Ear Wiggles

When Marshall Hill was studying voice with Bill (see Magician's Assistant for more information about Marshall Hill) we had discussed the anatomy and physiology of the singing instrument. Marshall, whose father was a physician, had a scientific interest in singing and was eager to learn as much as possible about the various muscles and how their interaction affected the singing instrument. Eventually, this led to a discussion about how to control specific muscles. Our discussion included the story of Robert Schumann (which was later discounted by his wife, Clara) who invented a device intended to strengthen the fingers on his right hand. This, according to the story, severely and permanently damaged a finger on his hand.

Marshall opined as to why some muscles could not be independently controlled. This seemed particularly to be the case with some muscles on opposite sides of the body. Some could, for example, wiggle their ears (I demonstrated this to him) but it seemed impossible to wiggle only one ear. I was fascinated by his musing and set out to attempt to learn how to wiggle one ear.

We were on a choir tour (also discussed in Magician's Assistant) and were singing at a church in Ohio where a "hellfire and damnation" preacher, Willie St. Claire, (thanks to Carol Janes for remembering his name) was speaking at a revival service. I remember distinctly one phrase the preacher shouted: "Young person, a prayin' knee, and a dancin' foot don't grow on the same leg." Carol also reminded me that he instructed, "I want every head bowed and every eye closed - nobody lookin' but God and me. Now, I want you to promise the Lord that you will never be promiscuous. If you will make this promise to the Lord, I want you to raise your hand." Several members of the choir had failed to even close their eyes as instructed and observed that there was not even one hand raised in the congregation. After a short passage of time, 'Brother St. Claire' said, "God bless you, I see that hand. Thank you, another hand, and God bless you I see your hand, young person." Yet, no hands had been raised!

As the sermon continued my mind wandered, so I took that opportunity to work on my ear wiggle and evidently had some success. Marshall was seated directly behind me in the choir. Apparently, he noticed what I was doing and observed my single wiggle and giggled aloud, "He's doing it, he's doing it."

I am unsure of how many people actually heard Marshall's enthusiastic exclamation or saw my single ear wiggle. It probably was fortunate that I wasn't trying to independently move my "dancin' foot and prayin' knee!" Also, I never raised my hand - except to conduct!

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