How to truly listen | Evelyn Glennie | Summary and Q&A

May 14, 2007
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How to truly listen | Evelyn Glennie


Renowned musician Evelyn Glennie shares the importance of truly listening and experiencing sound in all its nuanced forms.

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Questions & Answers

Q: How does Evelyn Glennie approach interpreting music?

Evelyn Glennie approaches interpreting music by immersing herself in the piece and exploring the nuances of sound beyond what is written on the page. She seeks to bring the music to life through her personal interpretation and experiences with the instrument.

Q: How does Glennie emphasize the importance of truly listening to sound?

Glennie emphasizes that listening extends beyond just hearing sound, and it involves using the entire body as a resonating chamber to fully experience and understand the nuances of sound. She encourages listeners to open themselves up to the entire journey of a sound, from its initial creation to its afterlife.

Q: What impact did Evelyn Glennie have on music institutions in the UK?

Evelyn Glennie's acceptance into the Royal Academy of Music challenged the institution to reconsider their admission policies and led to a change in the way music institutions treat applicants with disabilities. This opened doors for many talented musicians who may have previously been overlooked due to their physical limitations.

Q: How does Glennie demonstrate the significance of acoustics in concert halls?

Glennie explains that acousticians are now engaging with individuals who are hearing impaired to understand their experiences with sound. This has led to a greater consideration for the design and acoustics of concert halls to create spaces where all individuals can fully experience and appreciate music.

Q: How does Evelyn Glennie use her body to enhance her musical performances?

Evelyn Glennie uses her body as a resonating chamber, allowing the vibrations and sensations of sound to travel throughout her body. By doing so, she enhances her ability to connect with the instrument, producing more dynamic and expressive performances with less physical effort.

Q: How does Glennie encourage listeners to approach music with openness and curiosity?

Glennie encourages listeners to approach music with open minds and bodies, allowing themselves to fully experience and interpret the sound. Rather than relying solely on their ears, she encourages listeners to explore the different ways they can perceive and interact with sound, fostering a deeper connection to the music.

Q: What challenges did Evelyn Glennie face as a deaf musician?

Evelyn Glennie initially encountered resistance from music institutions due to her deafness. However, she challenged these preconceptions and eventually gained acceptance, leading to a shift in the way music institutions approach applicants with disabilities. She has since become a celebrated and influential musician on a global scale.


This talk by Evelyn Glennie, a deaf percussionist, explores the importance of listening and experiencing sound beyond just hearing. She discusses how she interprets and translates music through her body, and she emphasizes the need for us to open our bodies and minds to truly listen and understand others. Glennie also highlights the impact of sound on individuals with disabilities and the role of acousticians in creating inclusive spaces.

Questions & Answers

Q: How does Evelyn Glennie view her role as a musician?

Evelyn Glennie sees her role as a musician to not only translate music, but also to interpret it. She believes that there is more to music than what is written on a page, and it is through her own experiences and exploration that she connects deeply with her instrument and creates a unique interpretation of the music.

Q: How does Glennie approach listening to music?

Glennie approaches listening to music with an open mind and body. She encourages us to use our bodies as resonating chambers and to fully experience the journey of sound. She believes that we should listen beyond just what our ears perceive, exploring how sound resonates and vibrates through our entire being.

Q: How does Glennie connect with different sounds and instruments?

Glennie connects with different sounds and instruments by exploring them physically and experimenting with different techniques. She not only uses her hands and arms but also her jewelry and even different parts of her body to create sound. By doing so, she can fully experience the vast range of sound colors that each instrument has to offer.

Q: What has Glennie's experience as a deaf musician taught her about sound perception?

Glennie's experience as a deaf musician has taught her that sound perception is not limited to the ears alone. She explains that by engaging different parts of her body, such as her hands, arms, scalp, and even her tummy, she can feel and perceive sound vibrations. She believes that true listening goes beyond hearing and engages our entire being.

Q: How did Glennie challenge the perception of a "deaf musician" in music institutions?

Glennie challenged the perception of a "deaf musician" in music institutions by auditioning and proving her musical ability. She emphasized the importance of musical talent and passion, rather than focusing solely on physical abilities. As a result, the music institutions changed their policies, not refusing entry based on physical disabilities, and ultimately fostering a more diverse and inclusive musical community.

Q: How has the accessibility of sound affected music institutions and acousticians?

The accessibility of sound, especially within the Deaf community, has had a significant impact on music institutions and acousticians. Glennie mentions that music institutions and schools for the deaf now treat sound not just as a therapy, but also as a means of musical expression. Acousticians are conversing with hearing-impaired individuals to better understand their experiences and how to create inclusive spaces through proper acoustic design.

Q: What does Glennie advocate for in terms of listening skills?

Glennie advocates for developing and testing our listening skills, using our bodies as resonating chambers, and suspending judgment. She encourages us to have a more open and attentive approach, connecting with sound on a deeper level. Glennie believes that by truly listening, we can gain a broader understanding of others and develop a more meaningful connection with music and each other.

Q: How does Glennie reject the idea of strict rules in music?

Glennie rejects the idea of strict rules in music by emphasizing the fluidity and individuality of musical expression. She believes that there are no right or wrong ways to create music, and that personal interpretation and expression are essential. By embracing this mindset, she allows herself to fully explore and experiment with sound, creating unique performances that go beyond traditional techniques and conventions.

Q: What is the significance of Evelyn Glennie's clapping exercise?

Evelyn Glennie's clapping exercise highlights the importance of how we listen and interpret sound. By asking the audience to clap and create the sound of thunder, snow, and rain, she demonstrates that our perception of sound can be subjective and influenced by our own experiences. She encourages us to think beyond traditional ways of producing sound and to explore different possibilities for interpretation.

Q: How does Glennie experience music as a performer compared to the audience?

Glennie experiences music differently as a performer compared to the audience. As a performer, she hears the rawness and contact of the instrument, but she also experiences the purity of sound before it is even produced. She acknowledges that each individual in the audience will have a unique experience based on their position in the hall, and she encourages the audience to open up their bodies as resonating chambers and fully embrace the journey of sound.


Evelyn Glennie's talk emphasizes the importance of truly listening beyond hearing, connecting with sound through our entire beings. She challenges our perception of disabilities in music and advocates for inclusion and understanding. Glennie encourages us to open our bodies and minds, suspending judgment and embracing the fluidity and uniqueness of musical expression. By doing so, we can deepen our connection with music and each other.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Evelyn Glennie discusses the combination of hand technique and technology in music and emphasizes the importance of listening, as her aim is to teach the world to listen.

  • She explores the process of translating and interpreting music, showcasing how she brings a piece of music to life through her drumming.

  • Glennie highlights the significance of experiencing sound beyond just listening, incorporating the body as a resonating chamber and embracing the individuality of sound perception.

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