Listening Without Ears: Music from a Unique Perspective

Updated: Aug 19

How do we listen to music? Seems like a simple enough question. Through our ears, of course! Something about sound waves and the cochlea in the ear. Well, I challenge you on that as I bring you the remarkable story about Evelyn Glennie.


Though she isn't a household name, she is far from being unheard of. As the first percussionist to create and sustain a solo career, you'd think that's the only thing that makes her extraordinary. Born in Scotland in 1965, this Dame achieved her success by being more than just a musician.


She was around 12 years old when hearing loss became an apparent problem in her life. However, with determination and imagination, she worked with her teacher, Ron Forbes, to find new avenues to understand music. The dynamic relationship they had allowed her to work around her seemingly insurmountable obstacle. Evelyn Glennie is the challenger as she found a new way to listen.


Together, they recognized the human body used more than just ears to interpret sounds and music. With Glennie's attendance at the Ellon Academy, she learned to listen in a whole new fashion. How was this so? It wasn't easy. It took commitment as she opened her body to understand musical vibrations – an open chamber through with sound could flow.


With her talents growing, she applied to the Royal Academy for Music in London. The prestigious institution was reluctant to accept her as they initially denied her application based on her hearing impairment. With a revolutionary thought, she questioned their entire application system. The applicant's ability should determine enrollment and nothing else, should it not? It was with her impressive capabilities shining; the academy realized the err of their ways. Paving the road with her enrollment in the academy, they came to be far more open to the disabilities of their applicants.


After breaking down these initial barriers, she didn't stop there. She discovered a whole new path for a percussionist outside of an orchestra. With 30 CD releases to starring in the opening sequence in the 2012 Olympics, she defined this solo route with individuality and determination. This trailblazing led to her awards and honors, with damehood being only one of them.


As a fantastic role model for revolutionizing the art of listening, we have to rethink something we have taken granted for so long. Do we listen with just our ears? With Evelyn at the helm and her destiny paving new paths, the answer is no.


Translation vs. Interpretation

I'm a firm believer that every aspect of our lives, every line of study, and every person has a remarkable and universal lesson for the world. The act of extending ourselves beyond the intellect is what music and art dare us to do.


In her video below, there is a moment when she shows the difference between translating music and genuinely interpreting the notes on the staff lines. Music is a graceful art that takes more than just notes.


Some of the most exceptional performances come from near-divine interpretations of the music. Music is art, and art reflects our existence on earth – the representation of the human experience, our pains and sorrow, our joys, and cheers. These great musicians understand that and use more than just their brains to play their songs.


In a fast-paced world full of distractions, we wonder if we are genuinely listening to everyone around us. Do we merely translate, or do we go beyond and let our empathy lead us to interpretation?


It took Evelyn years to fully develop her unique abilities – to hear beyond the ear's capacity. Music has an exact language to communicate with – a defined set of words—notes from A to G, with only a few flats and sharps in between.


The question I have for the world is this. What if we are all playing the same notes in the face of conflict, but we present them in different keys? Is that not a call for harmony? There is no pride in music, no stringent demands, and everyone can relate to it.


Perhaps we don't fully understand what we are constructing with language. Is it based on an operating system far more profound than just the words we choose – an art akin to music, and we just haven't figured out the beauty of our critical audiences. Next time you are in a disagreement, I dare you to interpret their words and not just translate them. Go beyond

yourself and hear the song they are playing.


Until Next Time,

Keane


Special Thanks!

Cover Photo by Alireza Attari on Unsplash


Evelyn Glennie for having such an interesting story! If you want to read more, you can go to her website (Here).


Video inspiration for the post (Here)

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