often happen. Rather, I mentally fast forward to certain chords and when those specific vibrations hit me, I know I'm in time.

A:

My art has been on display at Wonder Con and New York Comic Con but I have not been to the Con in Calgary but it is on my list.


Q:

Hey, I'm from the green swamp in Central Florida. Like... straight out of the swamp, girl. (gator catchin and frog giggin childhood) I am pregnant with my first girl (am living in Norway) and just wondering if you have any name ideas that could reflect the plants/ wildlife of our beautiful Florida swamps? Smiles!

A:

Have you ever done ASL or met someone with ASL? You mention BSL.

What's the hardest piece you played?

Any instrument you tried, but gave up on it?


Q:

Awesome!!! Thank you! I was just at Wondercon and saw your art there. They said you’d be at SVCC so I waited to get something hoping you’d sign it in Silicon Valley. My favorite painting is your new Superman. It’s sick! Is that Catwoman behind you available yet? I want to get that one too!

A:

That is a great idea! I am always on the lookout for good science words that can also be names. Lindenii is the species name for Ghost orchids, so Linden is an option I have considered. Also, Hyla is a genius of tree frog that I love.

Congratulations and good luck!


Q:

I spent almost 2 months in the USA back in 1992 and picked up a fair bit of ASL at that point, but have forgotten most of it now. The differences between ASL and BSL are profound and I admit that I find it hard to follow as I'm not exposed to it enough.

The hardest piece I've ever played is probably anything by Bach! I think Bach was an absolute genius but have never enjoyed playing his music in public, maybe because every other Organist thinks they know how to play Bach better than you do! There are some incredibly difficult contemporary pieces which I have never bothered learning, but may one day get around to.

One instrument that I'd love to learn is the cello, but the only instrument I've ever tried and given up on is the violin. I just found it uncomfortable to play, my fingers are used to being on a keyboard not a fingerboard, and the sound I produced was extremely painful for others!

A:

The Catwomen is sicker than Superman! I can't wait for SVCC late this week... but Catwomen is still being approved by DC and will be out shortly.


Q:

Are the pythons expanding their territory north into the rest of the state? Is it even possible to eradicate them at this point, or are they here to stay?

A:

Do you know other sign languages, such as American Sign Language? I have a degree in music and I took ASL courses at my university. I would love to be more involved in deaf music culture. How do I do that? I am hearing ( actually I sometimes suspect that I have over sensitive hearing) but I have great earplugs to protect myself if need be.


Q:

Very cool! I’ll get Superman at SVCC and Catwoman later then. Do you have a website? Can’t wait to meet you, man! Your work is amazing.

A:

Removals are tracking Northward. The exact extent of their potential range is heavily debated among ecologists. Winter low temperatures are likely the limiting factor for pythons. However, pythons may adapt by seeking refugia in caves and burrows.

The best way to eradicate invasive species is to intervene early in the invasion process. We may be able to keep pythons out of areas that they have not yet invaded like Texas or the Lower Keys. I like to be an optimist and believe that we can control pythons in FL and return our native mammal populations!


Q:

With my work, I travel to many countries, but I'm never there long enough to acquire local sign language skills. For my involvement with ASL, see my reply to /u/NeutralSabrina.

If you were in the UK, I would do my best to involve you in some of my work so you could gain experience. Sadly, you're not in the UK, and I don't actually know of any national organisations in the US that focus on music work with deaf people. My suggestion would be to investigate local deaf schools and deaf centres, find out what music and arts activities they have, and offer to help. You could also try contacting local professional music venues, orchestras, bands, etc, etc, to ask if they have any engagement with the deaf community.

Great to know that you have ear plugs to protect your hearing. So many people don't realise how easily their hearing can be damaged - it's so important to look after it because once you lose it, it's gone!

Good luck.

A:

I do, you can check out my work at blendcota.com

I can't wait to meet you at SVCC!


Q:

As temperatures may change in the next hundred or so years, will the niches these animals live in change in any ways that will effect them? Will their regions expand northward/southward?

Also, since you're an active ecologist who studies animals, maybe you have a story or two I can add to this (since there's no book on these types of broad ecology relationships, I had to start a new page to collect them): http://tttthis.com/lessonsfromecology.php

A:

What's your favorite book?


Q:

You´re superbly talented, no doubt, but how did you end up fathering two girls, a husband and a couple of hunters at your age?!

A:

Of all the effects of climate change, I predict that sea level rise will affect Florida's wildlife the most. A rise of 1m will inundate almost all of Everglades National Park. The ecosystem may be able to track sea level rise and climate change, but only if we protect land to the North of the park.


Q:

Ooo that's a hard one. I don't have a favourite book, but one of the best books I've read recently is The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce which really made me think about the way people listen to and talk about music.

A:

hard work


Q:

I hear you did exciting work at GRCA in 2012 as well ;) Veg crew (and animal people too, I suppose) represent!

Question: what has been more beneficial in enabling you to pursue higher education in the sciences, work experience and letters of recommendation, or grades and standardized testing scores?

A:

How you doing doc ?


Q:

I saw you said you started painting around elementary, but I was curious, When you started taking art more seriously how many hours per week would you say you put into learning and drawing?

A:

I don't know how to Reddit enough to figure out which GRCA (Grand Canyon for the uninitiated) alum this is! But hey!

100% work experience and letters of recommendation. My current adviser was on the fence about me until they chatted with my GRCA supervisor. When he heard about all the crazy stuff I was willing to put up with to get at the owls, he knew I would be a good graduate student.


Q:

I am doing fine, thanks. Hope you are too. As I'm not a medical Doctor, please don't ask me to treat you if there is anything wrong!

A:

I went to an art focuses high school and practiced my craft 8 hours a day, six days a week.


Q:

Any interesting stories from your field work? Ever get spooked at night? Observe some undocumented behaviors in animals in the wild? Do you have any novel hypothesis about the creatures you study?

A:

Music treats the soul though, doesn't it?


Q:

I get spooked all the time at night! I used to do solo owl call back surveys at night in Grand Canyon, at first I was scared to hoot - I didn't want the creepy crawly boogie men to find me. Eventually, I got over it.

A:

Absolutely.


Q:

Have you found as a female in a STEM major that you've faced prejudice or sexism towards you?

A:

What would you recommend for a profound existential torpor?


Q:

Thank you for this very thoughtful question.

As a woman in STEM, especially in a discipline that has so much field work, I am usually aware that I am in a "man's field" but I have not felt direct prejudice or sexism. There have been times where I have to assert myself more and stand up for myself and interests because I am female.

Unfortunately, a lot of my female wildlife colleagues have experienced harassment and prejudice.

There are great groups like "Women of Wildlife" that we can turn to for support and the "Me too" movement is giving the women of STEM a platform to demand change in our field!

A:

I need to think about this one... so much music to choose from.


Q:

You can't comment on here without asking a question so I just wanted to know if you know that I love you and all that you do?

A:

Hi Paul. I'm a CODA in the UK (you might know my mum, she lives in Reading and had her own theatre company in the 90s called Co-Sign and directed Titus Andronicus in BSL in Bolton - her initials are CT).

My question is - when you're doing stage interpreting what do you use as your timing clues when you're not able to see the actors? Have you got a screen prompt, do you follow the conductor?

I'm a big Sondheim fan, so good work on doing the Sondheim at 80 gig! Have you seen Hamilton? That would be a NIGHTMARE to interpret :D

Bonus question: what is your favourite sign?


Q:

Awesome!

I am jealous. I love Zion and 7 days camping there will be very fun. Rattlesnakes are present in Zion (and pretty much everywhere out West) but should not deter you from enjoying the park.

Rattlesnakes are rodent predators and have no interest in harming humans but will defend themselves. This makes avoiding snake bites easy - don't look or smell like a mouse and leave them alone.

Snakes are often seen warming up on roads and trails in the morning. When they are basking they tend to be a little sluggish and may not get out of the way fast. Give them space and time and they will move on. Also avoid nooks and crevasses where snakes might hide and never put your hands where you can't see. Finally, always check your boots before you put them on each morning. It is rare for snakes to crawl in shoes, but spiders and scorpions might hide in there over night.

A:

Hello hello (and best wishes to your Mum).

Doing that Sondheim Prom was the best night of my life, but there was a lot of pressure. No, I haven't seen Hamilton yet.

