Café Mouffe: Dame Evelyn Glennie

Set 1: Evelyn Glennie. A Little Prayer. Fred Frith joins her on this improvisation, which was recorded in an old sugar factory in Dormagen, Germany. The clip is excerpted from the documentary Touch The Sound by Thomas Riedelsheimer. The session led to the CD The Sugar Factory (Tzadik).

It makes complete sense, literally, that one who could be labeled “profoundly deaf” could choose to become a profound listener and creator of sound. In the vast realms of the human sensorium, there is ample room for that. In her talk on how to listen with your whole body, Evelyn Glennie says that her life’s aim is to “teach the world to listen.” I was deeply moved by that. I think many people have a lot more to learn about listening.

Glennie’s mission makes me think of an image in a poem by Pablo Neruda (translated by Robert Bly): an ear coming into the world. I found those words at just the right moment in the early days of my vision loss. I spoke them like a mantra. I drank them like ritual water. I didn’t know what was happening to me, but those words told me I wouldn’t be limited by the label “impaired” or its subsequent PC euphemism, “challenged.” I wouldn’t dwell in a deficit model of sensory perception. I would reach for the edges of perception’s expansive possibilities. I would become, again and again, an ear coming into the world. Evelyn Glennie knows, as Neruda surely would, that the whole body can become that ear.

Glennie’s talk also reminded me of listening to John Cage read the Lecture on Nothing. I found it about the same time as Neruda’s poem. It sounded like a poem as Cage read it. It is an essay, too, arranged on the printed page like a musical score. Lecture on Nothing makes a profound statement about sound and silence, music and noise. John Cage opened up territories of musical possibility that are now being occupied and transformed by Evelyn Glennie. His music was daring for its novel abstractions. Hers is compelling because it’s so visceral.

Set 2: Evelyn Glennie. Shadow. The performance with Fred Frith and Trilok Gurtu was recorded in Eindhoven, Germany in October 2006.

Set 3: Evelyn Glennie. Clapping Music by Steve Reich. The short comes from assorted performances including “Hothouse 07” at Doncaster in the U.K..

Encore: Dame Evelyn gets her hands wet with an experimental instrument called a hydrophone in November 2007. Designed by Steve Mann at the University of Toronto, the hydrophone gives a whole new meaning to Water Music.

See also: Evelun Glennie’s website and myspace page.

Café Mouffe opens every Friday at 3:00 p.m. Please drop by for a listen and a chat. Sometimes the embedded videos don’t work here due to bandwidth constraints, but you’ll always find links to video sources in the set notes. Try them. If you’re curious about the Mouffe, here’s the original idea behind it’s creation.

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