Blind composer finds new meaning with music

Post date: 
Friday, 21 July 2017
Illustration of person playing piano

At 50, Bill Skipworth lost his sight completely but he gained an unusual new talent for composing music. Bill has spent the last 12 years entertaining audiences with his beautiful music

As a child, I learnt to play the piano and I was a reasonable pianist. When I lost my sight completely, a strange thing happened to me – suddenly, I could play tunes just from hearing them played on the radio. I couldn’t do that before. I can now pick out tunes, harmonise them, and within a week play it about 25 different ways.

I have developed what’s called synaesthesia, a condition where one sense triggers a sensation in another, such as touch.

To me, every single key played on the piano became a colour and would also trigger a feeling inside me.

The musical key of C, is pure light or bright yellow, and it gives me a feeling of innocence, a childlikeness and joy. The key of F is blue and is full of love and also a sort of tragedy.

 

“For the last 12 years, as the situation progressed, I have been composing things, a bit like an artist. I think ‘Oh, I’ll have a bit of yellow here, I’ll have a bit of green there and a bit more blue.’”

People seem to really enjoy my music and I hold regular concerts.

Most people moan about the negative aspects of having sight loss, but in my case, it’s not necessarily all bad. It’s a bit like if you crush the leaves of an aromatic plant, although you’re damaging the leaves, a wonderful aroma comes out. That’s what I feel has happened to me. Although my eyesight has been crushed, it’s caused something different to come out. It’s amazing!

When people ask, ‘How can you play like that?’ I say, ‘Well, actually it’s because of my sight loss.’ It turns everything on its head because I sometimes think to myself, “If I got my sight back and all this was taken away, how would I feel?” It’s a difficult question to answer, because it is fantastic to be able to do this stuff on the piano. I don’t understand how I do it, or why my brain is doing it. It’s very mysterious in a way.

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