Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Eyes that Hear, Ears that See (with a bit of help)

Middle age has a way of messing with vision, which, I suppose, is just a fact of life. Two years ago I wrote a post about the problems I have encountered trying to play the piano with progressive lenses, and I somehow seem to have "outgrown" my old solution of simply not wearing glasses when playing the piano. At the same time I find myself in need of a workable solution for reading music clearly while playing the violin and the viola. Progressive lenses work well for some people, but they just don't work for me, since I spend so much time reading music. I'm going to request single-vision glasses at my next eye exam, which I'm up for in a year.

I found a cheap interim solution to my problem in an old box of "keepsakes." For some odd reason I have held onto nearly all my old glasses, including the "single-vision" glasses of my young adulthood. My young adulthood coincided with the 1980s, when fashionable glasses were thoroughly hideous. There is no way I will post a photograph of myself wearing these remnants from my days in Vienna in 1981, but I can't resist letting my piano "wear" them. The only people who ever see me playing the piano are my students. I gave my Tuesday students a "preview" so that they won't double over in laughter when they see me don these during a future lesson.

My next pair of single-vision glasses came from a Cambridge (Mass) optical shop in 1984. They seem to work perfectly for playing the violin and the viola. And they're big, so I can take in a whole page at a time. I think that they make my violin look rather dignified.

Not having to "translate" the bent and uneven images I see through my progressive lenses (which work perfectly well for activities in life that do not involve reading anything other than road signs) frees up so much of my head. I can pay far more attention to what I am hearing and what I am doing. The senses of hearing and touch can be rendered slightly bent and uneven when something is messing with your vision.

A word to the young glasses-wearing musician: hold onto your single vision glasses! Some day you will be glad that you did.

6 comments:

Michael Leddy said...

I wanted to make a crack about Fred Sanford, who's always fishing through a drawer full of old glasses, but I've thought better of it. : )

Crayons said...

Hey, I had huge glasses too. I enjoy going through our family photo album to see the earlier versions of chic.

Yes, pianists and glasses. I once witnessed the pianist in a string quartet (Brahms) who, sweatily bounding back an forth, failed to prevent the 1980s glasses from sliding down and crashing to the floor.

Unlike you, I don't really hang on to much of anything, so I'm stuck now with these "tres chic" progressive lenses, which I remove when I'm drawing.

Tod Brody said...

I'm a nearsighted musician who needs a special pair of (single vision) music-reading glasses, in addition to my regular distance ones. Once you get your special prescription (mine is optimized for 22 inches), you can get amazingly inexpensive glasses at zennioptical.com. I am not affiliated with them in any way, but I have enjoyed getting three or four pairs of glasses for under $100 total, as opposed to paying $200-300 for a single pair.

Elaine Fine said...

Caroline, your piano quartet story reminds me of the eyeglass problem in "The Jerk." Thanks for the very reasonable alternative to playing an arm and a leg for music glasses, Tod! Every single pair looks better than what I have--and, like you, I could get as many as I want for a fraction of the price that you pay at an optical shop!

Joan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joan said...

Progressive lenses don't work for me, either. The optometrist said that they are designed for people who watch TV and don't do much reading. I do lots of reading, so those tiny reading spots weren't enough. Also, I took my violin and music stand into the optometrist's office, and played a few notes as he swapped lenses. At the end, I have perfect glasses: one for reading, one for driving, and one for playing violin.