Soft musical hallucinations

May 11, 2009

I am finally reading Oliver Sacks’ terrific MUSICOPHILIA. It has truly been a life-changing read. In it, he discusses musical hallucinations. I had always assumed that everyone had a constant playlist going in their heads as I do, but I guess not. My brain is full of earworms as well as an enormous playlist of songs and pieces of music that never stop. It gets in the way of my reading, going to sleep, sex, and most things that require concentration. I now know that my condition is rather unique and incurable.

When I am composing, whatever I work on plays in my head constantly. When I get to know a piece of music or a new song, it’s in my head constantly. Evidently, I’ve got it easy: some people have their internal radios going at full blast. Mine is softer, so that if there is talk, music, or white noise, I don’t hear it as much. Some people’s musical hallucinations do slice and dice to songs and they have chunks from different songs that get all jumbled together.

I roared with sympathetic laughter reading about one poor woman who gets an annoying earworm where she hears DING DONG DING DONG (where the DONG is a fifth lower) that repeats over and over for hours. Poor girl. My most annoying earworm is a fragment from Stravinsky’s FIREBIRD that loops and loops and loops and never resolves.

I recommend this book to all, but especially musicians.

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