Evelyn Glennie: The amazing variety of human experiences

About a year ago my wonderful sister strongly recommended Touch the sound: A sound journey with Evelyn Glennie, and has gently badgered me about it ever since. I ordered it through inter-library loan up at the U and it arrived! I’m happy to report that it’s every bit as good as Misty suggested, and has been a real treat.

Evelyn Glennie's malletsI first heard about Glennie several years ago from a student, and I think I filed her (without any data and without hearing any of her work) in the “Novelty Act” category in my head. This film does a wonderful job of shattering that preconception – she is a remarkable talent with truly amazing rhythmic sense and control. More importantly, she has a real deftness to her playing and a wonderful response in her improvisation. I can imagine a person with good coordination learning to bang out patterns, but she has a subtlety and range that would be the envy of most musicians, and her improvisations with other musicians (e.g, Fred Frith, Ondekoza) is a joy to watch and to listen to.

Frith is a particularly apt pairing, as they both share a combination of power and gentle subtlety that make their improvisations together incredibly rich. There’s a CD of their improvisations on that day which has happily flown onto my wish list :-).

My only complaint about the film is really entirely unfair. I (and I suspect most people) would dearly love to better understand what her experience of music is, as it’s presumably quite different from that of hearing folk. As she says in the film, however, hearing people can’t typically give any helpful account of their experience of hearing, so it’s not terribly fair to expect her to give an account either. I happily take her point, but that doesn’t do anything to quell the rush of questions:

  • Why does her music sound so “familiar”? Given that her experience of it is quite different, one might expect the music that she makes to have a somewhat alien feel, which it totally doesn’t (for me). I suspect that this is to a large degree a combination of her not going deaf until primary school (so she had significant experience of music as a hearing person) and her extensive “traditional” musical training after going deaf.
  • How does she experience harmony and layering? Harmonics are, in some sense the really hard part of the game, and one might reasonably expect that her tactile experience of that layering to be quite different from my auditory experience of it, and I suspect that we could learn a lot about both hearing and tactile perception from exploring the similarities and differences here.

All really fine stuff, and definitely recommended.

This entry was posted in Family, Films, General, Music and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.