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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

How Great musicians make music even when they cannot hear !!

Her biography is titled ‘Good Vibrations’ - have you heard of Dame Evelyn Elizabeth Ann Glennie ?  In Western World, research and analytical studies form the backbone – whilst they dwell deeper, even the subject line is not understood by people like us.   Read about the study  authored by Edoardo Saccenti, Age Smilde and Wim Saris of the Netherlands Metabolomics Centre which prompted this post.

Great people overcome all obstacles without considering them as impediments !

The  tamil month of Margazhi is the season of ‘carnatic music’ and every auditorium is filled with people hearing to choicest traditional music of accomplished vidwans.  Music is a great healer and hearing it lifts up one. There are some who travel long way to Chennai to hear the rich music dished at various platforms.  Pleasant music is commonly referred as ‘melodious tune’.  A melody is a tune, voice or line – a linear succession of musical tones which is perceived as a single entity. It is a combination of pitch and rhythm, which does not hurt your senses by its  volume, high beat.

Sure, most would have read about this oft quoted incident in Vienna in May 1824, when applause exploded following the premiere performance – the master at the centre did not know that his work had been so well received until he saw them…….  He was almost completely deaf.  Deafness is a condition wherein the ability to detect certain frequencies of sound is completely or partially impaired.

Good Vibrations is the life story of Dame Evelyn Elizabeth Ann Glennie,   a Scottish virtuoso percussionist. She was the first full-time solo percussionist in 20th-century western society.  Glennie has been profoundly deaf since age 12. This does not inhibit her ability to perform at the international level. She regularly plays barefoot during both live performances and studio recordings in order to "feel" the music better.  Glennie contends that deafness is largely misunderstood by the public. She claims to have taught herself to hear with parts of her body other than her ears.  Almost two centuries ago lived the great German composer and pianist - Ludwig van Beethoven.  He is often referred as the crucial figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western art music and remains one of the most famous and influential of all composers. His hearing began to deteriorate in his late twenties, yet he continued to compose, conduct, and perform, even after becoming completely deaf.

How can Beethoven and Glennie, among the few accomplished deaf musicians, make music they cannot hear?  - perhaps they experience music even when they cannot hear ! – to ordinary people, it is sound which can even irritate at times but for the great, music goes beyond the common experience.

The  Netherlands Metabolomics Centre is  in Leiden, a city in the Dutch province of South Holland.  Metabolomics is the scientific study of chemical processes involving metabolites. Specifically, metabolomics is the "systematic study of the unique chemical fingerprints that specific cellular processes leave behind", the study of their small-molecule metabolite profiles. Metabolites are the intermediates and products of metabolism.   The Centre aims in creating a world class metabolomics knowledge infrastructure to improve personal health and quality of life

Their study now states that Progressive deafness profoundly influenced Beethoven's compositions, prompting him to choose lower-frequency notes as his condition worsened.  The scientists state that Beethoven first mentioned his hearing loss in 1801 at the age of 30, complaining that he was having problems hearing the high notes of instruments and voices.  By 1812, people had to shout at him to make themselves understood, and in 1818, he started to communicate through notebooks.  In the last few years before his death in 1827, his deafness was apparently total.

Writing in the latest issue of the British Medical Journal (BMJ), a trio of scientists in the Netherlands dissected Beethoven's string quartets.  They grouped these works into four ages. The experts looked at the first violin part in the first movement of each quartet, counting the number of notes above G6, which corresponds to 1,568 hertz. Use of higher notes decreased as the deafness progressed, they found. To compensate, Beethoven used more middle and low-frequency notes, which he could hear better when music was performed. But in the late quartets - written by the time he was totally deaf - the higher notes returned. "When he came to rely completely on his inner ear, he was no longer compelled to produce music he could actually hear when performed, and slowly returned to his inner musical world and early composing experiences," says the paper.

Amazing was the talent of Beethoven and more amazing is the way past is dissected with analytical studies.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

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