About Playing From the Heart:
Our play is about a young girl named Evelyn Glennie who wanted more than anything to be a musician. Indeed, in real life, Evelyn grew up to become the first full-time solo percussionist in the world. Today she travels all over the world playing concerts. Her repertoire includes more than 2,000 works for solo percussion, and she has more than 700 percussion instruments. She has so many instruments that she keeps them
stashed in three places North America, Japan and the United Kingdom so she doesn't have to carry them all with her on her concert tours.
|This play teaches about paradoxes. A paradox is a situation that appears to contradict itself. In this case, Evelyns situation (she is deaf) contradicts what she wants to do (become a musician.) Paradoxes are contradictions that may nevertheless be true. Can you think of another paradox?
To become such an acclaimed musician, however, Evelyn had to face an obstacle few others had faced she doesn't hear like most people.
Evelyn is deaf. She began losing her hearing at age eight, and by the time she was 12 she was considered profoundly deaf.
Because of that label, many people discouraged her from her love of music, telling her she could never be a musician because she couldn't hear the notes, But her parents didn't discourage her, and some teachers, who recognized her remarkable talents, let her prove that there is more to hearing than meets the ears.
About Evelyn Glennie:
Born in 1965, Evelyn grew up on a small farm in Aberdeen, Scotland. At age 17, she went to the Royal Academy of Music in London where she focused on percussion. She won many prizes in school, including the highest award granted by the Royal Academy. She went on to further her studies in Japan. Her concert schedule now takes her to 20 countries a year on five continents.
Many composers have written pieces just for her, and her work has received many prizes, including a Grammy Award in 1988. She has several honorary doctorates from universities, and teaches masterclasses all over the world. She also composes music for film and television.
In addition to a variety of percussion instruments, she also plays the Great Highland Bagpipes, and is interested in helping more people enjoy this native Scottish instrument.
Drums may be the most familiar percussion instruments, but there are actually four different families of instruments that are struck or shaken to produce sounds.
The skin family includes instruments such as tambourines, snare, bass drums, timpani, or congas that have a stretched membrane. The wood family includes instruments such as the marimba and xylophones. The metal family includes cymbals, bells, and gongs. Even the piano is considered a percussion instrument, since the notes are made by a striking action.
Then there's the everything else family. Almost anything can become a percussion instrument - plastic buckets, cardboard tubes, glasses, even your own body (like Christian in Globalstages video, Cyrano), can be incorporated into percussion pieces.
|Find several percussion instruments around the house and compose a short piece for several people to play together.
About Deafness and Hearing:
Deafness does not mean the absence of all sound. In fact, there are many kinds of deafness, and no two deaf people are alike. Sound is made up of vibrational energy with many different frequencies. Many species, including humans, can detect different ranges of frequencies, which is what we call hearing. For example, dogs can detect much higher pitched sound than people can. That means most people are deaf to what a dog hears.
Similarly, deaf people have a variety of types of residual hearing. Some people with hearing loss cant hear high-pitched sounds, such as a whistle blowing, or a phone ringing. Some people with a more severe loss can hear only some parts of speech, so that parts of words
sound like they are cutting out. Still others cant hear any speech at all, but can hear very low-frequency vibrations, such as a low foghorn.
|Animals use their sense of hearing in different ways. How do bats use sound to navigate? How can whales hear each other over long distances?
Although we think of hearing as what our ears detect, we actually use our eyes, and our sense of touch to help us process what our ears hear. Evelyn, through her own experience and many years of training, has learned to hear the music she plays using her sense of touch, sight and hearing.
Evelyns husband describes her hearing this way: If Evelyn sees a drum head or cymbal vibrate, or even sees the leaves of a tree moving in the wind then subconsciously her brain creates a corresponding sound.
|Put your hand against the window the next time a big truck drives by. Can you feel the vibrations? If you had earplugs on, and had your back against the window, do you think you could tell when a truck drove by?
Hearing is a very complex, but largely subconscious process, he writes. An electrical signal is generated in the ear and various bits of other information from our other senses all get sent to the brain which then processes the data to create a sound picture.
People who take their hearing for granted, may come to rely more on their ears, and less on their sense of vibration, or on visual cues. That's why deaf people are often more adept at reading peoples speech than are hearing people. Deaf people have learned to use visual cues, as well as auditory ones, to process sound information.
Some deaf people use sign language to communicate. There are several different
types of sign. In fact, in England, the sign alphabet is done using two hands, and many of the signs are different than those used by American signers. In the United States, the sign alphabet is made by using one hand.
|Try turning off the sound on the television and seeing if you can read what people are saying by watching their mouths move. Are some people easier to read than others? How does a persons body language or facial expression help you figure out what he is saying?
Everyone faces barriers in life, but those who dont let themselves be stopped can grow and become better people for having to overcome them. What obstacles did Evelyn encounter in the play? Which was more of a problem for Evelyn: Her hearing? Or peoples perception of what she could do?
Can you think of some other individuals who have had to overcome obstacles to achieve what they wanted in life? What obstacles did Helen Keller face? What did she accomplish despite those obstacles? What problem did Franklin Roosevelt face as a young man? How did that experience contribute to the leadership qualities that made him president?
|Try mouthing the words: bat, mat, mad, man, but without using your voice. Do they look the same or different? How about papa and mama? Can you tell the difference without sound? What other information would you use to help you decide whether a person was talking about a bat or a man?
In the play, Evelyn takes a series of hearing tests. Think about what the tests can and cant tell us about what Evelyn can do. Can you think of a better test to tell whether someone can be a musician?
People communicate through many different mediums, including speech, music, dance, writing and visual art. Each has a language of its own that is used to convey truth and emotion.
How does music communicate emotion? Can you think of a piece of music that makes you feel happy? Sad? Excited?
|Learn the sign language alphabet and practice finger-spelling to your friends. Try learning some signs for words as well.
This play is written almost like a piece of music. Can you identify the movements and the refrain?
In the play, when Evelyn is talking to the Careers Officer, she makes an aside to the audience and says, Shes deaf on the outside. What does Evelyn mean by this remark?
Can you think of other ways we listen to people other than by using our ears? If you are really listening to someone, what other information mig
ht you use to tell how the person is feeling? Describe some body language that might tell you how someone is feeling.
|Think of some other labels we put on people, such as female pilot or disabled athlete. How does the label detract from the accomplishments of the individual? What would you tell people in the future when you hear labels being used?
In the play, Evelyn says, Dont ever call me a deaf musician again. Why does she say that? How do labels affect the way we perceive people? In the play, how do the reporters attitudes toward Evelyn change as they get to know her?