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Emerging Deafness

All the signs were there, I was slowly losing my hearing.. No one thought of it.  There were two sure components of my life; musical abilities and this sneaky emerging deafness - an awkward combination.  My father wore big, powerful hearing aids, but claimed it all came from the bombs in the war.  My uncles, my grandfathers, everyone had hearing aids, but when they told me in 2nd grade that my hearing was down a bit nobody thought anything  of it.  
A painting of Beethoven hung on the wall behind our piano, taking a break from his writing and looking sternly down. My father shipped it home from Italy during the war.  There I sat year after year, playing and singing away while Beethoven looked on, perhaps knowing the day would come when I'd have to give it up and join him.

   I"m grateful I had 40 years of solid music.  Music was what I did.  I continued to play and sing when I started wearing hearing aids around the age of 20.  My hearing WAS progressively getting worse, but I never dreamed that one day I wouldn't be able to even recognized what song MY choir at church was singing.  It's comical to think of it now, but I was teaching someone a part I wanted him to sing and he had a screwed up expression on his face and that's when it hit me. "WHAT, I'M OFF KEY?"  He nodded.    I used to have perfect pitch!


The New Christy Minstrels

It was wonderful while it lasted! Singing felt like flying. Theater was my favorite and I sang and acted in every play I could be in as a teenager. After graduating from high school, I joined up with my brother William.  We bought a motor home,  and in a musical adventure together,  we sang our way across the country with our night club act.  

Our destination was California which brought us to Hollywood, where we dragged our instruments - William with his guitar and me and my string bass - up the stairs and barged our way into the New Christy Minstrels office. They had told us NOT to come, but William insisted.   (William doesn't know what "no" means).  Then they told us NOT to call ( Don't call us, we'll call you"), but he continued to call them once a week.  When you say "NO" to William he just kind of stares at you and you KNOW it's going to happen anyways!

We were called to join a year later.  I was the first female bass player for the Christies, and possibly the youngest to join at age19.  Our first concert with the New Christy Minstrels was the California State Fair after just a few rehearsals.  I'm not sure I had all the songs 'down' but had fun acting like I did.  It was an interesting time with LOTS of  scheduled traveling. Not the the fun, discovery kind of traveling William and I had done before. I dragged my string bass back and forth across the country 4 times between our our nightclub act and the Christies shows. I eventually had enough of the traveling and quit, they called me BACK, but wanted to try new things. 


Lots of piano playing

Many years of great times and great music followed. I returned to the East Coast eventually and played the piano and sang at every venue possible in Connecticut, along with Atlantic City and Florida. I played Piano bars, nightclubs, restaurants, parties, and wherever they wanted to hear my renditions of Billy Holiday, Carole King and everything in between. (Hey, can you play something fast?)  I was leading the music at a local church that brought me to that day when I realized I was off key and my singing career was OVER!

 I had played so many pianos and sang and played and sang for SO long (I play by ear, ha,ha) that I could do it in my sleep. I have a recurring dream where instead of a piano, I'm playing  a table and music is coming out! Not and easy thing to do!


Cochlear Surgery

Finally, I had cochlear surgery.  The cochlear processor brought back conversation into my life.  I could talk on the telephone again.  I didn't have to be 1 foot and centered in front of someone to "try" to read their lips  The very night after they turned the processor on (a month after the surgery) I could VERY CLEARLY hear WHAT my husband was saying on the telephone in the NEXT ROOM!  I was told that I caught on fast possibly because of my hidden musical intonation.


Hurray!  I could join the world again  The Cochlear processor allows me to hear people TALKING!   BUT MUSIC IS VERY DIFFICULT TO HEAR.  I can only hear what the processor allows me to hear and through the processor, music sounds very OFF KEY;  It sounds like the song is underwater.  This makes the singer and instruments sound like they're in different keys! Therefore, SINGING FOR ME IS OUT OF THE QUESTION.  I've heard of other professionals like myself who just cannot sing anymore. BUT, although it's  not as easy, I can play the piano because I know where to put my fingers, and the piano is always in tune even though I'm NOT. 


Writing as Beethoven did

Having that big music void in my life was depressing.  Not only can I not sing and perform, I can't even LISTEN to music anymore.  The only songs I can hear are the ones I knew BEFORE I went deaf.  My brain remembers them.  I haven't heard any new songs since maybe 1990.   When listening to "oldies" on CD's or the radio, I will ask whoever is with me  "WHAT SONG IS IT?"   I"m constantly asking.   I'll listen closely, and many times my memory will take over and  THEN I HEAR IT!

