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uni'wissen 02-2013_ENG

Breathe in. The vocal cords in the horn play- er’s larynx are wide open. They allow air to enter his body. The player’s diaphragm, previ- ously bent in like two bowls turned upside down, has now flattened. It lowers, pushing down with it his liver, stomach, and other abdominal organs. His breast widens, and air flows into his lungs. His tongue moves upward and suddenly shoots forward. His vocal cords almost close, leaving only a small crack. Breathe out. His upper lip beats rapidly against his lower lip on the mouth- piece. The first note rings out. His abdominal and chest muscles contract. His vocal cords slowly rise, letting the air escape steadily out of his lungs. When the horn player hits the next notes, he uses his tongue to interrupt the flow of air by beating it again against the back of his front teeth. Until the air is gone. Breathe in – and start over again. When pianists, string players, or drummers want to improve their playing motions, they ob- serve the movements of their hands and fingers while practicing or look at them in a mirror. This is not an option for horn players, because the most important movements they make take place inside of the body: in the oral cavity, the larynx, and the chest area. However, for the first time ever they can now watch films that capture these internal movements in detail – thanks to the re- search of Prof. Dr. Claudia Spahn and Prof. Dr. Bernhard Richter, the dual directors of the Freiburg Institute of Music Medicine (FIM), a joint institution of the University of Freiburg and the Freiburg University of Music. With the help of a research team including senior physician Prof. Dr. Matthias Echternach from the FIM, the medi- cal student and professional horn player Matth- ias Pöppe, and further partners, they have documented their findings meticulously on a DVD with over 130 video clips. “The goal is to “The goal is to generate new ideas for the methodology of wind instrument playing” Understand, apply, improve: The educational video clips are suitable for use in the music class- room. Bruno Schneider, French horn professor at the Freiburg University of Music, came up with the idea for the project. Photo: Patrick Seeger generate new ideas for the methodology of wind instrument playing,” says Spahn. The publication was preceded by years of work in which the research team and the professional musicians participating in the project treaded new method- ological paths. With a Plastic Mouthpiece and a Garden Hose The horn player lies down on his back and puts on headphones equipped with a microphone. Bernhard Richter gives him a garden hose. At- tached to one end of it is a plastic mouthpiece, to the other a cardboard funnel – the instrument the musician plays with cannot have any metal parts: The patient disappears inside the tube of an MRI scanner. The scanner creates a strong magnetic field that excites tissue containing water mole- cules in the body and uses this energy to take up to eight images per second of the inside of the musician’s body. For this purpose, a smaller mag- netic coil is placed around his head, and later a larger coil is placed around his torso. Initially, in- dividual notes sound out from the tube, then en- tire scales, and finally an entire horn concerto by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Back outside, Rich- ter inserts an endoscope through the musician’s nose and into his throat in order to film the larynx while he is playing. However, the movements of the musician’s vocal cords are too rapid to be captured by the human eye. The doctor thus uses a high-speed camera that can take up to 4,000 images per second and a stroboscope that illumi- nates the larynx intermittently with a flash of light. The slower speed of the flashes in comparison to the vibrations of the vocal cords creates a slow motion effect. Finally, the two methods are used again when the researchers film the musician’s lips from the outside through a sawed-off mouth- piece. 21