The first Aural Diversity concert, sponsored by the British Arts Council and ReSound, took place at Kelston Roundhill near Bath in July. This was a unique event of musical performances by aurally diverse people for an aurally diverse audience. The audience included people who are deaf/blind, profoundly deaf, hearing impaired, autistic, people who are living with tinnitus and many other hearing types.
The concert offered ways for everyone to access the music, including video and BSL signing, vibrating floors and haptic interaction, and streaming to radio headphones in a “relaxed” environment, meaning that people could sit anywhere, move about during performances, listen outside, or adopt any other listening mode that suited them. For some, it was a powerful experience.
Andrew, who organised and played at the event (pictured), said: “Aural Diversity is the recognition that everybody hears differently. We are not a group of disabled people trying to play music for normal people; but a group of aurally diverse people trying to redefine the concept of music and provide new listening experiences for everybody.”
For Andrew, the concert also marked a big step for him: the first time he played in front of an audience in 10 years. He was worried that his Meniere’s Disease could trigger a vertigo attack due to the stress and nervousness before the show, but it was not a problem and Andrew considers the event a success.
After the event, Andrew said: “What an experience! My personal feelings are ones of great pride that we managed to pull off such an extraordinary event, and great excitement about the possibilities of Aural Diversity as a project for the future. I have the feeling that this could be the beginning of something big.”
Andrew, who has severe hearing loss, tinnitus and diplacusis due to Meniere’s Disease, played his own piece ‘Where two rivers meet, the water is never calm’ for his specially constructed “diplacusis piano”. This used a rolling spectrogram to convey, both to himself and the audience, what he cannot hear. He also performed “Kelston Birdsong” which gave people the opportunity to listen outside, or to watch a slideshow of the featured birds. Each bird triggers a particular musician who plays a call. Hearing the call, the other musicians play a response. This process repeats. All the birds, calls and responses sit within the comfortable hearing range of a particular musici
Aural Diversity’s next events are a conference and concert on Saturday 30 November and Sunday 1 December at the University of Leicester and at the Attenborough Arts Centre. There is more information at www.auraldiversity.org