What I CAN hear is, rhythm, phrasing and lyrics, but NO MELODY.  Now, how did Beethoven write the his 9th symphony?  He wrote it after he lost his hearing.   Well, I know because it's how I write songs.  It's all in my head.  It's just like that little tune YOU hear in your head.  I've learned that I can greatly develop this.  When some tune starts up in my mind, I quickly RUN to the piano, play it AND  write down the notes.  I can't do a quick recording of it like other songwriters because I'll never be able to HEAR the recording!   I then produce a demo in my small studio and thank God I have a talented group of people I can bring my demos to for a nice production.

New Music   

Writing songs is how I can be a musican again. MY songs are the NEW ones I can hear;  I can hear them because they started in my own mind.  

 I love being a part of the talented people I work with when they are recording my songs.   I feel like me again although it's tough when they ask me  "what's the melody there?"  I can't sing it, but I'll  play it out on the piano.

After being passed around the family for many years that painting of Beethoven has a prominent place in my living room over the piano;  I feel his presence; he is still watching, taking notes and perhaps thinking "Go Girl!"

Along with my songs, I am developing music for the hard of hearing and cochlear processor users.  Please feel free to enjoy my YOU CAN FIND THAT ROOM on my music page (sung by Wendy Drown).  There is MORE to come!

Love Nanette

Nanette on piano 3

The day they turned my cochlear processor on! (Sung to the tune: The night they drove old Dixie down) 

This day is one of my days of infamy.  Prior to using the CI, my hearing was REALLY bad.  I didn’t go anywhere anymore;  it was so hard.

But lets talk about the fun stuff.  The day they turned on the Cochlear implant is a day that’s right up there with the day I married Brian and the 2 days I spent home birthing those kids.

The cochlear surgery was a month before.  They wait so that you are healed.  I’m glad I didn’t know beforehand that I was going to  have a hole drilled in my skull!  AND, another fun thing is that they bolted a magnet to the outside of my skull under the skin.  The magnet on my processor bonds with the magnet on my skull.  GREAT!

But, the day they turned my Cochlear processor on (everybody sing now) was a ball!  At first the emotions really rang high.  Then, I couldn’t stop giggling.

I sat across from the audiologist.  She put the processor in place and turned it on.  All at once I felt like I was in a tornado with sounds swirling around me.  I was looking everywhere in the room.  You see, my brain hadn’t heard most sounds for many years.  My brain had stopped processing them and they were swirling, unanchored in my mind.

Somewhere in the swirling, I heard someone talking.  As each second went by, the voice in the swirl became stronger and when I finally looked in front of me at Maria, the audiologist,I realized it was her voice trying to penetrate the confusion.   Finally, I focused on her voice although I still strained to understand what she was saying.  The sound was very new, sharp and crisp.

Her words got clearer as the minutes went by and she continued talking.There was a box of tissues next to my seat.  I didn’t cry; yet.  I cried when she went into the next room and called me on the telephone.  I heard the ring; I answered the phone which was next to the tissue box.  Then I stared balling!  I could hear her!  I hadn’t used the phone in SO long!  Cell phones were just starting to be the norm and “I didn’t have one.”  That day, I felt like a grown-up again!

Her words continued to get clearer,  but the fun part was when I stood up to leave.  Every sound I made getting up, picking up my purse, opening the door, shutting the door made me feel like I was in a cartoon!   Remember the Jetsons and all the funny modernistic sounds in their house?  That’s what I heard!  Silly sounds  everywhere.  And I kept laughing; what a ball. I  was actually sorry to hear my little friends go.  After a few days they also anchored as my brain started to remember them.   And the sound of flushing the toilet once again sounded like “flushing the toilet.” (The flushing sounds were REALLY crazy)

That evening, at the end of THAT DAY, my husband was in the next room talking on the phone.  I could hear every word!   I Jumped up and down (many times) and yelled“I can hear you!”  

Yup, I got a cell phone. I could track the kids.  I could have conversations in the car without having to turn on the lights and and reading their lips.  It really made EVERYBODY’S  life a LOT easier.

Think of what it did for Brian.  He had been through a VERY long, extensive course in something called patience.

Please check out my website for music and stories at NanetteFlorian.com

Love Nanette  


Singing with The New Christy Minstrels 

ImageHere’s a recent picture of me at the Guitar Center in Manchester, Connecticut.  After 15 years of NOT singing, playing or even listening to any music, I followed my brother, William in to the store to watch him buy guitar strings.  I LOVE it in there!

