Imagine waking to the sound of an alarm clock drowning out your own snoring. Your ears and muffled footfall on the hollow stairs lead you to the clatter of dishes and the scraping of carbon toast. You’ve reached the kitchen and switch on the radio: a studio interview. Next channel, another one. Next, further talking heads. There is nothing interesting, enlivening, uplifting; no music. A guitar props up the corner of the room. It has no strings. You step outside. A jet roars its departure against the background hum of rush hour traffic. A jackhammer adds its machine gun staccato. There is no birdsong. There is no music.

I have recently had several medical appointments to address a blocked ear condition. The loss of hearing has made me appreciate afresh what a privilege our sense of hearing is, and how hard it must be for those completely devoid of hearing. Being able to decode each of the sounds that vibrate our tiny eardrums is such a gift. The alarm clock, the dishes, the toast scraping, the jackhammer and the jet all tell their story to give us an auditory landscape in which to live and move.

I am not a musician. I have dabbled with playing a couple of instruments in the past, but have never had lessons, nor learned to read music. However, I do enjoy listening to music (I have quite eclectic – my children would say ‘bizarre’ – tastes) and I love to sing. But lately that joy has been hampered by hearing my voice through my head, rather than through my ears. Then, when my hearing comes back into balance I can sing with gusto (not as I should, perhaps, but at least as I am used to). And the joy returns.

We have so many privileges in life. Among the best of these are our senses. When any one of these is taken away we are at a loss. Hearing is a wonderful gift, but perhaps hearing is just the wrapping for the gift of music. Whether you like to listen to Beethoven, Beebop, Bacharach or Beyoncé, or just birdsong; whether you enjoy playing a musical instrument, or singing in a choir, karaoke bar or the shower, be thankful that you can.

We can be thankful that we don’t live in a world without music. What a privilege.

To practise or to practice: that is the question. How we should write this word is a bit of a dilemma, given that readers come from various parts of the world. For an American the spelling of ‘practice’ remains the same whether using it as a noun or a verb. For most non-American English speaking countries, it is correct to spell it practice when it is used as a noun, but practise (practised, practising) when using it as a verb. As New Zealanders we try to stick to this convention (and mostly we are consistent 🙂 ).

For the same reason, you will likely find us spelling ‘color’ colour, ‘realize’ realise, ‘dialog’ dialogue, ‘enroll’ enrol, ‘meter’ metre, and so on. Please don’t hold this practice against us!

Perhaps this would be a good place to list some other North American/British equivalents which particularly relate to music. We reserve the right to use either (pronounced ee-ther or I-ther) or both.

UK                                       USA

Stave/staff                           staff

Bar                                      measure

Bar line                               bar (or bar line)

Breve                                 double whole

Semibreve                          whole note

Minim                                 half note

Crotchet                             quarter note

Quaver                               eighth note

Semiquaver                        sixteenth note

Demisemiquaver                thirtysecond

(Whole) tone                       whole step

Semitone                            half step