Being deaf in one ear made me the composer I am today

Aleah Morrison-BasuFri 10th June 2016

Aleah Morrison-Basu describes how the need to overcome her partial deafness has shaped her creative process

To explain how my hearing has shaped my creative process I have to first describe how my hearing shaped my learning experience.

Despite being deaf in one ear I was too shy to sit at the front of a class where I would more likely hear everything. Consequently, I didn’t always hear my teacher in class so I would phonetically recreate words or I would make up what I thought they said. This created gaps in my knowledge which meant I sometimes struggled with the more academic subjects because I hadn’t properly heard concepts being explained. For this reason I could never 100% rely on my hearing to learn things.

You may wonder what this has to do with my creative process. It made me develop a strong intuition, which admittedly wasn’t academically fruitful in most subjects but it was in music. I would intuitively recognise the ingenuity of a piece of music but not necessarily be able to describe it with words. My creative process was led by my intuition and emotional responses. It wasn’t until I had to compose music for larger ensembles that I had to start incorporating different approaches. In my first year at university, my lecturer asked to see me after I handed in my first electroacoustic composition. I was terrified I had done something wrong. He asked if there was a reason I had composed a piece in mono. I stared blankly at him and asked him what he meant. He then explained stereo field. From this moment on I have always approached panning as a visual exercise.

Now, I’m always mindful of how my music will sound to someone with stereo hearing. I still lack confidence in relying on my hearing so I use visual monitoring like watching the left and right levels of a mixer or opening a frequency analyser or sitting side on to the speakers with my eyes closed trying to concentrate on hearing all the separate parts. I believe half the key to making a career for yourself as a composer is self-belief and fear of doing anything other than music for the rest of your life. Unfortunately talent isn’t always a requirement anymore. Taking ownership of your talents, recognising strengths, working on weaknesses and not being afraid to be confident in your work all contribute to making a viable musical career. Composing different styles of music can be beneficial because not only does it broaden your skills and make you more attractive to clients, but it also could help develop your own voice. If you are teaching yourself new techniques in order to be able to create a different style of music, you will likely be developing new skills which you may use in your preferred style of composition.

‘Evolving Reflections’ is my first narrative piano release. Music can trigger an emotional journey, it can tell a tale, or simply be heard. We cannot dictate the experiences of a listener but we can create music which has a relatable narrative. Inspired by a collection of photographs, the pieces evolved into stories representing a mini-biography of a few of my life reflections. Just as lyrics can describe a narrative, the music in ‘Evolving Reflections’ sings the narrative.

You can pre-order Aleah's first piano recording on Bandcamp here: Evolving Reflections

Readers of this blog can enjoy an exclusive first-listen of a track from the album called 'A Collectors Memory' on Soundcloud here: A Collectors Memory

Aleah Morrison-Basu

Aleah is a London-based composer working out of her studio in central London. Always enthusiastically looking for new and interesting collaborations with musicians, composers, Film, TV and Theatre directors as a composer, arranger, orchestrator, music supervisor and co-composer. Clients include BBC, HBO, Head, Adidas, Kia, Hyundai, Wilko, Three mobile, America's Cup, Philip Stein, The American Heart Foundation, McVities, Georgia Tech, Harvard amongst many others.

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