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13.2.08

À mon chevet: Musicophilia

À mon chevet is a series of posts featuring a quote from whatever book is on my nightstand at the moment.

When I asked Mr. Mamlok what his internal music was like, he exclaimed, angrily, that it was "tonal" and "corny." I found this choice of adjectives intriguing and asked him why he used them. His wife, he explained, was a composer of atonal music, and his own tastes were for Schoenberg and other atonal masters, though he was fond of classical and, especially, chamber music, too. But the music he hallucinated was nothing like this. It started, he said, with a German Christmas song (he immediately hummed this) and then other Christmas songs and lullabies; these were followed by marches, especially the Nazi marching songs he had growing up in Hamburg in the 1930s. These songs were particularly distressing to him, for he was Jewish and had lived in terror of the Hitlerjugend, the belligerent gangs who had roamed the streets looking for Jews. The marching songs lasted for a month or so (as had the lullabies that preceded them) and then "dispersed," he said. After that, he started to hear bits of Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony -- this was not to his taste either. "Too noisy ... emotional .. rhapsodic."

-- Oliver Sacks, Musicophilia (2007), "Musical Hallucinations," pp. 56-57
The chapter is about the phenomenon of brain-produced music, heard by people after seizures, hearing loss, or other physical changes. As if the prospect of Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony playing ceaselessly inside one's mind were not frightening enough, this passage made me think of what music I have been listening to that could end up in my musical hallucinations if this happens to me. That's it! I officially cannot attend any more concerts that feature the music of Mark O'Connor or Masses with musical drivel from Glory and Praise. No one wants that in his head on an endless loop.

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