Evelyn Glennie, the lead percussionist in the London Olympics opening ceremony, is deaf – she lost most of her hearing when she was 12. I had stumbled across her years ago and of course, loved her in an instant.
Evelyn Glennie is, in a nutshell, a thinking bad-ass parcel of Scottish coolness who shimmers talent.
About the thinking part. If you have a moment – more like half an hour – watch this, because it’s worth it:
(ironically, no captions – so what I did was pull down the transcript – button under the video, far right, and read as she speaks)
There are so many things you want to talk about in response to this, right?
Like resistance and the more rigid you are, the more disconnected you will become – the looser you allow yourself, the more freely you let yourself flow, the more connected and at one with the drum (- or life) you will be.
Want to talk about an obvious thing too – she speaks so clearly!
She is deaf!
For those of you parents of kids who are d/Deaf reading this, you should know that it is completely possible to speak very clearly and be d/Deaf. If at some point you could hear sounds – when you were little, developing, especially – you also could have learned how to enunciate in the hearing way. I myself have near-perfect enunciation. Just no cool lilting accent like Evelyn…
Then moving back to the content of what she is saying, beyond the surface of her words, you want to talk about this concept she’s trying to explain of listening. Listening, rather than hearing.
Hearing – literally, sound gathering. Listening – processing and interpreting sound. But I think it’s more than that. It’s also a full-body affair – it’s watching, it’s making sense of what you see. It’s allowing yourself to feel freely, opening your body up to receiving sound in all the myriad of forms it is delivered.
Tools may be necessary – as she talks about – and look – watch this
Do you see the mat she’s standing on? And she’s barefoot? Those are her tools – her disability accommodations, so to speak.
And this one – I really liked this one – watch her go!
It pains me, you know, when we continuously have these discussions on disability/access, as if opening up the stage for all players is some kind of noteworthy deed. We as a society are still caught up in this narrow world view on what it means to be human, what it means to contribute. Terribly stuck on old definitions of “hearing”, “seeing”, “walking” and “talking”.
This is what we need: to open ourselves up, free ourselves. Relax into possibility, lose the tension and quit holding the damn drumsticks so tightly that we can never really learn to play.
Meriah Nichols is a counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one on the spectrum). Deaf, and neurodiverse herself, she’s a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.