Touch the Sound
Evelyn Glennie has been profoundly (not completely) deaf since the age of 12, but tours the world as a master percussionist, speaker, improviser, and living embodiment of the act of hearing – not with the ears, but with the whole body. Contending that deafness is largely misunderstood by the public, Glennie creates and absorbs vibration with a level of nuance that few hearing people can reach. And yet she communicates about the aura of sound so beautifully, so effectively, that no hearing person can come away from her presentations unchanged.
A movie about Glennie’s life and music, Touch the Sound (2004), moved me profoundly. The film steps slowly, observing Glennie as she plays a lone snare in the middle of Grand Central Station, ticks out a percussion masterpiece on an ashtray, water glass and plate in a Fuji sushi bar, creates a symphony with junk found behind her family barn in Scotland, watches/listens to a Zen monk raking gravel. Between clips, Glennie is caught in contemplative moments, explaining her philosophy of sound and vibration, about how sound is so much more than hearing.
Footage of her collaboration with master guitarist Fred Frith at an abandoned sugar factory is woven through. In one segment, Glennie is on the ground floor on marimba, Frith on a catwalk 100 feet away, the two of them communicating delicately through the echoing space. By halfway through, the raw emotion of the piece is apparent in Glennie’s face; by the end, she’s in tears.
Her 2007 TED Talk, How to listen to music with your whole body: is powerful.
Take a quiet night, chillax, rent this movie, and re-think how you think about sound.