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Deaf percussion virtuoso teaches “How to truly listen”

J-P Mauro - published on 06/21/17

Her thoughts on perspective reflect the philosophical observations of Dewey.

Dame Evelyn Glennie is a composer and percussionist who is regarded as the world’s premier solo percussionist. She has been honored with many awards including 15 honorary doctorates, knighthood, and most recently became the King’s Cross Musician in Residence.

She became profoundly deaf at the age of 12, which changed the way she experienced the world and music. As she explains in her TED talk, “How To Truly Listen,” when she was forced to change her interaction with music, the way she listened naturally changed as well.

“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.”

Glennie’s talk brings to mind John Dewey’s writing on aesthetics, Art As Experience, in which he observes that art derives as much meaning from the experiences of the audience as it does from the artist. Glennie believes that perspective is the greatest determining factor in our appreciation of art.

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