Saturday, January 8, 2011

Braille the Musician

This January was the 202nd birthday of Louis Braille, the well known creator of the Braille alphabet and writing system. But what I recently discovered -and maybe I'm the only one in the dark, but maybe you also didn't know- was that Braille' s system was not originally confined to written language. Rather, when he initially designed it, Braille intended for the system to be used to write music as well (which, when you think about it, really makes sense, because a blind person can't read sheet music). A musician himself (he played piano and organ), Braille became acquainted with many blind people who liked to play music -surprise, surprise- when he started his famous school. When he designed his alphabet system, it was only natural that he would also create a musical system to go along with it (which raises the question of whether a person reading his written music could play a two-handed instrument...).

With technological advancements, Braille's musical system has become less and less needed, and fewer and fewer people actually use it anymore, but in 1829, he published his book entitled Method of Writing Words, Music and Plain Song by Means of Dots, for use by the Blind and arranged by Them. Words, music and plain song all with just 6 dots. The above picture is the braille translation of three quarter notes.

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