Accessibility Innovation in Media and Creative Arts

Focus Area Four
Accessibility Innovation in the Arts (Part Three)

Accessible Music Performances

Music is made up of vibrations, also known as sound waves, that we can hear. It may be assumed that there is only one way to experience and enjoy music – by listening and hearing. But music also creates vibration which can be felt by touch throughout the entire body – the humming sound produced by the string on an upright bass, the boom of the drums and the vibration of the piano strings can echo through the body as another way to experience music (BBC, n.d.).

The BBC National Orchestra of Wales have designed concerts especially for an audience who cannot actually hear them. Children, young people and adults who are Deaf, deaf, deafened and hard of hearing are invited to experience a full symphony orchestra in Cardiff, Wales. People of all ages are invited to sit with musicians on stage where they can touch the instruments to feel the vibration and experience the sensation of music without being able to hear it (BBC, 2013).

Logo for the Mahler Chamber Orchestra

Mahler Chamber Orchestra

From 2012 to 2015, the Berlin, Germany based Mahler Chamber Orchestraopen new window toured an award-winning outreach education workshop program called Feel the Music, which integrated the Orchestra with children who are deaf and hard of hearing. During Feel the Music workshops, children are invited to touch the instruments, sit under the piano, conduct the musicians and sense the sound of a drum or the vibrations of a cello with their entire body. (Mahler Chamber Orchestra, n.d.)

Logo for the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in Australia, musician Danny Laneopen new window and music educator Karen Kyriakouopen new window collaborated with students from the Victorian College for the Deaf on a series of music workshop designed to inspire music making. The experience of music doesn’t just come from listening to it as Danny Lane suggests, “for me it's more than that; it's about the experience of working with a group, interacting, sharing creative ideas, socialising” (Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, 2015).

Image: Headshot of Dame Evelyn Glennie

Dame Evelyn Glennie

In an essay open new window she wrote in 2015, Dame Evelyn Glennie explains how hearing is “a specialized form of touch. Sound is simply vibrating air which the ear picks up and converts to electrical signals, which are then interpreted by the brain. The sense of hearing is not the only sense that can do this, touch can do this too. If you are standing by the road and a large truck goes by, do you hear or feel the vibration? The answer is both“ (Glennie, 2015).

In her youth, Glennie spent time with her school percussion teacher, Ron Forbes, who played notes on a timpani drum while she placed her hands on the wall nearby. She describes learning how to distinguish notes by associating where on her body she felt the sound; low notes were felt in her legs and feet and higher sounds on her face, neck and chest (Evelyn Glennie, 2015).

Dame Evelyn Glennie is recognized as the first musician to maintain a full-time career as a solo percussionist. Evelyn is profoundly deaf and has, with the aid of Ron Forbes, honed her awareness of sound to such a degree that she describes her body as ‘a resonating chamber’ (Evelyn Glennie bio, 2019).

Evelyn Glennie plays with a very special band!