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Touch the Sound

(2005) *** 1/2 Unrated
99 min. Shadow Distribution. Director: Thomas Riedelsheimer. Cast: Evelyn Glennie, Fred Frith.

If you've seen Thomas Reidelsheimer's exceptional documentary Rivers and Tides, you have a pretty good idea what to expect from his latest, Touch the Sound. While illuminating the life and work of landscape sculptor Andy Goldsworthy, Rivers and Tides inaugurated a planned trilogy of films about unconventional Scottish artists. Touch the Sound follows Evelyn Glennie, a profoundly deaf percussionist, as she performs in Grand Central Station, works with kodo drummers in Japan, and improvises with composer-guitarist Fred Frith in an acoustically intense abandoned warehouse.

Glennie makes a great subject: a sound adept with a unique perspective and a winning personality. With the serene observation of an accomplished documentarian, Reidelsheimer follows Glennie as she whips up percussive trills and thunder, but also as she teaches hearing-impaired students to feel music in their bodies. As in Rivers and Tides, the director makes delicate use of Koyaanisqatsi-esque interstitials of natural and urban landscapes, or—in this case—soundscapes.

Reidelsheimer is his own cinematographer and editor, and the results are invariably exquisite: in his films, art and philosophy intersect, integrated into ways of life. Glennie's playful philosophy of tactile sounds and silence, to be found everywhere at every time, informs her work and her existence. Glennie and Reidelsheimer prove equally adept at tapping into found sound and transforming it into art.

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