A few years ago, I wrote a profile of local comedian/musician/impresario Chas Roberts. During our interview, he talked about how he has a stutter in normal, everyday conversation, but it disappears when he performs as a character:
Normally, Roberts has a stutter—he elongates some vowels, like the e and the a in "regurgitation"—but it disappears when he's being Jackson Lowe. Something about the character, he says, frees up the traffic jam in his synapses and banishes the stutter. "It's even more gone when I sing," he says. "I tried to sing in monotone for a few weeks when I was around 19. I was the hit of some parties."
This morning, he sent me a link to an NPR story about melodic intonation therapy—or "singing therapy"—for people whose language centers have been blown apart by strokes or accidents. (Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords has used singing therapy after her would-be assassin shot a bullet through the speech center in the left side of her brain.)
It's fascinating stuff:
For more than 100 years, it's been known that people who can't speak after injury to the speech centers on the left side of the brain can sing... When NPR sat in on one of her therapy sessions recently, Meyerson still struggled to speak even the simplest phrases. But she's beginning to talk again.
"If you go to a restaurant and the server asks if you'd like something before your main dish, you might choose something like this," therapist Andrea Norton says, showing Meyerson a picture of a salad. Then Norton sings the word "salad," intoning the syllables on a minor third – the tune every child knows from the taunt "nyah-nyah! nyah-nyah!"