Although sound may come to an end, the need for rhythm does not. As many of you already know, some 25 years ago my hearing began to fail. Over a period of many years I lost my ability to hear - and therefore comprehend - at first complex sounds like music, and then human voices and eventually even my own voice. One of the very last things to go was rhythm and, the need for rhythm never went at all. You don't have to hear rhythm, you can feel it. Even though you may not get any audible feedback, tapping your fingers or your feet to some internal rhythm is still a satisfying activity. During those years of deafness I would sometimes twitch and jerk my body to the sound of some unknown melody like a gauche teenager, desperate to feel the rhythm - any rhythm - even though I could never hear it.
But the particular memory of rhythm I would like to share with you this Theme Thursday comes from a few years before the total deafness set in. It was during the years of declining hearing and illustrates my desperation to cling on to rhythm as long as I possibly could. When my ability to follow complex music declined I discovered that I could still appreciate relatively simple rhythm. Simple drum solos would work but I also found was that I was able to lap up the rhythm from a decent tap-dancing solo like a thirsty kitten lapping up cream. Not knowing any tap dancers I went in search of a collection of tap dancing solos on record, which - understandably I suppose since tap dancing is partly a visual art form - was difficult to source. I eventually found a compilation of Fred Astaire hits which contained a good few of his tap dancing routines. For months they kept me happy. I would drive to work each day with the record in the car stereo, pounding out the sound of Fred's feet. Perhaps my feet would occasionally tap in unison to the pulsating rhythm. Which is why, if you happened to drive on the M18 regularly in the 1990s, you might have seen a car jerkily make its progress eastwards as the drivers feet tapped out the rhythm on the brake and accelerator.
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