Tag Archives: compulsion for music

Compulsion for music – part II

Throughout her career, Scottish percussionist Evelyn Glennie has been an intrepid trailblazer.  She is the most well-known percussionist in the world and the first person in musical history to create a career as a full-time percussionist (a field traditionally dominated by men).   At recent count, over 170 percussion works have been written for her, evelyn-glennie1she was the first to perform a percussion concerto at the BBC Proms Concerts, and she led an ensemble of 1000 drummers at the Opening Ceremonies of the London 2012 Olympic Games.  She has been the recipient of numerous awards and prizes, including 3 Grammy Awards, and she was named a Dame of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth in 2007.  But perhaps the most important trailblazing she has done is as a role model for countless numbers of musicians with disabilities because, as you are no doubt aware, Glennie has been profoundly deaf since the age of 12.  (Click on the photo above to hear her in a short percussion montage, and if you are wondering, the first instrument you will see and hear is a waterphone.)   Continue reading

Compulsion for music – part I

I saw the film Florence Foster Jenkins a few days ago and haven’t been able to get it out of my mind. I’ve known about Florence since I was a student. She was the stuff of legend, known as the world’s worst singer – with no sense of pitch, no vibrato, frequent register breaks, florence-foster-jenkins-posterglottal stops, and unintelligible diction. Certainly good for a laugh on late nights over a beer when someone had access to an old recording. (Actually, I don’t think her recordings have ever been totally out of print; there have always been reissues of various kinds.)

The film, starring Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant, with Simon Helberg as the pianist, is based on the true story of Jenkins, a 1940s New York socialite and generous patron of the arts.  Florence desperately wanted to perform the music that she felt so passionate about. And perform she did – with all her deluded fantasies about her abilities. As I watched the film, I felt tugged in two directions: one part of me wanted to laugh at how terrible she sounds, and yet, her joy in performing, her belief in herself, her charm and her clear love of the music made me admire her and realize just how deep her passion for music was.  Continue reading