Quite often a photograph in one of my posts is little more than an excuse to write something. That is the case with this photograph. It isn’t necessarily a high quality photo. It has no solid relationship with the title, but it contains some blue sky which might have been captured at midnight, though it wasn’t.
When I was very young I’d not only hear songs while moving from the dreamtime to the waking part of my days, but I would come awake singing whatever song was playing in my head through the transition to consciousness. I remember that the song was frequently Rock Around The Clock by Bill Haley and the Comets, which was receiving heavy play on radio stations at the time.
A Communications Breakdown
I believe that “hearing” music is widespread, but I know that not everyone does this because I know that not everyone hears the music in their heads. This was pointed out to me a couple years ago when I was interviewing for a technical writing contract. The man interviewing me was an engineer. During the last phase of the interview I asked about the noise levels in the work environment.
“Why?” He asked.
“Well if there is lot of loud talking, I’ll have to shut it out with earplugs.” I said.
He looked puzzled. It was obvious that I needed to explain further. “I hear language in the same way that musicians hear music. If there is a lot of external talking, it breaks into the way I hear language and disrupts my writing.” I said. “But if I use earplugs, it muffles the sound enough that the writing is not interrupted.”
His face was a dead blank. He had no idea what I was talking about. I realized that I shouldn’t have brought it up. I could have simply brought earplugs to work on the first day, in case of need. But now, he was at least confused and I was committed to explaining the idea. “You know when you hear music or entire songs in your head?” I said. “I hear language the same way.”
His blank expression morphed toward puzzlement. He shook his head. “I never hear music in my head.” He said.
“Do you listen to music on the radio in your car or on the stereo at home?”
“Not really. I rarely listen to music. And I don’t hear it in my head.”
Oh shit!, I thought. I’ve lost him. “Well, I’ve always thought that it was probable that mathematicians or physicists do the same thing. That they frequently thought about math or how the universe might be entirely comprised of tiny, vibrating strings.”
He shook his head again. I quickly changed the subject with a question about the software environment, then the interview continued for a few more minutes. I didn’t get the contract.
For Those Of You Who “Hear” The Music
My waking music varies quite widely. Sometimes it is an apparently random song that I hear on a particular morning, then something else the next day. At other times, a particular song will repeat for several consecutive days. The waking song is occasionally very pleasant surprise, like the recent morning when it was Led Zepplin‘s Dancing Days played on bagpipes.
For the past few days my waking song has been Midnight Blue by Lou Gramm. I don’t always know what triggers the waking song, but I do in this case. I heard the tune on Sirius Radio a few nights ago. I hadn’t heard it in several years and it sounded quite good to me. I backed up the broadcast and played it several times. Loud.
To my ears, Lou Gramm has a very distinctive voice. That isn’t because of the many hit songs that had heavy airplay when he was the vocalist for Foreigner. My experience as a member of his audience goes back before Foreigner. When I was a college student in Canandaigua, NY (can-an-day-gwa), Lou’s band Black Sheep frequently played at one of the many music clubs in town.
It was always a special event when Black Sheep played in town, and when I found out that they’d be gigging in Canandaigua, I cancelled any other plans and got myself to the club, even if I had to walk a few miles to be there. They were that good. Particularly Lou. At the time it wasn’t hard to forecast that he would make it “big time” in one way or another.
From Steve Vaughn: You should experience a brain the goes between “hearing the music” and “doing the math”. That has been my struggle and why I am a mediocre singer and scientist. Could be linked with being ambidextrous – you think? I liked this one, Ray.
From Al Morrow: I remember listening to the Black Sheep album with the other Jim Armstrong when it came out…not bad:)…I feel sorry for the people who don’t hear the music. They say that you can only hear one note at a time, but I seem to be able to hear harmonies, and all the instruments…
From Dan Bohle: I find ‘hearing the voices’ in that same way extremely interesting — would really like to know the science behind that. Steve?
One of my guilty pleasures I won’t usually admit to: Every time I hear Lou Gramm sing ” I want to know where love is” it stays with me for days ( especially the chorus). I think Mariah Carey should be fined for slaughtering that song – must have been when she was going psycho…