When I do stage interpreting, I memorise the entire script, score and blocking. Obviously I find shows with dialogue really hard, so I tend to remember how long a speech is, where the pauses are, and then match my signing to the pauses. I've rely very much on the conductor and last year used a screen prompt for the first time. That was a massive help but I felt my performance lacked something through relying on a feed rather than my own memory.

I do very little stage work these days but do miss it.

I don't have a favourite sign. What's yours?


Q:

In a fight, we all know a python beats a rabbit.

But - as an ecologist - how many rabbits do you think it would take to tip the scales? (pun intended)

TLDR: What is the scientific Bunny/Python ratio, for gambling purposes, mostly.

A:

Have you ever composed any music? I imagine it would hard as you were born deaf.


Q:

Marsh rabbits are lovers not fighters. I don't even use drugs to keep them calm while I handle them. Some of them even lick me gently during collaring! Sooo...I don't think any number of rabbits could take on a python.

A:

I know how to compose and once or twice I have written short pieces for people I know, but would not call myself a composer. I prefer arranging music, especially for voices, as this challenges my imagination, but it's always easier writing or arranging for people or ensembles that you know rather than for strangers.

I don't find it hard to do simply because I've had a lot of musical training and have a lot of theoretical and academic knowledge. I admit that it would be nice to actually hear the performance taking place and experience the effect of sound in that specific building, but simply because I've never been able to hear, I don't spend any time getting upset or worrying about it.


Q:

Do you name the rabbits you meet?

A:

Do you have interest in other genres of music than classical? Do you dig hip hop or jazz?


Q:

As a rule, no. They all get a letter signifying the location and then a number (A1, A3, B1, B2 ect).

Some might have earned nick names, like "Yoda" who lived in a hollowed stump way out in the swamp by himself, or "Haymitch" the rabbit who outlived all the other study animals.

A:

My background is classical but I enjoy some other types as well - rock, pop, some traditional jazz (preferably vocal). Not really into hip hop and not at all into rap (but that style places more importance on lyrics than music I guess.)


Q:

What happened to Morla?

A:

I'm a musician and my uncle is a hard of hearing musician, so I appreciate all you've done. Thank you.

My question is: is your full title "Dr. Sir Paul" or "Sir Dr. Paul"? Very important, need to know.


Q:

She got a liver infection and passed away a year and a half ago :( Kidiri is nice tho.

A:

Thank you for your comment. I'd be interested to know what your uncle plays and how he copes with his hearing loss.

I have not been knighted, I am just Paul Whittaker OBE, but you can call me Paul.


Q:

Question: What kind of bear is best?

A:

How did you like working with Vin Diesel in the Fast and the Furious movies?


Q:

Polar

A:

You should see my driving skills. I can sign and drive at the same time (don't try this at home).


Q:

Hello Paul, I hope I'm not too late...

Have you done much work with people who have aquired hearing loss? I'm asking because of my Dad; he has been hard-of-hearing all his life but it has been deteriorating at a constant rate. Listening to music has always been one of his greatest passions, but recently he stopped listening to music because he says he can't really enjoy it anymore. I'm really saddened by this and wondered if people like him can find other ways to enjoy the music they love so much?

PS. nice to see a fellow person from Huddersfield!

A:

Hello fellow Huddersfield person!

I have worked off and on for 30 years with people who have an acquired hearing loss. So often they need much more support and encouragement and really struggle to adapt to having hearing loss. Hearing aids will only give a limited amount of help and, sadly, I know of many people like your Dad who stop listening to music because they say they can't enjoy it anymore.

If you wish to email me, then perhaps we could meet up and I could also meet your Dad to try and offer help and advice - [email protected]


Q:

How have you stayed positive when people in authority told you that you cannot do what hearing people do?

Thank you for sharing! It is very encouraging to learn about your music. I’m hearing impaired too and was recently told that I could not be in sound art class by a professor in a very famous art school. She outright said that she could not accommodate me as a disabled student who cannot hear very well. According to her, a reputable sound artist, I’m basically unteachable and disruptive because i need differentiated instruction. She also did not want my assistive listening device- neck loop around her equipment because she thought it might disrupt her recordings during class. It would not.

I’m leaving this art school next year and transferring to another school who offered me a doctrinal degree to research how schools can better accommodate students with hearing impairments. I will fight back with my pen.

