Evelyn Glennie: ‘How do you pay attention by technology?’

There’s something of the hyper-productive headmistress about Evelyn Glennie. Perhaps it’s the smooth professionalism with which she dispatches any idle chit-chat, or queries relating to her own lifestyle. Forty minutes into our video clip job interview, she informs me, extremely politely, that she has one more Zoom meeting in 10 minutes. I do get a sense of warmth and authenticity — mainly through Glennie’s broad smile and prepared giggle. But, it’s distinct that, even in a lockdown, the UK’s most celebrated solo percussionist is not about to even though away the several hours.

As if to underline the place, the up coming few of months will see Glennie release a few new albums: a selection of operates by the Swedish trombonist Christian Lindberg, a disc of modern day concertos for mallet instruments, and an improvised recording with the Danish guitarist Jon Hemmersam and Iranian daf participant Asal Malekzadeh. The latter album, in unique, associated some convoluted setting up, given that the musicians were being not able to get together in individual.

“The closest that Asal could get [to us] was Denmark. Then she had to hear to the recording we had accomplished and fill in her section, which was not perfect, but which is what’s feasible pretty much,” clarifies Glennie. “The previous 10 months have revealed us that we simply cannot just have a approach A. We need a prepare B, a strategy C and perhaps a strategy D because if this pandemic can transpire now, it can very well occur in the future. We require to be prepared for that, the two psychologically and skill-intelligent.”

The 55-calendar year-aged Scottish percussionist is much better well prepared than several for doing work about unexpected road blocks. Lifted on a farm in Aberdeenshire, she took up the piano at the age of 8 — just about the exact same time that her hearing started out to deteriorate. By 12, when she switched to percussion, she was profoundly deaf, that means that she could register appears, but only at faint stages. Her mothers and fathers — each beginner musicians who no lengthier played — hesitated about encouraging her to pursue a profession in new music.

Evelyn Glennie performs throughout the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games © Getty Illustrations or photos

“It wasn’t just [the deafness] in isolation, it was since of a mix of factors — they realized this was a cut-throat profession and they puzzled if I would be superior enough.”

Still, at 16, Glennie received a area at the Royal Academy of New music. By her mid-20s she was firmly recognized in a job that would see her carrying out with many orchestras, jazz ensembles and contemporary groups, crafting her individual songs and receiving a sequence of awards. She been given a damehood in 2007 and was appointed to the Buy of the Companions of Honour in 2017.

How did she do it all? “It was just my intestine intuition that [a career in music] was my mission so I experienced to get on with it and find out how to go about it.” From a purely logistical perspective, that meant producing plenty of repertoire to sustain a career as a whole-time solo percussionist. “I desired to do the job rapidly with composers to ask them to generate audio for me, which catapulted me into the whole realm of ‘how do you get the money to commission tunes?’” 

In the meantime Glennie, who makes sense of speech by lip-reading through, created approaches of listening that circumnavigated her hearing impairments. She thinks that the resonance of seem can be felt by way of the whole entire body, and appropriately plays barefoot, each when undertaking are living and in studio recordings. It’s an method that she suggests to all musicians — which includes individuals with totally functioning ears. “So many individuals would enjoy to choose their shoes off to experience a lot more of the new music in effectiveness. It’s unbelievable how much it can alter your musical interpretation.” 

For Glennie, nevertheless, the issue extends past musical interpretation. She is presently doing work with a composer to generate tunes of utmost sensory influence for a deaf dressage Paralympian, and has formerly harnessed her tactile technique to seem to link with people today who have dementia — an experience that left a solid effect on her.

“I recall a single girl who took my mallet from me and began stroking it. I mimicked her actions and asked what the stroking intended: did she have animals wherever she lived? Was she stroking a boy or girl or brushing someone’s hair? There was this perception of complete freedom about what we have been accomplishing — we were being just two men and women making a relationship together, with no strain to realize just about anything within just a sure amount of time.

Evelyn Glennie playing a xylophone with beaters, 1993 © Bridgeman Images

She proceeds: “To a massive extent, that’s what the past few months have been about much too: just listening to people’s tales.”

Glennie has been accomplishing a fair bit of this herself during lockdown, not minimum in a single of her present-day jobs: a podcast collection, in which she talks to company from all walks of existence — such as the film and tv composer Debbie Wiseman, the sports activities presenter Jake Humphrey and comedian Monthly bill Bailey — working with the plan of listening as a thread.

“What, for example, does Bill Bailey do when the viewers does not giggle? How do the listening abilities vary for a film composer like Debbie Wiseman? How do you pay attention by way of technological innovation?” 

The percussionist thinks that this closing dilemma has develop into particularly pertinent in a post-lockdown earth. “In our very last podcast, with the Globe Doctors Orchestra, I questioned three medical professionals how they have been engaging with their clients in the last several months. It was interesting to hear how the earth of on the internet consultation has pressured them to redefine their listening expertise how, in the absence of visible cues this sort of as gait and stance, they have had to depend totally on discussion to make their evaluation.” 

Even this percussionist’s enthusiasm for attentive listening, nevertheless, has its limitations. “I can not bear to hear to my own recordings once they are carried out,” she tells me. “That’s due to the fact I know there are umpteen ways in which I could have interpreted one thing, and in a recording you have to decide on just 1. So once a recording is performed, I like to move on.”

And transfer on she does, at an eye-watering price of efficiency. When I inquire if she has experienced time to do some metallic detecting — a hobby she took up a few several years ago — Glennie laughs. “I have not been in a position to get out in a minimal while, but I’d like to get again to it. It is so stress-free. And despite the fact that I have not observed any treasure but, I retain everything I do come across, even if it is just a bit of trash.

“I’m pretty interested in making appears for radio and television and it’s surprising how several of the objects I have identified are valuable in that way. It’s anything I prepare to do the job on in the in the vicinity of long term.”

I’m absolutely sure that, when she does, we will know about it.

Evelyn Glennie’s CD of new music by Christian Lindberg is introduced on January 8 her CD of mallet concertos is released on January 15 and her CD of improvised new music is produced in February. ‘The Evelyn Glennie Podcast’ carries on fortnightly

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Amelia J. Bell

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