Russell Brunelle (russellb) wrote,
Russell Brunelle

The Blind Cafe

Yesterday evening I attended the first Seattle incarnation of "The Blind Cafe," a unique non-profit event which originated in Boulder, Colorado just over two years ago. This event's primary intent is to raise levels of understanding and comfort between the sighted and the blind, and its secondary intent is to raise money for charities useful to the blind. The event itself is hosted in complete darkness, which alone is an organizational feat: the only other time I've experienced darkness that total was in a deep natural cave.

On the whole I thought this event accomplished exactly what it was supposed to accomplish (the live folk music did go on a bit long for my taste but nobody else seemed to mind).

Still, I found myself wondering whether a simplified version of this event (requiring only one or two volunteers) centered on music appreciation could be held on a more regular basis to even greater effect. In other words, what if both the live music and the food were skipped, and the attendees started out the evening in the room where the actual event would be held so that volunteers wouldn't be needed to guide them to their seats? Then what if there were nothing in the room other than huge pillows, so that there would be nothing for attendees to trip over, and the attendees could arrange themselves to their comfort before the lights went out? And what if the music were provided through a top-notch sound system, with the speakers expertly arranged based on the type of music and the number of distinct channels provided by the recording? But yet, what if the complete darkness, the "no electronic devices even if they're only on vibrate" rule, and the Q&A session between sighted and blind attendees were all retained?

Such an event could include in its monthly schedule classics such as Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon," Debussy's "La Mer," some of the more heavily layered tracks by Moby, a selection of Satie's works for solo piano, Stravinsky's "Firebird Suite," Brian Eno's "Music for Airports," and perhaps some environmental and field recordings (a la San Francisco's "Audium" venue) thrown in the mix just to keep things fresh. Another possibility for more adventurous listeners would be simply playing the live Q2 or WFMU internet broadcast for the event's duration.

I've mentioned this before, but actually watching the orchestra doesn't really enhance one's experience of live orchestral music. Similarly, the laser light shows which planetariums often host these days are admittedly fun to watch but don't really enhance the accompanying music either. What DOES enhance the experience of top-quality music, however, is complete darkness: just try it if you don't believe me.

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