Friday, November 23, 2012

Listening With Resonance

Perusing through, I stumbled upon a musician of incredible talent: Evelyn Glennie. Dame Evelyn Glennie is a virtuoso percussionist and the very first full-time percussionist. She performs at least 100 performances a year, owns over 1800 instruments, and has received over 80 international awards, according to Cheryl Sucher of The Listener.  A descendent of Scottish heritage, Evelyn Glennie attended the Royal Academy of Music in London.  Such accomplishments are noteworthy for anyone, but it is Glennie’s “disability” that makes her story much more compelling.

     Dame Evelyn Glennie lost her hearing at the age of 12.  As a result, her percussion instructor focused her “hearing” music and pitches through feeling the sound waves with her body.  She uses her body as a resonance chamber and always performs barefoot as to accurately “hear” the pitches, textures and colors of the music.  Upon deciding to pursue a degree in music, Glennie was rejected by the Royal Academy of Music  on the basis that they could not determine the “future of a 'deaf' musician”.  Her response was if her acceptance was based on something other than ability, that would speak volumes for students that were, in fact, accepted into the academy.  She then auditioned once more, and was accepted.    Now, Glennie is a fellow of the London's Royal Academy of Music.

     Dame Evelyn Glennie’s real purpose in life, she says, is to “teach the world to listen”.  As musicians, we read the music and follow the instructions on the sheet music.  In other words, we translate the music.  But as artistic beings, we must do everything that is not on the sheet music for the piece to come to life. As artists, we do not just translate the piece, we interpret the music. 

     The deeper meaning behind Glennie’s story is that we as people often look at others and make initial ideas and assumptions about them, i.e. we “translate” them.  As people, however, we should be listening to others and taking time with them individually, in order to “interpret” them. We all do not interpret music and people in the same fashion, but as long as we listen to each other, says Glennie, we use our bodies as resonance chambers.

Want to read further about Evelyn Glennie? Read this article by The Listener or visit her website here



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