The most remarkable thing about percussionist Evelyn Glennie is not - by far - the fact that she's deaf. There is nothing about listening to her play that suggests "rising above" or "in spite of." The 2004 film Touch the Sound: A Sound Journey With Evelyn Glennie (available on DVD) is an excellent telling of her approach to hearing - one that is utterly unique and not so different (at least from her perspective) from a normally hearing person. Through training, Glennie - who lost her hearing as a child - has become acutely sensitive to vibration. As she explains in the film, most people sense sound waves and decode them with their ears; she does so with her entire body. She is an inordinately sensitive and musical player.
The film includes a considerable amount of footage of Glennie playing with Fred Frith in a resonant, old industrial space, and The Sugar Factory comes from those same sessions. The duo's improvisations were miked and recorded for the shoot, but it was only after the fact that Frith decided to assemble a record out of the material. There is a separate soundtrack recording for the film, but this is something else entirely: a beautiful session, full of the sense of the room they recorded it in, abstract and lush. Frith plays guitar, bass, organ, and adds some percussion, and Glennie is heard on drums, steel drums, gongs, vibraphone, marimba, cymbals, bells, toy piano and objects found in the room.
This was the first time the two had played together (they've continued to give concerts since). Scores of Frith meetings have been documented and released, but this one is something special - and not in any way because of curiosity about disability. His tasteful looping and building of soundscapes and his searing solos sound great in the big space, and Glennie walks a fine balance between challenge and response. The mix is totally satisfying.
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