Evelyn Glennie (Musician Who Also Happens To Be Deaf)

evelyn_glennie_2.jpgScottish virtuoso percussionist Evelyn Glennie has been profoundly deaf since she was 12.

She's also Western society's first full-time solo professional percussionist. In fact, Glennie and her talents turn deafness on its ear (excuse the pun). You can see (and hear!), for yourself in the February 2003 TED Talk at the end of this article.

Deafness, she says, does not mean that you can't hear, only that there is something wrong with the ears, and that even someone who is totally deaf can still hear/feel sounds.

Besides being an amazing percussionist, she is an accomplished entertainer who performs at the international level. She often plays barefoot in both live performances and studio recordings to better "feel" the music.

Glennie has taught herself to hear with parts of her body other than her ears, and says deafness is largely misunderstood by most people. Being profoundly deaf means she has some very limited hearing, which she describes thus:

With no other sound interfering, I can usually hear someone speaking although I cannot understand them without the additional input of lip-reading.

…my hearing is something that bothers other people far more than it bothers me. There are a couple of inconveniences but in general it doesn't affect my life much. For me, my deafness is no more important than the fact I am female with brown eyes.

Sure, I sometimes have to find solutions to problems related to my hearing and music but so do all musicians.

In her fascinating Hearing Essay, she also says:

…there is a common misconception that deaf people live in a world of silence. To understand the nature of deafness, first one has to understand the nature of hearing.

Hearing is basically a specialized form of touch. Sound is simply vibrating air, which the ear picks up and converts to electrical signals, which are then interpreted by the brain.

The sense of hearing is not the only sense that can do this, touch can do this too. If you are standing by the road and a large truck goes by, do you hear or feel the vibration? The answer is both.

With very low frequency vibration the ear starts becoming inefficient and the rest of the body's sense of touch starts to take over. For some reason we tend to make a distinction between hearing a sound and feeling a vibration, in reality they are the same thing.

To gain a full appreciation of Glennie’s musical talents, feel the vibration in this TED Talk.  

Glennie has been awarded 15 honorary doctorates from universities in the United Kingdom, was awarded the OBE in 1993, and was promoted to DBE in the New Year's Honours of 2007.
She owns over 1800 percussion instruments from all over the world and is continually adding to her collection. Dame Evelyn Glennie is also an Ambassador of the Royal National Children's Foundation (formerly the Joint Educational Trust) which helps support vulnerable, disadvantaged young people at state and independent boarding schools throughout the UK.

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