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Evelyn Glennie: Touching Sound

Touch the Sound: A Sound Journey with Evelyn Glennie (2004)

Touch the Sound: A Sound Journey with Evelyn Glennie (2004)

Percussionist and composer Dame Evelyn Glennie lost nearly all of her hearing by age 12. Rather than isolating her, it has given her a unique connection to her music.

While still a student, Evelyn Glennie learned that she was going deaf. Rather than abandon her study of music, in which she had shown such talent, she instead turned her focus toward percussion instruments and developed her ability to feel the sound through her body. This documentary follows her as she performs in New York, Germany and Tokyo, sharing her insights into the nature of music and the ways in which we experience it.


Dame Evelyn Glennie, who was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 2007 New Year Honours List, is one of the best-known figures in contemporary British music. An extraordinarily virtuosic percussionist as well as an engaging personality, she has long been subject to considerable media interest.

Touring internationally with her huge array of instruments (the world’s first full-time classical percussion soloist), she has played with all the world’s major orchestras, consistently winning massive critical acclaim. Her sixteen solo albums (including twelve on the RCA/BMG label) have reached a remarkably diverse public, as have her numerous collaborations with musicians from the non-classical world.

She has performed with Indian, Indonesian and South American traditional musicians, and in the mid-’90s co-wrote and recorded several songs with the Icelandic singer Björk, including the hit single My Spine. Her 2000 solo album Shadow Behind the Iron Sun, produced by acclaimed rock music producer Michael Brauer, entirely comprises studio improvisations by Evelyn.

Evelyn has a piece written for her called ‘My Dream Kitchen’ which involved her playing nothing but kitchen utensils.

In addition to her life as a performer and recording artist, Evelyn has established for herself a considerable reputation as a composer for film and television. One of her earliest credits was her music for a series of Tony Kaye-directed TV commercials for Mazda Cars in the mid-’90s – which was so original that it spawned a host of imitations. She was nominated for a BAFTA Award for her music for the first series of Lynda La Plante’s ground-breaking crime drama Trial & Retribution (La Plante Productions for ITV), and has gone on to record many subsequent series of the show. Other drama credits include two four-hour versions of Bramwell (Whitby Davison Productions for ITV); and Blind Ambition (Coastal Productions/Yorkshire Television).

“First and foremost I am a sound creator. Everything I do is derived from sound in spite of my profound deafness. I strive to explore every sound avenue and surface including design, technology and physicality. I enjoy the challenge of creating a ‘no-fuss’ approach and relish the idea of building a global legacy brand that will live long after I have departed the stage”. – Dame Evelyn Glennie 2012

Documentary credits include 3BM TV’s 4-part study of the history of terrorism, The Age of Terror, produced by Oscar-winning producer Jon Blair and transmitted on the Discovery Channel to coincide with the first anniversary of the September 11th outrage. She also composed the title music for two series of the BBC’s Soundbites, which she herself presented.

In 1999 Evelyn scored her first feature film, The Trench, a First World War drama written and directed by the novelist William Boyd. In 2004 Evelyn collaborated with the film-maker Thomas Riedelsheimer on his film Touch the Sound. Described as “A Sound Journey With Evelyn Glennie”, the film explores the phenomenon of sound as Evelyn experiences it, in her life and work, and contains much original music by Evelyn, some co-written with the renowned guitarist Fred Frith. The soundtrack has been released by Normal Records.

Dame Evelyn Glennie’s music challenges the listener to ask where music comes from: Is it more than simply a translation from score to instrument to audience?

The Grammy-winning percussionist and composer became almost completely deaf by the age of 12, but her hearing loss brought her a deeper understanding of and connection to the music she loves. She’s the subject of the documentary Touch the Sound, which explores this unconventional and intriguing approach to percussion.

Along with her vibrant solo career, Glennie has collaborated with musicians ranging from classical orchestras to Björk. Her career has taken her to hundreds of concert stages around the world, and she’s recorded a dozen albums, winning a Grammy for her recording of Bartók’sSonata for Two Pianos and Percussionand another for her 2002 collaboration with Bela Fleck.

Her passion for music and musical literacy brought her to establish, in collaboration with fellow musicians Julian Lloyd Weber and Sir James Galway, the Music Education Consortium, which successfully lobbied for an investment of 332 million pounds in music education and musical resources in Britain.

London Games 2012: Percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie was definitely heard on Friday night at the Olympic opening ceremony. The professional musician led 1,000 drummers while the rest of the actors shared a visual moment surrounding the English industrial revolution. With her instruments above the actual stage, the artist kept the beat as the actors gave a visual on how the changing times created the United Kingdom.

Listen to her: http://www.ted.com/speakers/evelyn_glennie.html


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