A:

It wasn't always easy staying positive and I would have got really pissed off with your professor's attitude. Sadly, some people are so consumed by their own importance that they totally fail to teach, support, and encourage others. Hopefully, you will have a much better experience next year.

Having the support of family and friends was vital at the times I was told I couldn't do what I want, but I never wanted to give up because I was so passionate about music and about sharing it with other people.

Very best of luck to you in pursuing your chosen career. Go for it!


Q:

Did you ever experience bullying because of your deafness? How did you learn to speak English without being able to hear?

A:

There were occasions when I was bullied at middle school and secondary school, but I couldn't say if this was linked to my deafness or not. I never told anyone about it at the time, but now realise that I should've done.

I've encountered discrimination because of my deafness on various occasions, especially when I was applying to University to read for a music degree, and was told "Deaf people can't be musicians". Another occasion was when I was taking a music diploma exam on the organ and was not allowed to take anyone with me for a practice session: I need someone there to tell me if the balance between manuals is okay and if I'm playing for the acoustics of the room. The examining body then failed me for not playing for the acoustics of the room, which was rather annoying.

When I was very young, the use of sign language in education was banned, but because I have an older sister who is deaf, my parents knew some of the problems and pitfalls of bringing up a deaf child. I always loved reading so developed a big vocabulary at a young age. I learned words by being taught them phonetically. If I mispronounced something, I was corrected. I don't recall ever having speech therapy or finding it hard to talk (and I can talk a lot!), but nowadays, if I come across a word that I am unsure of how to pronounce, I will find another word with the same meaning rather than risk embarrassment by saying it incorrectly.


Q:

I find it really interesting that you speak with a British accent too.

A:

I can speak wi' a Yorkshire accent if tha wants mi to.


Q:

How would it feel for you if you could hear music ?

Is it possible to treat your deafness ?

Thank you for doing this.

A:

It would be interesting to know what music sounded like, but because I've never been able to hear properly, it's not something that I could make a comparison about. I feel it would be quite traumatic having to learn what all the different instruments, and the sounds around me are, and being deaf makes me who I am. So being able to hear would probably not be better at all, just different. If I could hear, I wouldn't be me! And I wouldn't have done the things that I have.

Lots of people suggest that I get a Cochlear Implant, but I don't want one. I'm sure that if my deafness could've been treated when I was young, then it would've been, but deaf I am, and deaf I will remain!


Q:

How did the queen look in person? Taller or shorter than you expected? And what did she say to you?

A:

It was the third time I've met The Queen when I got my OBE. The first time, we chatted about my work. The second was a brief introduction as part of a welcoming party, and the third was congratulating me on receiving an OBE.

She was shorter than I expected but has immense presence and makes you feel like you're the only person in the room.


Q:

Thank you so much for answering my question. Might I also ask what actually happens after you get your OBE? is there a formal dinner that occurs?

A:

No, there is no formal dinner. You go to an investiture, have your photo taken, then go home. If you want a formal dinner, you arrange it yourself and hope your friends will pay!


Q:

Have you ever tried listening to music through bone conduction ? What are your thoughts on it?

A:

I have tried listening through bone conduction in the past but found that it gave me less information than using hearing aids and relying on normal vibration.


Q:

Big fan of Dame Evelyn Glennie, seen her perform live before. Are there any currently performing deaf musicians you want to give a shout out to?

A:

Evelyn and I have known each other for over 30 years but haven't met up recently.

Among the deaf musicians I know and admire are James Holt, Sean Chandler, and Eloise Ruth Garland.


Q:

Hey Doc! I have a severe to profound hearing loss and I've been thinking about learning an instrument. I have a cochlear implant and hearing aid. I am located in Australia!

I have had my eyes on piano or trumpet for a while now, what steps could I take? I might check out your website, that may answer my questions.

A:

Hi! Great to hear from you ;) my simple answer is to have a go at loads of instruments then decide which ones you like best! Whatever you choose to play, I would recommend that you find a teacher but probably not someone who is too formal.

I don't have any info on my website about playing different instruments, but I do have a friend in Australia who has done a lot of work on music and deafness. Her name is Karen Kyriakou. Google her. She is based in Melbourne.

Do let me know if you contact her and how you get on. Good luck!