Instead of buying guitar strings, I observed that William was going around in a frenzy, asking questions to the sales guys and somehow I knew it was going to involve me. (I couldn’t hear what he was saying to them)”

He told me to sit on a stool and they put this acoustic, bass guitar in my lap.  ”What are you doing, Bill?”  The guitar felt stiff and foreign.  Then another one replaced it. It didn’t feel right, and I was embarrassed because it has been  (holy $#^%)  35 years since I’ve played bass and when you’re at the guitar center EVERYBODY at least LOOKS like they can play anything.  ”How about that cool looking electric stand-up bass in the corner?”  ”Forget it, it costs $2000.”

You see I used to play stand-up bass for The New Christy MInstrels.  I was their first female bass player (My big claim to fame).But I really had forgotten how to play.  

William and I were sort of conservative “hippies” in the late 70′s.  We had put together between us a musical duo.  William played guitar and piano, I played piano and percussion, including my favorite Royal point sierra bean, and we both sang, of course. I also had the job of dressing in some pretty granny gown and looking good.  William was sure that he needed me to “Make it big.”

With our father’s help, we bought the DD (double dinette) 22 foot Coachman motor home.  We pulled out one of the dinettes and replaced it with our electric Baldwin piano.  William is 5 years older than me, and at ages 19 and 24 we embarked to play music and see the country. Our parents assumed William would keep a sharp eye on me. Well, I think HE needed more monitoring than me.

Our strategy was to drive to an interesting area, find an agent, and while they spent a month finding us a club to play in, we would “sight see.”  Then we would play for about a month or two and be on our way again to our next “must see.”  

That’s what we did!  William is VERY outgoing and thrives on this lifestyle, which, as a matter of GREAT fact, is still doing this today. (Literally, he just arrived in Florida yesterday to do a tour of shows for the next 2 months while living IN HIS GORGEOUS motor home.)

One time when we were in Nashville for the purpose of pitching William’s songs to whoever he could, we watched a husband and wife play they’re act at our campground.  They were REALLY good, and they should have been;  we were in Nashville.  What mesmerized me was  the woman was playing a beautiful stand-up bass.  I remember saying to William, “I can do that!”   We talked about it a lot after that, and when we reached Denver, we found a bass for $200 in the Denver newspaper.  It soon became a big part of our act.  I am attracted to the bass because I CAN HEAR IT.  I didn’t have hearing aids back then, but was definitively straining to hear. 

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“California is the place you outta be, so we loaded up the truck and we moved to Beverly.” I remebered feeling just like Jed and Granny when we drove up Rodeo drive in our motor home.   We didn’t exactly “move” there, but we parked in front of the New Christy Minstrel’s office in Hollywood across from CBS studios and dragged our instruments up the 3 flights of stairs to audition, even though they told us NOT to come.  

There in the office where the walls were covered in gold records, the Christies secretary, Barbara, told us “go home.” But a male voice rang out from an inner office (Sid Garris) asking Barbara “How do they look?”  She said  ”pretty good.”  and he said  ”send them in.”

To make this very long story short, which I may elaborate on in future posts, we were then always announced on stage as  “William and Nanette Florian, our Brother and sister team from New England.”  And so we toured with the New Christy Minstrels.

Back at the guitar center, with only a cochlear processor to now hear through,(I am now completely deaf)  William grabs this beautiful cherry colored electric bass and puts it on my lap.  He clicked my picture and something clicked in ME that this was going to be my new guitar.  It felt good. 

Hurray for me, I’m practicing like a banshee!  I bought a case and am flying to Florida with it in 2 weeks to practice with William.  He thinks I’m going to join his show when he performs in New England.  That MAY be, and that MAY NOT be.  Remember, I can only hear what the cochlear processor allows me to hear  and I can’t hear pitch changes.

  I have learned the whole show, and goofing around is fine, but what if something changes on stage and I’m not hearing what’s going on?  We’ll see.  I’ll let you know!

By the way, check out my brother at  http://www.Florianmusic.com AND check out my new song: You’d Help Me By Loving Me at wwwNanetteFlorian.com

Love Nanette

 

L

  

 

 

 

 


HOW DOES MUSIC SOUND THROUGH A COCHLEAR IMPLANT? 

This is through the ears of a cochlear implant user but was close to the same when I was profoundly deaf and wearing hearing aids.

Picture this:  We’re driving in the car.  I SEE my husband turn on the radio.  That gives me an alert to TRY and listen!   Actually, through the processor I hear the “spoken” word quite well, so if he would only find a talk show I’d be fine.  But he wants to listen to music.  If he chooses a NEW song (meaning one written after 1990) I’m up a creek.  There’s NO way I’ll ever hear it.  I’ll KNOW there is a song playing.  I’ll hear the rhythm, and the phrasing, but won’t distinguish between the sound of the instruments or the melody they’re playing.  IT IS A LOT OF NOISE and wish he’d TURN IT OFF!  (I haven’t the slightest idea what Maddona sounds like)

BUT, it’s Oldies!  Ok, here’s my chance to recognize something and possibly enjoy.  Wow, I know that introduction.  I hear the rhythm just FINE.  Cool, I know that bass line!  It’s a well-known bass line like from HEARD IT IN THE GRAPEVINE or Paul McCartney starting up; da da da da da da da da  ”I heard it’s your birthday” da da da da da da da da  ”It’s my birthday to you”.  What luck!

