Listening without hearing #2

Beethoven was deaf. His hearing capacities decreased gradually and he spent the last eight years of his life in complete silence, and composed his 9th symphony during these years. Legend says that he used a wooden stick in his mouth with which he recorded the vibrations of his piano.

Isn’t it amazing that someone without hearing could create such wonderful music?

How to be a deaf musician?

I was wondering how deaf people enjoy and play music, and when doing some research on this topic I realised how narrow my perception of listening is. I always assumed that listening is only possible by hearing, yet deaf – which includes hard of hearing – musicians and deaf music lovers prove otherwise.

Nowadays, deaf people often rely on hearing aids. However, those tend to distort sounds. Tuning for instance, becomes a difficult task. Deaf musician’s solution is to rely on other senses than hearing in order to play music.

cello on stairs
Photo credit: Ex Animo Cello Quartet via photopin (license)

A new type of listening?

Most deaf musicians manage by relying on visual and tactile cues when it comes to staying in tune or keeping the rhythm. In an orchestra for example, looking at the bow of the strings is very useful, or keeping an eye on when the other wind instrument players are taking breaths. And, especially in an orchestra, sound resonates through the body. One can listen to the music only through feeling its pulsation and vibrations.

All of this research did bring me to wonder what it must feel like to play music as a deaf person, and I want to try it out for myself. To be continued…

Post by: Lucie

Photo credit: Happy Birthday, Herr Beethoven via photopin (license)

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