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’An important addition to the discourse around disability’: INVISIBLE MUSIC (Online review)

A bold initiative from Platform 4 comes to your computer screen with this new immersive digital film. Invisible Music starts from the point of considering the issues around hearing loss but in a startling and powerful way, it manages to be about so much more.

Split into 15 pieces over 45 minutes, this installation is for one person to experience with their headphones on. As a sufferer from tinnitus myself, I have some appreciation of minor hearing issues and needing to tune out certain extraneous noises, so the way this film was delivered interested me from the start.

Utilising vibrant visuals from Barret Hodgson with music played by the Memory Point(s) Band, the soundscape fills with a cacophony of noise (voices, the sea, birdsong, a siren). The voices we hear are verbatim and from the Winchester Lip-Reading Group (14 women, one man).

In some pieces of Invisible Music, we experience flashes of clarity, or the frustration of losing a prior connection (the notes at one end of the piano, the loud click of cicadas). A trip to Sainsbury’s becomes a journey of serene surrealism. Parties become an overwhelming blur of words, music, and laughter.

The honesty and forthrightness of this group (one of which is the mother of Platform 4’s artistic director Catherine Church) is very powerful, and now and again the realism of the situation of deafness or hearing deficiency pulls you up as a viewer and listener.

The language is occasionally a thing of beauty (“violins sway in mime”, “most people are walking wounded”, “a muffled babble of words”). The visuals are just as beautiful, whether a tumble of words, a playful bird, or a wall of trees.

Attempting to portray to an audience how it feels to live in an aural fog, the production mixes confusion, extremities, and a little glimmer of hope and humour, in a piece which eventually coalesces into something strong, thoughtful, and almost subversive.

I had never thought of switching off a hearing aid as an act of freedom, for example, or a pathway to peaceful sleep next to a snoring partner.

I enjoyed the film’s frankness and flashes of humour in the face of a life-changing problem. The misheard words, the “white landscape of noise”, the sense of the “breakdown of the body”.

The linear narrative serves Invisible Music well, as you can pick up at any point and tune in and out of the film as you wish. Watched through, the installation is intense, overwhelming, and an important addition to the discourse around disability.

Available on YouTube and Vimeo.


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