Q:

I am a piano teacher and musician, and due to a congenital defect, I am basically deaf now without my hearing aids. With them I can hear the piano just fine, although I have an extremely difficult time understanding speech. I am mostly just commenting to say thanks for posting, because I was wondering if I was the only one out there. What support resources do you recommend for hard of hearing/Deaf musicians? I spend so much time being angry about losing my hearing and I’d like to focus that energy elsewhere.

A:

You're not alone by a long way. Being angry is totally understandable but I hope you can channel that into something positive.

it's tricky recommending support resources as each person's needs are different. You clearly have a lot of musical knowledge and experience though, and that puts you in a good place to cope. Please can you email me on [email protected] and we can have a more in-depth chat about how I could help and support you.


Q:

What originally got you interested in music, and did you have any hesitation about starting to study music?

A:

For my original interest in music - see some of my other replies in this thread. I never had any hesitation about starting to study music and knew from a young age it was what I wanted to do. Nobody was going to stop me!


Q:

Are you related to Roger Whittaker?

A:

No, I've been asked this before outside of Reddit. But when I was a kid, I did wonder...


Q:

How do you know if your music will be good if you can’t hear it? How to you know what it is like?

A:

My training enabled me to know whether it's good or not. I certainly know when I've gone wrong so then have to go back and work out exactly where and why I made a mistake.

With a full orchestral piece, I know what it's like because of the detail in the score, and watch the conductor and players to discern nuances of interpretation. I can never really tell what pop, rock, jazz recordings are like as sheet music is usually pretty basic for those genres. However, interpreters and friends will occasionally help me fill in the gaps by explaining what's going on.


Q:

Have you seen the movie, 'Mr Holland's Opus' ?

A:

Yes I have. I saw it when it was first released and really should watch it again. I recall being quite frustrated at the main characters behaviour and attitude towards deafness, but probably cried buckets at the end.


Q:

Is the world quiet to you or do you hear white noise and soft mumbles?

Also do you get handicap parking or no as a deaf person?

A:

Yes, the world is very quiet indeed, especially when I switch my hearing aids off or leave them out. In fact, it's totally silent. With hearing aids, I pick up general noise but cannot identify what it is, what direction it's coming from, nor speech. If I take my glasses off, I've got an even bigger problem because I can't see to lip read or see anyone signing!

No, I don't get free parking.


Q:

Where may I find recordings of your arrangements or playing? Which are you most proud to show off?

A:

There is only one recording of any arrangement I have done, and that was for Manchester Lesbian and Gay chorus. It was an arrangement of 'Seasons of Love'. I have hardly any recordings of me playing, so perhaps I should do more and put them on my website.


Q:

Hi! I’m a CODA in the US and wondered if you consider yourself Deaf (culturally Deaf) or deaf (hearing loss)?

As an aside, I love seeing Deaf people proving that Deaf Can! Recently read about the first deaf police officer in the US (she’s in Texas, I believe).

And my (Deaf) dad has always been a big fan of music, I used to interpret songs for him while he had huge headphones on with the sound up real high so he could feel the vibrations of the beat.

A:

Hi. I've always had a problem with the phrase 'Deaf Culture' because it often seems to exclude things that are important to me like music and literature. I find that Deaf Culture can be quite limiting and don't understand why deaf experience needs to be sidelined into something quite exclusive.

I realise that's quite a political point but I wish to see people engaging with and experiencing life in all it's variety rather than just a little bit of it.

Deaf people can indeed do anything, but I know quite a few who need a good kick in order to get them moving!

I see myself a deaf person who is cultured.


Q:

Hi, Dr Whitaker, since the advent of closed captions and text messages do you feel this equalizes both the hearing and hard of hearing people and how does it aid you in your engagement with the world?

A:

Closed captions and especially texting have made a massive difference to me and to many deaf people.

Live captioning can still be frustrating when it doesn't give the right information and captioning on DVD's does not always give full information. Technology alone isn't enough for us to feel fully equal in a hearing world, but the situation is certainly better than it was when I was a child.

Texting, messenger, WhatsApp, things like Reddit, make a big difference if you have decent written skills but for a lot of sign language users, they have more limited use and impact.


Q:

What does profoundly deaf mean?

