Monday, January 18, 2010

the deaf spot

This week I watched a workshop video from world-renowned percussionist, Evelyn Glennie. What is so profound about her is not only her musical talent and genius with all things percussive, but her attitude towards listening. She describes sound and listening in terms of one's whole body and not just the realm of the ears. Thinking we experience sound with only this one tiny organ is a very limiting way of looking at things, indeed. I realised this as I watched her interact with her instruments and her environment. This ears-only attitude most definitely narrows the range of what we hear to a very small spectrum of what is really going on around us.
You will perhaps be surprised to discover that she is profoundly deaf, and yet nothing about her demeanour would inform you of that fact. Out of necessity, she has enlarged her idea of listening to include her whole body as a resonating chamber. She hears with her feet (performs barefoot), her fingertips, her hands, her arms and chest, her stomach, her legs, and the bones in her head. Different frequencies resonate in different parts of the body, as you will know if you've ever stood close to a train as it sped by. Just because our ears are not very good at catching certain vibrations does not mean that they cannot be heard by some other part of our body.

I have deaf spots in my life. There are areas where I cannot hear the world, I cannot hear my friends, I cannot hear myself, I cannot hear what is going on in a situation, and I cannot hear God. I may bemoan my lack of hearing, but the problem is not with my ears; it is that I am ONLY using my ears. If someone like Ms. Glennie can learn to hear sounds very precisely despite the limitation of profound deafness, then what is my problem? Why am I complaining about God being silent? Why do I whine about my lack of clarity and discernment? Why am I slow to hear?

Perhaps it is because I do not see that my very weaknesses, my very areas of deafness, are the doorways to developing a larger and broader sensitivity. My deaf spots should cause me to stop trying to cram all the sounds in the world into two tiny holes in my head (or the narrow ways in which I assume I must interact with God and my world) and let the rest of the body participate. It wants to. It was made to. It will, if I but let it listen.

Click here to see the video of Evelyn Glennie: How to listen to music with your whole body.

This is a picture of the ears of Jazz.

No comments: