Evelyn Glennie: Still Helping Us Listen

"In a way I see the body as a big ear," percussionist Evelyn Glennie told Guy Raz of the "Ted Radio Hour." Photo by Caroline Purday.

“In a way I see the body as a big ear,” percussionist Evelyn Glennie told Guy Raz on the “Ted Radio Hour.” Photo by Caroline Purday.

“My aim really is to teach the world to listen,” says Evelyn Glennie at the opening of her wildly popular 2003 TED Talk, “How to Truly Listen.” “That’s my only real aim in life.”

Much has changed in the 12 years since the celebrated Scottish percussionist urged an audience in Monterey to “really use our bodies as a resonating chamber.” She’s since become Dame Evelyn Glennie, her long dark hair has silvered, and she’s gone on record saying she’d like to record with rapper Eminem.

But one thing that hasn’t changed is the public’s general understanding of how we listen. Glennie, who is profoundly deaf (unlike someone who is totally deaf, she hears some sounds), has long argued that “hearing” is not the same as “listening”—that in fact, ears are just one avenue of receiving sound.

“Hearing is basically a specialized form of touch,” she writes in a fascinating piece called “The Hearing Essay.”   She demonstrates this principle beautifully in “How to Truly Listen,” and 12 years later her message still, well, resonates. Enjoy it below, or listen to a 10-minute segment on from a June 2015 episode of NPR’s “The TED Radio Hour.”

—Traci Hukill

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