Science and the deaf percussionist


SMALL PRINT:THIS THURSDAY at Biorhythm in Dublin’s Science Gallery, there will be a performance from Dame Evelyn Glennie. She is an acclaimed xylophone player, drummer and motivational speaker, who also happens to be hearing impaired. At 12, she was diagnosed as profoundly deaf, but in the same year saw the school orchestra play and was inspired to be a musician.

The Scotswoman thinks others have more of an issue with it than she does. “For me, deafness was very normal. It’s who I am and I’ve been deaf for a such a long time, but I knew I wanted to be a solo percussionist.”

Dame Evelyn is credited as being the first deaf solo percussionist to make a full-time living. She attributes her sustained success to the fact that she has focused on working with several composers to build up a repertoire. “You really need a strong body of work and 180 pieces have been written for me.”

In 2003, Glennie gave a TED talk in the US in which she claimed she “wanted to teach the world to listen”. Do most people not listen properly? “I think the word ‘listening’ is very broad. It’s not just about what comes through the ears, it’s about listening with the eyes, listening to the atmosphere of a room.”

She is hoping to work with Steve Reich and tours extensively, performing over 100 concerts a year. Recently she worked with children in Cumbria, teaching them geology through music, by creating a “lithograph”, a musical instrument made from regional rocks.

What can we expect at Biorhythm tomorrow? “Who knows? I’ll be looking at the complexity of rhythm and what rhythm and sound mean to me.”