Sound: Musician thrives upon what most take for granted

By |2018-01-16T02:34:32-05:00March 30th, 2006|Entertainment|

DETROIT – Some people don’t like to be told what they can and cannot do with their lives.
One such person is Evelyn Glennie who, at the age of eight, began playing the piano. But because of a neurological disorder, the youngster was dependent upon hearing aides by the age of 11. It was not long after that doctors told the profoundly deaf girl that her music days were over, and that she’d require special schooling because of her worsening hearing loss.
Grammy Award-winning Glennie proved the experts wrong – and her inspirational story, “Touch the Sound,” can be viewed April 2-3 on the screen of the Detroit Film Theatre.
“I have never considered myself as anything other than a ‘normal’ person,” Glennie once wrote in an essay, and that’s an understatement; her achievements have been nothing short of extraordinary.
Glennie, born and raised in Scotland, remained in a mainstream school that had a strong music department, and it was there that she was drawn to percussion instruments. Under the guidance a teacher, Glennie learned to distinguish sounds by detecting the instruments’ vibrations and where she felt them on her body. It was then that she stopped using her hearing aides, noting that she “heard less from her ears, but more from her body.”
With her newfound skills, Glennie set out to play classic percussion as a solo performer – despite the fact there was no demand for such a person. So she studied at London’s Royal Academy of Music from which she was graduated at the age of 19 – and it wasn’t long before she became the world’s first full-time solo percussionist.
It’s a career path that has brought Glennie much acclaim. Her first CD won her a Grammy in 1988; two more nominations and a second win followed. She gives more than 100 performances a year – many with the world’s greatest orchestras – often collaborating with such artists as Bjork, Bobby McFerrin, Sting and even Oscar the Grouch. And when she travels, it’s with two tons of equipment, including nearly 60 instruments.
But it’s not her many accomplishments that director Thomas Riedelsheimer celebrates in “Touch the Sound.” Rather, he explores Glennie’s fascination with the sounds around us and how their rhythms – their vibrations – form the basis of everything we experience in life. As such, the movie follows Glennie to New York where she fills Grand Central Station with an amazing snare drum solo, and to Japan where she joins Keiko Abe on the kodo drums. But it’s an abandoned factory in Germany where – with Fred Frith – the cacophony of sounds come together.
Without a narrative that ties the film together, Riedelsheimer’s film is not always easy to follow. But his ability to tie sounds with visuals is astounding. So sit back, close your eyes and try to picture the sounds beneath the movie’s celluloid surface.

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