What do Mandy Harvey, Ludwig van Beethoven, Sean Forbes, and Hellen Keller have in common? Though they come from diverse backgrounds, they are all bound by two qualities: loving music, and identifying as part of the deaf community.
Helen Keller once wrote an impassioned letter to the New York Symphony in 1942, attempting to explain how she could feel the vibrations of the voices and instruments individually. Surprised, amazed, and delighted by the experience, Keller had discovered what Beethoven had many years before. To a music fan who cannot hear music in its full capacity, it is these vibrations that Keller described are what help them understand the cadence and melody of a score.
Since Keller’s time, multitudes of advancements have made music more accessible than ever. In fact, a pair of headphones that were invented to translate notes into vibrations were released in 2016 specifically for the hearing impaired. The low notes of a bass or drum set from the multicultural music of upcoming compilation CELL-ebrate is now something everyone can enjoy, thanks to advancements in technology.
The musical world is slowly expanding to include more of the deaf community. A UK organization called Music and the Deaf is just one organization continuously working to include those previously thought to be disenfranchised by music. If the works of Harvey, Beethoven, and Forbes teach us anything, it should be that adding more diverse voices to the musical conversation will only serve to enrich the musical community. All in all, we owe much melodic joy to the lives of those who were once thought to never be able to enjoy a good tune.