Shaoyi Chen


                 Sense of Music


If light is what the blind long for best of all, nothing but music can make the deaf extremely crazy! When I was studying at Changchun University, I once talked about "Three days to see" by Helen Keller with a deaf classmate. I asked him, "If you had three days to hear, how would you spend?"  "Go to a concert hall,"  he answered without thinking, "and stay there all three days and nights on end!" He told me that he had lost hearing when he was less than one year old, had not had any impression of sound and he had been eager to know how wonderful music could be.
I am also deaf. As I fell ill and became deaf at age of fourteen, experienced two different lives, namely shifting form a world full of sounds to a silent world, which rendered me all the more sorrowful as I was stung by the inability of enjoying music.
I don't know whether or not I was gifted for music in my childhood. The music education then provided merely a music lesson per week in which we learnt a few songs. All that left very deep impression on me. Then in the junior school, a school orchestra was set up and I was surprised to know I had been fortunately chosen one of the players---playing dulcimer in the center position of the orchestra.
The teacher in charge of the small orchestra was very strict with us. At 6:30 every morning after we had to get up to school, we were made to run a few laps on the track of school playground, to do warming-up exercises and to stretch and flex our fingers and then we rushed to listen to music and practice the instruments. Music theory was taught after the regular afternoon teaching periods. I still remember that the teacher scribbled explanation on the blackboard so fast that we could hardly follow him if distracted a little. Gradually I was imbued with hard-baked knowledge of music theory. The next year a disaster befell me when I took down with sudden deafness and then I was forced to say good-bye to the sacred music in my heart.
What was the quiet and still world like? It was very hard to depict. It seemed like drought-devastated, parched earth in need of being moistened by rain and dew. It also seemed like a pool of frozen stagnant water unable to make pleasant flowing laughter. It seemed to me that hubbubs disappeared completely from the world and the earth stopped turning at two or three before daybreak---a constraining moment. Everything around me seemed irrelevant to me who simple felt that time was too long to go through and that changes in the world went beyond my expectation as if everything was revolving around me, nothing was understandable. In the territorial air space of my imagination, sometimes the universe was infinitely bright and sometimes the barren land. What songs became popular seemed to be a topic of conversation forever irrelevant to me. Also! Whenever I saw on TV or in a music hall some pop singers losing their minds and boisterous audience quite carried away, I felt especially different form all the others and lonely and helpless. And then I wanted very much to tear my eardrums open, or throw myself upon my dulcimer and have a good cry.
In savouring such a sorrow I spent one year and another--
Later on, when I dropped in a bookstore and caught sight of a nice copy of "201 Well-known Foreign Songs" on the shelf, I scanned a few pages and read the within my heart. I felt certain that I was capable of singing the songs. On thes impulse of the moment I bought that book.
Just as I suddenly met my bosom friend after being apart a long time, I turned the music in the book over in my mind whenever I was free every day. Looking at the music I simply forgot that I had a pair of the deaf ears. I felt as if I had returned to my care free, happy and merry childhood. Only then did I find how clear the sky looked and how bright the sun was and how lovely a flower, a blade of grass, a tree and a rock looked. In this way I was slowly learning to read a many songs.
After I entered university, due to heavy burden of studies and limited spare-time I basically stopped practicing singing any new songs. But since at college a lot of blind and disabled schoolmates were learning music as their speciality, I fortunately went into musical life. I borrowed from them such as "Detailed Explanation of a Hundred Famous Western Songs" which enabled me to have a better understanding of music, musicians and music history. In my heart, Rafael and Thorvaldsen were ordinary, but I admired Pagnini, Schubert, Karajan and Menuhin best of all!
Whatever is lost is generally held most valuable which whatever is nearly impressible to obtain is usually something people are crazy about. I often had an incredible fancy in my mind. If I should regain my hearing ability I would, Without any doubt, become a singer singing with my own unique style out of the ordinary because in my heart the feeling of the soundless world smouldered for so long, the suffering of the disabled life smouldered for so long and love and longing for music smouldered for so long. When I read an article in a pictorial about the world-known Spanish tenor Pavorotti, I was infatuated with him at once, thinking if only I was able to hear his songs. When I saw on TV Jackson, well-known American rock and roll singer, giving charity performance to hungry African people and millions of music fans shouting and cheering for him, my heart seemed to rise and fall like the waves at the same time. That made me feel once again the mighty power of music and the indispensability of music in life. I felt nothing could be happier than being a musician infatuated with and loved by his audience.
When I was learning the course of graphic design in book design, I chose to design "Biography of Beethoven". I painted the plaster statue of Beethoven in light blue against a dark black-ground with deep blue stave in it and wrote the name of the book in yellow symbolizing lamp-light. To do it better, I borrowed a lot of works by Beethoven from the schoolmates in music classes. Finally I chose "Fate" from among the pieces of music. When I began my designing, the  bouncing notes brought me back into my past memory. A voiceless song was sung in my heart and was kept within me quite for a long time.
I have experienced twenty long years of deaf life so far, which reveals that loss of one sense does not necessarily mean loss of the feeling of that sense. Just as the blind can feel sunshine by receiving its warmth and feel spring water through being affected by its coolness, the deaf,  likewise, have their own way of experiencing quiet and enjoying music. Since man is a thinking animal, even the person with physical defects can use his power of imagination, and if he has lost one of the senses, he can train and sharpen his other senses. Moreover, just because he has lost a kind of life for which he cherishes a heart-felt longing, his experience of the surrounding world may usually be even more exquisite, even more genuine and even more close to intuition. Therefore, he can probably have feelings different form those of a healthy person and have gains equally different.
A very cute, clever boy, enjoying his happy life, as anyone of his age does, was not only excellent on his studies, but a member in the school band! Nevertheless, at the age of fourteen, he lost two all of hearing, and then began to struggle with strenuous efforts against consequent difficulties and setbacks. Even so, he did not a moment forget, but was all the more crazy about music---something held sacred in his mind. In his spare-time, either at university or at work after graduation, he kept learn music and year in and year out built up a never failing longing for music. Finally he realized that though a man may become deaf as a stone, he still can hear the rich and colorful sounds of world so long as he is noble-minded, knowledgeable, kind-hearted, considerate and able to listen with all his heart.

Do you want to know about a deaf person's musical life after his loss of all hearing?
Do you want to understand a deaf person's feeling of music in complete deafness?
Please listen and see with great care this true, touching story told by him--- "Sense of Music"

Shaoyi Chen
Presidnt of Xi'an Association of the Deaf
Fucong Lu 1 Hao, Xianning Zhong Lu
Xi'an, Shaanxi Province710043 

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