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.
This article originally appeared in Connect magazine - Summer 2017 edition.