Last night I went to see one of my favourite pianists perform at the Wigmore Hall – Cédric Tiberghien.
Playing an array of Debussy, he had the audience captivated throughout and on finishing provoked calls of ‘Bravo!’ from the many French people in attendance.
The review in its entirety will be in next month's Hearing Times, but what yesterday did resurface within me was all the memories of when I could hear a bit more than just one octave above middle C. In fact, if I'm honest, lately it's more like a fifth above middle C.
As a child, I was captivated by music, mainly by the emotions it could provoke within people. Unknowingly, I created a memory bank of sounds and melodies that even today I can call up at a moments notice.
For instance, one of my favorite things as a very small kid was playing the piano with my arms spread as far as possible so I was hitting the very high and very low notes. Those high ones, with their tinny resonance, are still there in my head even now.
I also remember my violin – I was going to be a concert violinist don't you know – and how, as I shot up the grades, harmonics became one of my favorite things. That ethereal sound you could create with the lightest touch of your finger on the string, and the vibration coursing down your fingertip. Of course as I went deafer, the vibration became the most important aspect of this. And as feeling vibrations in my fingers wasn't the reason I took up the violin, I sadly gave it up.
And then there's my flute. I have an excellent memory bank of its sound as luckily I'd reached a good grade before my hearing plummeted. I remember the amazing sound that came flying out, how a subtle change in fingers and diaphragm tension could send the pitch rocketing, and I remember thinking, 'That's me doing that'.
Once that sound had gone from my reach, the memory bank did sustain my flute playing. High pieces were played an octave or two lower initially so I knew how they sounded, and my teacher taught me to visualise the sound. 'If you see it, it will come,' he used to say like some kind of wise guru. And he was right.
But it wasn't enough. It was like being in madly in love with someone but only having a photograph to look at – never the real thing. I began to feel sad when I played my flute, and this emotion was only really useful when playing Reinecke's Sonata Undine, which is about a stroppy mermaid.
Sometimes I feel as though my deafness has sucked the joy out of music, but yesterday I was reminded that it's simply killed the joy in me making music. But not in me watching others make music.
As I watched Tiberghien from my seat, chosen especially so I could finger-read the high bits, I felt the familiar buzz I get from amazing music – from seeing someone else create that amazing music. And I pushed that incredible longing for it to be me making the amazing music to one side and just enjoyed it for what it was.
You see, wondering what could have been won't really get you anywhere. If I hadn't have gone deaf, I might not have been such a geek at school and therefore music wouldn't have been cool. I might have achieved even less musically, whereas instead I can be proud that I got my Grade 8 flute just two years after my hearing plummeted.
And today? Well I'm conjuring up my sound memories to hear the Reinecke once again. Though there are recordings of me playing it, they are of no use to me. It's in my head, every cadenza, wave crash, heartbreak and trill. They're all there. And as I sit here on the bus, it’s like I'm not deaf anymore...
…just for a little while anyway.
You've just made me cry! i remember hearing you play all those wonderful tunes and the smile on you face when at just 5+ you got your much longed for first violin. I'm so proud of you. keep watching the music and keep the memeries alive. x
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