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.


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!

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous 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.