hearing without sound

Sunday, 11 March 2018

I remember being astounded when I heard as a young person that Beethoven was able to continue composing after he’d lost his hearing. That he was described to be acting as though he could “hear” the music. That doesn’t astound me anymore.
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When I am dreaming there is music. It is loud, and everywhere at once, and unlike any music I’ve ever heard, it is an essential part of the dream. When I’m dreaming, my ears are “turned off”, the sounds that occur in physical space – as sound is mostly thought to operate – are not listened to, are not heard.
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When I wake up, my ears “turn on” and I can suddenly hear the ambient sounds in my bedroom again. I splash into hearing, I feel like I’ve dropped into a pool filled with sound. I feel the sound similar to suddenly being wet all over.
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There are different kinds of hearing. That kind that comes through your ears and is interpreted by your brain. That part of the brain is connected to parts that store memory, and therefore sound can be recalled without actually hearing it with your ears. That’s a different kind of hearing. I can hear the voices of people I know in my head.
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Why didn’t I ever record my Grandparents speaking? They had such unique voices.
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There’s a place in my mind where music is. I can imagine it, disc-like, branching outward, capable of vastly changing its size and shape.
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Do you ever try to make a map of your mind? How do you find your way around in there?
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The place where sound and memory connect in my brain, it delivers non-stop earworms. I used to be plagued with them. I accept it now, it’s necessary. I used to hear music that I did not want to hear, some pop song I recognize but do not like: my brain would play back a loop of it for days. Now it plays its own music. I guess it’s my music. It’s music I don’t recognize, there it is… I can hear it now. It’s just there, twisting and squirming and changing all the time. It’s not as loud when I am awake as it is when I am asleep and dreaming, but I can hear it.
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I can understand people claiming that music comes from some other place, or is given to us by some spiritual being. I don’t believe that, not even a little bit. But I can understand people interpreting it that way.
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Sometimes when I hear a piece of music – like Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew, or Autechre’s Oversteps – I think to myself that this composer has gotten very close, very “close to it”. I don’t know what “it” is, but I know that certain pieces of music are closer to “it” than others.
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Sometimes I listen to my own music from long ago and realize that I was close to “it” back then. I sometimes I doubt myself, and think that music before I had certain epiphanies was lesser than the music I make now. It turns out that maybe my understanding of what I do doesn’t track directly with the work. That’s a disconcerting thought.
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If there’s a way to develop this musical part of my brain that constantly sprays out music that I’ve never heard before, music that only I can hear now, that no one will ever hear unless I do the work and make it into music that others can hear… then I must devote myself to building up that part of my brain. Building it up like a bodybuilder working a muscle group.


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