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  • Writer's pictureVivienne Boucherat


The Zombies are touring North America with The Brian Wilson Band in September! The ‘Odessey and Oracle’ section is included, so Hugh, Chris and I get to be there. Darian Sahanaja gets to be on double shift between both bands!

We are getting ready for it now and have invested in custom made in-ear monitors, made by ACS.

Chris has been using ‘universal’ earbuds for on-stage monitoring until now for the ‘Odessey & Oracle’ gigs and I have been using *wedges. So this is a new step for both of us.

We tested our own in-ear monitors at home. It is basically like putting in 2 hearing aids.

The ear pieces - once in - are very isolating. Before the music starts - you can’t hear a thing around you. You are shut in. I found myself becoming suddenly really anxious and asked Chris whether everyone isn’t freaked out by not being able to hear anything with the earpieces in?

Much to my amazement I suddenly found myself in tears - and then I remembered that I was deaf until I was 3 years old. Subconsciously I had been transported back to what I can only describe as that ‘inside silence’. It is a different relationship to your surroundings.

After an operation for glue ear at 3 years old, (before grommets were invented!) I went from deaf, to covering my ears (a lot!) for a decade or so, to sneaking (underage) into gigs, getting closer and closer to those massive speakers and walking home with a ‘blanket’ that lasted for hours. Music has remained a huge part of my life, I am just lucky I didn’t wreck my hearing for good!

‘Born deaf’- Detail from Legend 1 (Series of 3 collages)

Meanwhile, back in the present - Chris had understood all of this straight away when I asked the ‘freaked out’ question but it took me a few minutes! He’s quicker than I am!

When the music started, the listening itself became my second unexpected ‘WOW moment’ in 5 minutes!

I am no expert regarding sound quality but I was blown away. Hearing the clarity and clean detail was like that moment of being able to hear all over again. It all sounds a bit dramatic I know, but it did feel like a new level of hearing. This time though I was listening to songs - not the sounds of a hospital ward!

I had to laugh when listening to a Chris White/Sebastian Santa Maria song made me cry yet again! This time Chris cried too...A great song and a Bianca Kinane vocal can do that to you anyway - in a good way!

It also reminded me that a song /piece of music can trigger ‘total emotional recall’ in all of us - opposite, but the same as that moment of absolute ‘inside quiet’ did for me. It is a deep spiritual, mental and physical attachment or recognition.

Further details from preparatory sketches (listening figure ended up unused)

We emailed the manufacturer and told him how amazing it had been and he advised us to listen to music we knew really well and we will hear things we never knew were there. He was right!

I have a renewed appreciation for my hearing and a renewed respect for those with hearing loss and the ways they deal with it.

I will get used to the in-ears, and I am sure that Dale (The Zombies amazing sound engineer) and his crew will make it all seem perfectly normal!

I was also reminded that issues around hearing/not hearing, has featured in my artwork in a number of ways from graphic scores and works representing sound and frequencies of sound and colour, to more literal representations (as pictured).

Funny what we actually know about ourselves but keep forgetting!

*‘On stage monitoring’ is what allows us to hear each other on stage. If we don’t have ear-pieces in we have ‘wedges’ which are speakers that give us ‘foldback’ sound. Who or what we hear more or less of in our ears, can be altered by the sound crew.

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