Thursday, September 10, 2009

Theme Thursday - Rhythm

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.
To see how other people interpret this weeks' theme, visit these LINKS.

22 comments:

  1. That was priceless, well done.

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  2. Wow, now that is a great take on the theme! Good to know you still got rhythm! Cool.

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  3. I don't have the radio on whilst driving, as I've so much music stored in the ol' grey matter, so will on occasion find myself tap-tapping on the steering wheel( but only at at signal light ). I can just see you trying to explain this to the constabulary, Alan...

    Too, I saw your post on your operation and wondering how everything is now? As one who is going deaf myself, I'm curious.

    Great post!

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  4. Your car tap dancing down the M18. That would have been a funny sight!!

    I wanted to tap dance so badly when I was a girl. My mother wouldn't let me tap my shoes on the kitchen linoleum and my tube socks just wouldn't make the delightful clatter. So, I ended up ice skating around the kitchen floor.

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  5. Wonderful post and I can just see the face of a confused constable in your rear-view mirror...

    How are you doing now???

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  6. I was too young to drive then, which is a shame because I would have liked to see that. And the tap dancing kitten, or did I read that wrong? Lap dancing kitten? No, that was wrong too, I suspect.

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  7. I agree with Willow about the tap dancing car! LOL!!! Great Theme Thursday post, my friend!

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  8. That is really interesting--the drive for rhythm being perhaps more basic than the drive for melody or harmony. It's true that everything proceeds from rhythm in music--even melody & melodic improvsation. Great post!

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  9. Beer. Politics. Tap dancing.

    Ladies and Gentlemen, Alan Burnett!

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  10. Heh, heh! I would have paid to see your car tap dance down the highway!

    I wonder if the reason why rhythm remains even after the hearing is gone is somehow related to our heartbeat? And I know I can feel drums as much as hear them when they're being beaten on, so that rhythm may be as much a phenomenon of touch as hearing.

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  11. Alan I had no idea you were deaf . . or have you recovered your hearing now? . ..perhaps you need a decent subwoofer. I can 'feel' my son's speakers two rooms away, no need for hearing!

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  12. Thanks everyone for your comments. I'm glad you liked the post. For those unfamiliar with the story of my deafness there was a series of posts back in July under the heading "Into The Void" which describes the background to my deafness and the story of the cochlear implant operation which restored my hearing. And I write this late at night and as I write I am listening to Billie Holiday sing "These Foolish Things" which answers the questions about my current state of hearing. I don't need tap dancing any more.

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  13. I didn't get in until now but it is a good post. As an artist, I find that some senses are stronger than others while I paint. But even if I wouldn't have one of the senses, I would rely on the others to express all I had known or all I now know about my subject. Sight of course would shut that down.
    One of the reasons I wanted to stop teaching was that my hearing just isn't that sharp. The sweet soft spoken child in the back was never being heard. Once when I subbed in a class for a missing teacher, a little boy came up to me and whispered something. I just shook my head yes and he sat down. The next thing I noticed that he pulled out his Ipod and all the rest of the class started listening to there music machines. I just smiled and thought, well I guess he was asking to use his illegal music device and he let everybody know that I said yes. I am glad you have had a successful surgery.

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  14. Hi Alan, I'm glad you wrote about deafness and your operation to overcome it. I was about to ask you that. I'm going to come back later and check it out, as I have 3 family members who are hard of hearing. What was that movie, where the deaf star actually put the speaker face down onto the stage to dance to the rhythm, through the floorboards? Drat... can't remember. Begins with M anyway.

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  15. Hi Alan
    I've awarded you the Honest Scrap award. Love your writings! Wanna come and get it from my September 11 Blogpost?
    Keep up the good work!

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  16. Alan, when you can. It took me ages, too. It's interesting, though. You learn so much about people and in the process have some good larfs as well as thoughtful moments. Sorry to reply here. I couldn't see your email on the profile page...

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  17. Alan - great response to the theme. I can imagine drumming having a lure, but not tap dancing. As usual you open my eyes (and ears).

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  18. What an enjoyable story! Wish we had a video clip of you in the car! Nice take on the theme, Alan! :)

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  19. brilliant! rhythm is inside of us--a beat that we hear regardless of our ability--it is what moves us.

    great work-c

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  20. great post. wish i had seen your car tap dancing down the road.

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  21. Alan I'm so glad your hearing was restored. Great little Aussie invention that Cochlear implant!

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  22. Alan, I am sorry to be so late getting to this post. I am extremely behind on checking the memes I posted to this week. Somehow I checked your other blog and missed this one completely.

    I really enjoyed this post and the one before it. Sorry to hear you had to deal with hearing lost but delighted to learn your successful outcome.

    Deafness runs in my family. Both parents, 6 siblings, and my daughter have all lost most of their hearing and need expensive aids. So far none have been told that the Cochlear implant would help.

    I have a friend who has the implant though and know of several children in town with one. What a difference it made for them.

    Now I am off to read your July post.

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