Evelyn Glennie förlorade hörseln helt som ung och har, trots det, blivit en framgångsrik slagverkssolist och är en av vinnarna av årets Polarpris.
How does it feel to have won the Polar Music Prize of 2015?
I was hugely humbled and inspired when I learned that I was to be awarded the prestigious Polar Music Prize. To be chosen from so many deserving people, from all genres of music, only makes me want to work harder, to make a difference and to rise to the occasion. Accepting the Polar Music Prize is a great honour, for which I am extremely grateful.
You lost your hearing when you were very young. How did you cope with that?
I learned to lip read! I’ve always been able to perceive high sounds more easily, but mid-range and low sounds have become a cacophony. Anyone who has mild deafness will find it difficult to follow speech in noisy situations, something most of us have experienced in noisy public spaces or on a busy street. When I was a child I would watch television programmes dedicated to lip reading with my mum. These were always shown on a Sunday morning. After each programme we would look in a mirror to practice the lip shapes that words form when we speak. Now I’ve learned to rely on lip reading in daily conversation. As for it being difficult, I don’t know, really. I’m so used to doing it that I can’t tell. However, without the early practice and support from my family I’m sure it would have been a bumpier ride.
When you were growing up, did you ever feel like you just wanted to give up the music all together? Was it difficult to learn to listen with other parts of your body?
No, mainly because music was a hobby until I embraced it as a career. Because my aim was so set up and I was so determined, I never felt that I would give up music. My aim to become a solo percussionist was always the most important goal, giving me the focus and determination to overcome any difficulties that came my way.
Is there someone you look up to and helped you, inspired you in your music?
I never get tired of praising my primary and secondary school teachers for encouraging me to pursue my musical career. I first learned to recognize high and low sounds by placing my hands on the inside wall of the music room while a teacher played timpani. Some of the pitches made my fingers tingle, while others were felt all the way down to my wrists and other parts of my body. With the help of my school percussion teacher, Ron Forbes, I realized my body acted like a resonating chamber.
One day Ron Forbes sent me home with a snare drum, but no stand and no sticks. I started tapping it and pinching it and scraping it, and the next week he asked how I'd got on. I said I didn't know. He said: "Now create the sound of a storm. Now create the sound of a whisper." Suddenly I had this picture I had to put into sound. This opened up my world. It was the best lesson I ever had. After that it was just constant exploration.
Is there anything you feel you have yet to accomplish?
For the last few years I’ve been working in putting together a Centre that will bring together my legacy and beliefs, a place to offer people access to experiences and alternative perspectives concerning the nature of listening. A Centre that will create a venue for events, which will be provided by a range of experts, and a space for the public to engage with sensorial learning experiences. I want this Centre to deliver the best possible environment for people to deconstruct the act of listening in order to understand what it really involves. We all need to realise why listening amounts to more than hearing.
Have you never been afraid you will misinterpret what you are feeling and make mistakes in concert?
All the time! And that is a blessing – the nerves keep me in check, not allowing for any complacent moments. In a way it always feels like I’m about to perform for the first time and the ‘butterflies’ are always there to keep me focused and energized.
You play several instruments, which instrument is your favorite?
I have the same attitude with instruments as I have with music – whatever instrument I’m playing is my favorite. They all have different characters and that’s what I love about being a multi-percussionist. Having lots of instruments at my disposal means I have lots of ‘characters’ to play with. I have deliberately played a wide variety of music over my career, which I count as an essential part of my musical development. That journey would have been much less interesting to me if I had limited myself to one or two instruments. My instruments are like children – they’re all my favorites!
What would you say to our members, children and young people who struggle with their hearing impairment?
Like you my hearing had the potential to stop me from doing the things I loved. I never gave up and neither should you. Remember, some challenges can actually help us to build self-confidence and as soon as you realise this, your confidence will grow and you will flourish.
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