Evelyn Glennie is a Grammy-winning classical percussionist whose solo work is unrivalled. She is also profoundly deaf. For Evelyn, sound is palpable and rhythm is the basis of everything. Without vibration, there is nothing. From silence to music, sound is felt through every sense in our bodies.

Lucinda Broadbent
Lucinda has worked for over 20 years as a Director and Executive Producer of UK and international documentaries for Channel 4, BBC, Scottish Television and Sky. She specialised in human rights and social justice films. Her prizes include Amnesty International’s Media Award and ECHO Human Rights Award.

From the very first sequence it’s clear you’re in for a treat. A close-up of two drumsticks– pulling back to reveal a woman standing before a giant Japanese drum–as the sound builds, continue pulling back to reveal a massive disused factory–sweeping out of the factory gate and up to the sky – listening to the drum’s reverberations echoing up to the clouds.

98 minutes of a girl going round the world tapping things. It may sound alarming: in Reidelsheimer’s deft hands it’s a joy to the ears, the eyes and the heart.

Scottish percussion phenomenon Evelyn Glennie makes a sound journey. Performing a snare solo on the busy concourse of Grand Central Station in New York, she’s a waif with bleached hair, shabby jeans, bare tattooed arms with her bra-strap askew; at a ruin on a bleak Scottish coast, she milks music from empty seashells; in the empty factory in Cologne, recording an improvised album, she beats out a rhythm on her collaborator’s back.

Rhythm is not the preserve of Glennie’s drumsticks: Reidelsheimer’s camera is another musical instrument. He builds up delicate visual rhythm: a car wheel hitting the white lines in the middle of the road, ripples in a pool of water, a rake passing through gravel, a dog’s four paws tapping on the floor. Remarkably for a film about music, it works with the sound turned off.

After their film on Andy Goldsworthy, this German/Scottish team has cornered the market in feature-length docs on big Scottish artists. Touch the Sound surpasses the hit they’ve already had – if they’re planning to continue the series, I can’t wait for the next one.

«Silence is the loudest sound you’ll ever experience» says Glennie. «Silence isn’t the opposite of sound. The opposite of sound is…death.»

The film has the confidence to let the pictures and music bear most of the story. Sync from interview is used sparingly, weaving in Glennie’s journey through her own musical history. Her school doctor tells her at the age of 11 that she’ll never play music. For Glennie is profoundly deaf. I’m sorry if I’ve spoiled the surprise when you watch the film; Reidelsheimer wisely leaves it till quite late in the film to reveal her deafness; viewing it in Scotland, it’s the only thing we all already know about her. Touch the Sound is mercifully not a sentimental ‘deaf drummer triumphs despite her disability’ story, it’s a portrait of the artist that is also a fine work of art in itself.

 

 


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