The Joys of Communication

Welcome to my debut blog. If you communicate with words or music this is for you.


My dear friend died recently, a few months short of his century. He was like a father to me. By that age communication was limited. But I cherish memories of our last meeting, when I played my clarinet for him as I did for my mother in her hospital bed. Some Mozart, but mostly the old-timer songs and hymns they knew well. My gift of sound reached to their remaining faculties.


Our digital age sacrifices as much as it gains. How many conversations are two-way? We spit words out into the ether – to what response? But pick up the phone and we hear voice nuance. When we talk over coffee or via Skype we relate with multiple faculties. When I met a friend Peter at a café he could barely talk through bad laryngitis. We updated by writing on his iPad. But laughter, facial and body language compensated for his voice.

The reason we have two ears and only one mouth, is that we may hear more and speak less. (Greek philosopher Zeno, 335 BC – 264 BC)


How acutely do we listen? We can learn much if we listen back to a recording.

Musicians note uneven passagework and erratic rhythms or intonation.

Speakers, we hear, don’t we, the frequent ‘um’ or up-talk, the tendency to rush.

A pre-presentation recording helps us note and avoid words that stutter or stumble. In the writing stage of a presentation, I tape record while walking by my creek or along a beach. The words flow more naturally than when sitting at the computer keyboard. I can then transcribe it and edit further. ‘It is solved by walking’ wrote St Augustine. (Many use dictation software; my efforts to train it are still at the bolshy toddler stage.)

Authors, if we read aloud our manuscript we discover that clunky phrasing, those convoluted sentences, the reiteration of words.

Teachers, challenge your students to tape-record or video some of their practice. Together you can discuss whether they use their time to improve or merely reinforce mistakes.

CAUTION: Recording can daunt. If we listen back immediately after a performance or presentation when still in a sensitised state, we will be appalled by our mistakes. Wait a week so objectivity can temper such reactions. We need balance and to be kind to ourselves. Give credit for how effectively we expressed that phrase.

 ENJOY BEAUTIFUL MUSIC – with the faculties we are given

It’s inspiring that international percussionist Evelyn Glennie is deaf, yet she lives a busy productive career.

“Except for a few minor inconveniences, I am not disabled from achieving anything in my career or private life. How then do the terms ‘Disabled’ or ‘Deaf’ really apply to me? In short, they don’t, not even the ‘Hearing Impaired’ label works because in some respects my hearing is superior to the average non-impaired person. I simply hear in a different way to most people.”

Read more:

 THE BOTTOM LINE: Does our communication diminish others – or uplift them?