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Issue 9 - Spring.

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Adventures in Music - Cochlear Ensembles

Adventures in Music - Cochlear Ensembles

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Imagine hearing music for the first time. What an amazing adventurous world would open up to you. The Canberra Symphony Orchestra (CSO) holds interactive music performances for people with hearing impairment through their Rediscovering Music program. Isobel Griffin tells us more about Cochlear Ensembles and Rediscovering Music.

For some people, the big adventure is just stepping outside their front door each day. It was during a special musical concert for the hearing impaired that I experienced one of those – penny finally dropped moments. A lady with a cochlear implant who was listening to a guitar performance, put up her hand and asked "what is that sound I can hear in the background? Can anyone else hear that? Is it a part of the music that I cannot hear properly?"

We all stopped for a moment to try to determine what she was hearing and then we realised that the sound was the noise of the guitarist’s fingers moving up and down the strings. We who hear are all familiar with that sound. But this lady thought she wasn’t hearing properly. Her first thought was ‘there must be something wrong with me’. She just didn’t know. And this is precisely why many people who begin to lose their hearing, especially older people, tend to withdraw from society. Hearing loss is invisible, hearing loss is isolating and frightening.

For 30 years Cochlear has been developing technology to enable the hearing impaired to recover their hearing or hear for the first time. Today over 250,000 severely or profoundly deaf children and adults in over 80 countries have received a cochlear implant. Over this time Cochlear’s focus has been on improving the way people hear speech. Now they are moving onto their next challenge; to enable these same people to appreciate music.

Through an exciting partnership with the Canberra Symphony Orchestra (CSO) this goal is one step closer to becoming a reality. The CSO holds interactive music performances for people with hearing impairment through the Rediscovering Music program, providing eight concerts throughout the year for audiences of all ages who suffer from of hearing loss and who wear various combinations of hearing aids and cochlear implants.

These ensemble performances allow the audience to listen to a variety of instruments, to listen to familiar melodies, and rediscover the sounds of music once again. A melody like happy birthday for example, allows the listener to understand how they are hearing a particular instrument. The listener knows where the melody should go, and, if they don’t hear that, they can begin to understand where the gaps are.

Let me include some feedback here because I find this truly inspiring. A patron attending one of the CSO Symphony concerts wrote this email.

At Thursday's concert I had the pleasure of sitting near several hearing impaired patrons and I thought I’d pass on the conversation I had with them. They all absolutely adored the concert experience and raved about the work the CSO … are doing to enable them to enjoy music… Included in the group I had the pleasure of meeting was a 19 year old boy and an elderly gentlemen, both of whom had never been to a concert, classical or otherwise. The elderly gentlemen commented that he felt like a whole new world had opened up for him and that he couldn’t wait for the next concert. While the 19 year old felt that he had the confidence to attend gigs with his friends because he now knew he could enjoy music.

I personally find this comment from the young 19 year old deeply moving. Think of the freedom he must feel now, knowing that he can go out with his friends and be a part of their activities. Not thinking he is missing something, or even worse, thinking he is stupid.

Or this one

My wife and I went to performance at Llewellyn Hall some time ago and while I did not appreciate much of the music, way in the background this lady picked up her flute and started playing and I could hear her. Strange really except that my father played the flute and I obviously have a 'hearing' memory of a flute and could pick this playing out amongst all the other.

And then there is this one.

... her major complaint since getting the implant has been that she has lost the 'emotion' of music - it doesn't have the same emotional impact that it used to have. Yesterday she said to me 'today I got the emotion back for the first time'. That's quite an achievement, so a hearty 'well done' to all of you.

Be bold, be adventurous, be patient with those who might be a little slow on the uptake for their particular reason and enjoy your adventure and challenges whatever they might be.

By Isobel Griffin

For more detail about the program, go to the CSO website Here

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