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. Written by
Jean-Marc Rocher <email@example.com>
Communicates a total joy and excitement about life and music making
I saw the North American premiere of Thomas Riedelsheimer's "Touch The Sound A Sound Journey with Evelyn Glennie" on September 10, 2004 at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film had previously World premiered at the Locarno Film Festival and UK premiered at the Edinburgh Film Festival, both in August 2004.
This film should meet with the same success as the director's previous 'Rivers and Tides Andy Goldsworthy Working with Time' as it again masterfully portrays an artist, perhaps not well known in the mainstream (although within the modern classical music world, Glennie is the foremost exponent of solo percussion performance and of percussion concerti with orchestras), in such a striking and all encompassing manner that it endears them to virtually anyone seeing it.
For the first 10-15 minutes or so, I wondered whether the issue of Glennie's deafness was even going to be mentioned (she is famously reluctant to allow it to be used in her music bios, feeling that it detracts from the message of the actual music itself) or whether they would leave it as a surprise revelation for the end. As it happened, it came out quite casually in an interview excerpt. There was a smattering of interview bits throughout the film but for the most part the music and sound experience was left to explain itself. The best (and funniest) thing that Glennie said was something along the lines of... why should she have to explain to anybody how she manages to 'hear', since when she asks other people how they hear and they answer 'with the ear' and when she then asks them to explain how that works, they are at a total loss, so why should she be any different?
The film captures about a year of travels in Evelyn Glennie's life but fore goes the above mentioned 'classical' world to instead show her in either solo or group improvisation situations around the planet. The main performance involves her and guitarist/multi-instrumentalist/composer Fred Frith (he did the soundtrack for Rivers and Tides) recording an improvised CD in the wonderful sound space of a deserted factory in Germany. Other stops along the way are a NYC street jam with tap dancer/choreographer Roxanne Butterfly, a NYC rooftop jam on full kits with drummer Horatio 'El Negro' Hernandez, a Japanese rehearsal/workshop with the formidable Taiko drummers 'Za Ondekoza', a Japanese café/bar performance with the violin/piano duo 'This = Misa & Saikou' and a cliff side exploration with fog horns (courtesy of Jason the Fogmaster). Various solo bits as well are interspersed such as a snare drum solo in NYC's Grand Central Station, a meditation in a Japanese zen garden, a visit to her brother and the old family homestead in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, a teaching session with hearing challenged kids (Glennie's teaching methods involve getting the kids to 'listen' through the sensation of touch), and a solo using only the bits and scraps of cans, plates, utensils and glasses rounded up in the café/bar seconds before the performance itself. No matter what the circumstances you will be amazed at what Glennie can make music with and how intriguing even the most commonplace sounds can be if you really, really listen to them.
There is a total joy and excitement in life and music making that is on display in this film and its message is conveyed in a very down to earth manner that is not at all esoteric or high/art culture but rather communicative and people oriented. There is real emotion as well, as my eyes teared up hearing the young girl who was participating in the music training class say as she removed her hearing aids that she could 'hear' the music quite well without them.
Highly recommended. 10/10
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