 So, I’ve heard the da da da da da da da da on the bass. Ok, I hear it great.  But, oh, now the Beatles are starting to sing.  IN MY MIND I KNEW EXACTLY THE KEY THEY SHOULD START SINGING IN BECAUSE i HEARD THE BASS GREAT!  But, as they start singing, they’re in the WRONG key.  They’re really FLAT!  (sorry Paul)  As hard as I try to mentally raise the pitch; sometimes I can, it wants desperately to drop down again.  

So, I’m kind of halfway enjoying this great tune.  My foot can tap;  I could easily dance to it.   I would never sing along if another human is in the car with me because I would sound like a cow mooing or something (I guess).  But, in actuality the song sounds like: SOMEONE THREW THE RADIO UNDER WATER!  That is a really good analogy.  Sometimes people ask me, what music sounds like to me and I answer;  ”it’s just more noise to contend with” or “it sounds like someone threw the radio under water.”   

So now you know.  Would YOU like to listen to under-water music?  Probably, under-water music would have bad rhythm too, but I can hear the rhythm nicely.  

Why can’t I hear the NEW songs?  How can I sort of hear the OLD ones?   As soon as I hear that bass line, or SOME other clue, my MEMORIES take over, so that along with the clues I GUESS I’M IMAGINING THE SONG!

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Me, age 15, playing at some hippy concert in Simsbury, CT. Photo by Walter Wick! Cool!

Check me out at http://www.NanetteFlorian.com     I just put up another song I wrote.  A Country song called “You’d help me by loving me” produced by Paul Lombardo, Tom Russo, Bill Holloman and sung by Wendy Drown.  

 


Why me and Beethoven 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had this painting of Beethoven hanging over our piano when I was growing up. As I played, I would  often stare up at him and contemplate his deafness and feel sorry for him. He was scary looking, and my brothers and I didn’t like him much. He has those following eyes and he watched me year after year with that unhappy look on his face as I sang and played the piano.  

Sometimes we’d find him on the wall in the basement where my brother and his friends would pea shoot him.  But, somehow he’d make it back up on the living room wall.  I would say, for sure, it was Mom who brought him down, and Dad who brought him back up again. Dad, who wore very powerful hearing aids, loved him.

Dad bought him in a small artists shop in Italy during “the war.”  Dad was musical, so was Mom, so he figured his kids would be too and shipped him home to give his someday family orchestra inspiration.  Even though my father wore powerful hearing aides, nobody suspected this strong gene of deafness was carving through the family.

The way OUR deaf gene works is we hear pretty nicely until we hit the age of 18.  So we have learned to speak well.  When Dad came back from the war, he needed hearing aides.  He totally assumed his problem came from the bombs and the loud airplane engines.

So I played and sang all those years not knowing that I was going to be a deaf as Beethoven.  My oldest brother, John, got his first pair of hearing aides about the same time I did. We were in our early 20′s.  William, on the other hand, who is also a musician, escaped the deaf gene.  I have passed it on to my 2 children.  My kids didn’t get the musical gene, and it’s a good thing, because it would be heartbreaking for me if they were performers and I wouldn’t be able to hear their performances.

While I wore hearing aides, I performed for many years.  The hearing aides amplify your natural hearing.  From the age of 20 to 40 I performed.  I got really good at singing and playing the piano because of sets after sets, nights after nights and years after years of it!  (Sorry about the repetition, but you get the point)   You can hear me singing and playing if you go to http://www.NanetteFlorian.com  and look for my audition tape.

Through these years, however, my hearing got worse and worse until it was totally gone.  There was no more music.  We all have things we mourn, I know;  this was mine.  We should have held a funeral service because a tremendous part of me died.

So much time has passed without music. Music is SO hard to hear! ! ! !    But, it’s possible, and I haven’t given up.  In fact, I’m writing and producing songs .Please don’t get the idea I write classical music.  So far, it’s pop and country.    “You Can Find That Room” a song  that have lyrical approach never touched on before was a  ball to produce.  You can find it on http://www.NanetteFlorian.com.   By next week, my country song “You’d Help Me By Loving Me” will be up on the website.

Also, my favorite, Beethoven and Me along with a music video will be added. Can’t wait to show it all to you.

My next post will be “What do we hear when music is playing?”

Love Nanette