Given to Fly

Pearl Jam – Given to Fly

I first saw this video a couple of years ago but came to think about it again recently when someone tweeted a link to an article about sign language interpreters at concerts. I also thought about it because I’ve noticed that I hear a low buzz in my ears when there isn’t any other noise around and I wonder if all those years of loud concert-going has finally caught up with me.

My grandfather was quite hard of hearing because he was a track coach and he was always firing a starter’s pistol just above his ear. Then my grandmother started to lose her hearing (she always said it was because she had to shout at him so he could hear her but I don’t think that’s quite how it works). She did not take it well and she groused and complained constantly about having to wear her hearing aids. Every time she did she would tell us, “don’t lose your hearing, it’s terrible” and I would always answer, “it’s too late, Grandma, I’ve been to too many loud rock concerts.”

When I graduated from college I didn’t have a job lined up or any ideas about what I might want to do with my life. I worked at a record store for a while and tried to figure out my next move. For a couple of months I got the idea in my head that I should become a geography teacher at a deaf school and tried to teach myself sign language. It didn’t take long for me to realize that was not going to pan out and fixed my sights instead on the much more employable field of film preservation. That turned out to be not nearly as far-fetched as at least my mother thought and I wound up working in D.C. in the photographic archive at one of the museums that’s a part of the Smithsonian Institution.

Washington, D.C. is home to Gallaudet University and at one point we had an intern from there working in our office. She taught us sign language for a couple of useful, everyday things, but the only two I can still remember are the signs for shower and coffee break.

I am such a believer in the powerful role music can play in people’s lives and I’m so glad to see articles and videos like this because I’ve always thought that not being able to hear the notes shouldn’t mean that people lose out on the whole experience. To me, listening to music is something that involves your whole body and I hope that no matter what happens to my hearing, I can still go to a show and be moved.


  1. I would give anything to see Pearl Jam in concert! I was a little too young to be concert going when they were in their heyday, but if they’re ever on tour in my area, I will make it happen. Possible deafness? Meh. It would be worth it. 🙂


    1. I never saw Pearl Jam either, sort of a wrong place/right time problem, but I saw Eddie Vedder on his ukulele tour. He’s definitely worth it in my book.


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