A:

See my other reply regarding this.


Q:

How does one get an OBE? Does someone else nominate you? Do you fill out a form. Do you just do your own thing not thinking about it and then one day a letter arrives? Is it your music or your music charity work that pushed you over the edge?

A:

Someone nominates you and they encourage other people to send letters of support. You are unaware of this until a letter arrives from 10 Downing Street saying you have been awarded something. It can take several years to get one.

The OBE was for services to music, so would cover both my music education and my charity work.


Q:

Can someone still enjoy music if he or she have some hearing problems?

If so, how?

A:

The short, simple answer is yes. I suppose it depends on whether you're enjoying music passively or actively - is the person making music or listening to it?

I have always maintained that if a deaf person wants a career as a musician, they have to learn a lot about it theoretically, academically, technically. When I was at University, my tutor once told me that I was the easiest student he'd ever had to teach. When I asked him why, he said it was because I was deaf and therefore had to rely on a printed score. He pointed out that, when asked to analyse a piece of music, most people just went away and listened to it. Because I couldn't do that, but had to rely on reading a score, he said that I noticed far more information and was therefore more analytical.

I feel it's easier to make music as a deaf person if you've had a hearing loss from birth or a young age. Coping with an acquired hearing loss (or any disability) is much harder because you're so used to being able to hear, see, or whatever, and it's harder for your brain and body to adjust. Over the years, I've often felt that I have let people with acquired hearing loss down because I couldn't help them as much as I wanted to and felt that they would benefit more from 1:1 help which distance precluded me being able to do.

The earlier you can expose anyone to music, the better. Let them explore the range that is available. Try lots of instruments and styles so that they find something that they like and enjoy, then from that you can begin to develop more detailed interests and knowledge. For me, hearing loss is irrelevant. It's about passion, participation, and enjoyment.

Every individual has their own interpretation of music, their own taste, likes, and dislikes. One of the great things about music is that it can never really be wrong. It's entirely what you make of it.


Q:

Thank you for this.

I recently aquired some degree of minor hearing problems from which I still don't know the cause.

And let's just say the whole thing was really life changing so I really appreciate your answer.

A:

Sorry to know about your hearing problems and hope you get them sorted. It will be a difficult time for you, I'm sure, but do talk to other people with experience of hearing loss and remain positive.

If you read through some of my other replies, hopefully you can find some encouragement there as well. Are you involved in music at all?


Q:

How does profoundly deaf differ from deaf deaf?

A:

See this thread. Already answered :)


Q:

I hope I am not late. :) Thank you for the AMA Dr Paul Whittaker!

Wow. I am shocked!

  1. Was ever, anyone jealous of you? :)

  2. I am not a musician, not sure how to write this down, but sometimes when you press 2 sounds on the keyboard of the piano, those 2 sounds are totally NOT matching. It is something like a screech for my ears. Do you have anything like that when using the piano vibrations?

  3. This might be a stupid question, but, can you whistle? :-)

A:

I'm sure people have been jealous, but they've never come up to my face and told me so!

I think you're talking about dissonance here, which is where you get two sounds which don't sound pleasant together. Yes, it still feels like a dissonance through vibration. Scientifically, you have certain notes that work in harmony with one another, and others that don't, and it's both an aural and physical sensation.

I can't whistle. See other reply about that.


Q:

This isn’t a question, but I imagine you could compose with pure objectivity, relying only on your theoretical knowledge vs. hearing the piece.

Have you though deeply or talked about this with other musicians? What’s your take on(or approach to) composition as a hearing-impaired musician?

A:

Yes I could. I have talked about this with other musicians, and it's how I think Beethoven composed many of his works after losing his hearing. He didn't need to hear the music physically - he had it all in his head. My approach to composition is the same as a hearing musician. I have something musical I want to express, and wish to share that with other people. Though whether anyone else would want to listen to it is a moot point.


Q:

Can you still feel goosebumps when sight-reading music? In the sense that when someone with full hearing would get goosebumps from hearing beautiful music do you get the same reaction when reading the sheet music? Thank you for your inspirational story!

A:

Great question, and the answer is yes. Sometimes I get goosebumps from reading the score, but not while I actually experience the music being played, live or recorded.

Sometimes the reality is more disappointing than the imagination.