TOUCH THE SOUND (Thomas Riedelsheimer). 98 minutes. Runs November 25-27 at the Bloor, November 28-December 1 at the Royal, starting December 2 at the Varsity. For venues and times, see Indie & Rep Film. Rating: NNN
It's possible to be hearing-impaired and still be a great musician; Beethoven was proof of that. Scotland's Evelyn Glennie is hardly in that class, but she's a Grammy-winning percussionist who's profoundly deaf.
Glennie began piano lessons as a child, but by age eight, her hearing was failing. She took up percussion, and in Touch The Sound , she tries to explain, between musical sessions around the world and recording a new CD, how she experiences sound. She says that hearing is a form of touch that she can feel throughout her body.
In the film's most illustrative scene, she works with a hearing-impaired schoolgirl: they take turns striking a large bass drum while touching it with their free hands. Long after the sound has faded, they still feel the vibrations.
Other times, the film uses close-ups and turns up the soundtrack to imply Glennie can hear what we're hearing, but does not make clear how. She does have some residual hearing, and admits that when not performing, she can be thrown off by the sounds filtered through her ears. She also admits to occasional frustration trying to make hearing people understand how she experiences sound.
Ultimately, though, Glennie's joy in performing and ability to find music in what most of us would call noise are impressive.