Sound Thought 2011 Part 3

The audience hushed as the presenter appeared in the beam of a spotlight with a ream of A4 sheets of white paper held to his chest. At well-timed intervals, successive sheets dropped from his hands and fluttered poetically into the darkness. “Hear the sounds all around you” read the text*on one. “Hear the sound of your heart beating” said another.

The audience was experiencing Benn Dunn’s ‘Signed Sound’ presentation, which began with a soundless performance piece, referencing, amongst other things, the composer John Cage’s experience in an anechoic chamber. Despite the hearing aid’s enthusiasm for sampling all the least poetic aspects of the unique acoustic ambience of Arch 6, I was enraptured. Even when one of the captions said “hear the gentle sound of this sheet of paper hitting the floor”. Well, that’s what imagination is for, I said to myself, but I started to get a bit worried when the size of the lettering suddenly started to become smaller a few sheets further on. “Raise your hand if you are having difficulty reading this” said a well-timed sheet. Keen to preserve my silent listening experience, I immediately stuck my hand up. I was the only one.

“Oh…” said Ben, introducing the first unplanned utterance to the silence. “Is it the lighting? How about if I stand here?”

Thanks to me, John Cage had just left the room.

Chairs creaked as nineteen silhouetted heads turned to see who the perceptually challenged person at the back was. Eager to ensure my soundless listening comfort, Ben followed the trajectory of his previous piece of paper and leapt athletically from the stage into the darkness.

“Better?” he said hopefully.

“No, it’s not the lights”, I replied, in the second unplanned utterance, “I’m just really short-sighted.” There was a burst of laughter from the audience, and I suddenly felt very glad of the darkness.

Half an hour later things were back on track and, to the delight of the woman at the back with the dodgy eyesight and the hearing aid, Robert Fulford’s ‘Hearing-Impaired Musicians’ Use and Experience of Hearing Aid Technology’ presentation appeared on the screen. Thankfully there were no sheets of A4 paper in sight.

A very poised presenter, Robert explained that he was in the first year of his PhD at the Royal Northern College of Music and went on to describe his research to date. He is interested in what motivates hearing impaired musicians, what challenges they face and how they are overcome. He has been interviewing a selection of musicians (ranging from amateur to professional) who use hearing aids, and recording their views on how useful, or otherwise, aids are to their performance and enjoyment of music. Some of his sample musicians were born deaf or hearing impaired, and some lost their hearing later in life to different degrees. Some used hearing aids when playing, and some did not. It was interesting to hear about those musicians, some of them profoundly deaf, who preferred to play unaided, and really sad to hear about those who needed to play aided, but lived in fear of their old analogue aids dying, because they found digital aids unusable for music. The personal accounts which Robert featured were very vivid and I look forward to hearing about how his research progresses.

We had a nice chat afterwards, and then I disappeared out on to the gale lashed streets. The musical mushrooms were still tinkling away merrily in their bell jar as I passed.

 

*my paraphrasing of Ben’s text from memory…apologies!

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3 Responses to “Sound Thought 2011 Part 3”



  1. 1 Digital ist besser? Nicht bei Musik — und Hörgeräten | Not quite like Beethoven Trackback on February 14, 2011 at 7:30 am

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