Musicians Evelyn Glennie and Sally Beamish in Conversation with David Mitchell at the Book Festival

Musicians Evelyn Glennie and Sally Beamish in Conversation with David Mitchell at the Book Festival

Celebrated percussionist Evelyn Glennie believes young people are acquiring “an internet-type accent” because they now see smartphones “as an extension of their limbs”. “They’re watching and listening so much through that medium,” she told a sell-out event at the Book Festival this afternoon, “that they’re becoming in tune with what they’re seeing, it’s almost like an internet-type accent that they’re acquiring.

She added: “If someone’s been brought up in the East of London, you’d [usually] have an East London accent, [but] actually that’s not the case anymore, because young folk are experiencing this generic kind of sound that’s coming through the internet, and that’s actually quite interesting. So, will an E Minor have the same feeling as [for someone] a generation or two [older]?”

And composer Sally Beamish, whose work draws on traditional Scottish music as well as jazz, said listening to a piece of contemporary music for the first time was “a real challenge”, because “music is all about familiarity”. “You can’t really perceive a piece of music until you know how it ends,” said Beamish.

“So, a pop song, for instance, which sounds quite banal and dull on one hearing, after four hearings it’s completely under your skin and it’s totally brilliant in its simplicity. So, it’s such a tall order to listen to something for the first time and that’s sadly so often the case with music, you just get one shot at it.”

Glennie, who has been profoundly deaf since the age of 12, said that from her perspective, “music and how we perceive music is a living thing”. “I’m always coming at a piece of music from sound and emotion first of all,” she said, “in my case I don’t go home and listen to music so there’s not an overload with that…the story of a piece of music will change every single time it’s being played.”

 The two musicians were in conversation with novelist David Mitchell as part of his Guest Selector strand of events exploring the interplay between music and words.

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