Music to frustrate the soul

Music frustrates my soul as much as it soothes.

Driving down the road I was talking with my wife the other day, and I happened to mention that even to me at times this was a weird situation. We were talking about the fact that I had five antennae on a ‘90-something Geo Tracker ragtop. Even odder, if you will, was the fact that it has ham radio license plates and the driver/ham is deaf. From that we wandered down some interesting paths related to this odd deaf guy: I love music, and play (more honestly, used to play) a couple instruments. I’ve actually had a composition published. This, a guy that’s been deaf since he was 4.5 years old.


Life is so frustrating at times. Most days I get along just fine. Every once in a while, though, I get pissed at Life. Why do I, who am so deaf that my audiogram report is a blank form with the audiologist’s signature on it, have this fascination with music and ham radio? Why do I from time to time allow myself to get so frustrated at not being able to hear music? I’ve not heard it for 50 years or more, you’d think I’d be done with it by now!

Ham radio I can understand: it has digital modes that I can operate in, such as PSK-31, Hellschreiber, CW, APRS, and a bunch more. Sure, it’s frustrating to see activity on the local repeaters and not know what’s going on or to be driving behind someone that should be reported in as dangerous, but being unable to call it in. For some reason, though, that just isn’t as frustrating as being unable to hear music.

Music. The ONLY advantage you hearing people have over me.

Perhaps it’s because there’s no truly suitable visual representation of music yet. If you think current light shows are awesome representations of music, I pity you. Current visualizations are merely scratching the surface of Music. There was a Science Fiction story I read as I a kid that has The Ultimate Musical Instrument. It was a type of harp. Playing that harp generated tones such that the audience SAW the music in 3D. Either that or it generated holographic visualizations. The story was never really clear on details of how it worked, and I’ve always remembered that and dreamed of owning one.

I’ve tried to design my own music visualizations. Pitiful efforts. Eventually I got into programming and there was a better chance to develop something but it was still pitiful. Music is so much more. Music is so multidimensional and I have yet to achieve something that visualizes all the nuances, interactions, the joyousness and sadness….

I give it up for a few years then return to it again and again, trying to design and create something, even if just software, that will allow me to fully enjoy the music I want to. Oddly enough, I can visualize internally exactly what I want. I just can’t create it.

I do have one mode of access to music, though. I can study sheet music and gradually internalize it to where I can play it in my mind. Yet, there, too, is doubt. Do I have it properly visualized? Is my mental playing of the sheet music accurate? Is it true to the composer’s vision?

I can only track four or sometimes five instruments at once in my mind. Those huge orchestrations…I can’t truly enjoy those.

Today, I’m really frustrated. I throw myself into my work, I focus on getting my work done properly. But in the back of my mind I find myself continuously thinking about music today. A brief snatch of a mental tune, a thought about a composition I’d like to do, wondering about how to combine pitch, duration, and so much more into an instantaneous snapshot. How to combine those into a smoothly playing sequence. Even wondering how best to bring music into a short story I have in mind. I should have just stayed home.

I need a lobotomy of some sort, I guess, to get me to give up music. But then, if I had that, I’d know what I was missing and for this totally deaf man that might be more than he could bear. Might as well just cut off my head and have done with. I have no recollection of music from before I became deaf, at least not that I absolutely 100% know to be a true recollection and not a sympathetic substitute that I would love to know was really a memory of music I heard. I have memory of only one single sound, and I don’t know if it’s real or not.

People try, from time to time, to describe music to me, yet they bog down time and again and wind up using sounds to describe it. As well try and describe color to a blind man. Believe me, I appreciate their attempts, but describing a piece of music as “a boom, you know? Just a big boom!” while gesturing with your arms doesn’t cut it.

I don’t know where I’m going with this. I guess I’m just ranting. Re-reading what I’ve just written, it certainly doesn’t read very coherently.

Why my love of music, O Life? Why must I ever reach and only my fingertips touch thee, O Music? Why does my soul cry for thee, whom I remember not?


2 Responses to “Music to frustrate the soul”

  1. Yorick von Fortinbras Says:

    I really sympathize with you. But I wonder if you suddenly regained your hearing, would you be disappointed with what you hear? The memory of it might be better than the actual thing. In your imagination, the music can be pure, perfect…just a thought


  2. Bill B. Says:

    I often wonder about that myself. I have no trustworthy memory at all of any music, so strictly speaking the actual music would have to be better than nothing. But I do get your point and you’re right: in a way what I’ve created mentally is perhaps pure and perfect. Having nothing to compare it to, really, other than my own variations always leaves me second-guessing when I stop to think about it. I’ll never know how my internalization compares against the real world, but at least I can also say that I’ll never know how the real world playing compares against how the composer intended it to be. So my internal playing is every bit as valid as anyone else’s.

    There are a very few things that I would like to hear if I were to suddenly be able to hear. I very much think that I’d really want to go back to being deaf even if it meant the loss of music again. At least, in that case, if I got to hear what I wanted I’d have some real memories of music.

    And I know…maybe it’d turn me off music, eh?


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