How can someone with auditory sensitivity issues benefit from music for calming stimulation? You should think that the two would be sides of the same coin. And maybe there is a scientific reason for it, but I haven’t researched all that much. I just went home from shopping, unpacked the groceries fast with my sunglasses on, because the sun was pretty strong in the kitchen (I have visual sensitivities as well, when I am stressed out) – and now here I am, at the computer, with music in my ears, soothing my mind.
In my ears: Yiruma “River Flows In You” – link to Youtube
I am breathing in. And breathing out. I can still feel the vibration of his voice. The father in line at the register next to me in the store. He was actually very kind towards his children. But the tone and vibrato of his voice got to me. It was none of his fault. My stress levels started growing previous to that. Too many people. Noises from redecoration in the store, metal fell on the floor, the sound of those little shopping carts on wheel across the floor. I really really need to stock up on ears plugs!
Different things triggered me today. Though I would be mistaken if I claimed that it was only today, because the last couple of days, I have had an increased sensitivity, a fragile state of mind and not really been comfortable in my own skin. But I have my strategies; like music and writing. Today it’s going to be about the music. As I wrote on the Min Aspergers page (My Aspergers), which you will find in the menu, music is one of the interests, that has followed me throughout childhood, adolescence and adulthood.
My very first album was a Louis Armstrong record. I had inherited my parents’ stereo, because they got a new one and at the same time, they had sorted out their collection of records and let me have a few; Louis Armstrong was one of them. I can’t really remember the first album I bought for myself later on, or the first cassettes, I listen to – which was years before Louis Armstrong came into my life – because at that time, it didn’t really matter who it was. It was the product, the music itself, that fascinated me. But I remember my first record, because when I put on that Armstrong record, something different happened; I discovered the diversity that music held. I cannot know for sure, because I really can’t remember, but I think that up until then, I had listened only to 80’s popular music, inspired by my big brother and big sister.
Oh, there’s a funny story for you; I was quite curious as a child (still am) and at one point one of my big sisters locked her room to keep me out of her stuff. However, I discovered that the key for the bathroom was also working for the keyhole in her door, so I got in anyway. What did I do? Well, I played with a doll she had, that had this dress that was entirely made of little pearls – and listened to her music, while at it, being really careful to not scratch the records, because then she would be able to tell, I had been in there. I don’t know if I scratched a record or just left behind evidence of my mischief – but she eventually figured it out.
My music inspiration came from several people; my dad, my mom, my sisters and my brother. Each of them had a preference, so I kind of blame them all for my genre fluidity today. My dad was a lot into rock, Danish folk stars, Beatles, and jazz-ish sort of things and was playing the drums too. I remember when we lived in the south of Denmark, close to the border of Germany, and he had his drum set and a trumpet in the bedroom – I hammered away sometimes – at one point I actually broke this square wooden thing attached to the set. The trumpet however, I could never get a sound out of that one, apart from this airy hissing sound.
I can’t remember, but I suspect he was the original owner of the Armstrong record I was given.
My mom was very much into 60’s and 70’s female stars, Danish pop music and country. My sisters were into pop music in general, catching onto the 80’s vibes and one of them had a special interest in 80’s rock bands, like Swedish Europe. My brother had the 80’s pop culture going on as well, but with more of a club feel to it. He liked and bought a lot of those remixes, where DJ’s mixed up a lot of different popular tracks, complete with scratching and sound effects (yes, I hijacked his record player, too – and his computer, playing different games – remember Commodore 64 and Amiga??).
So the influence I got, was kind of all over the place. And every year, here in Europe, we have the Eurovision Song Contest, and that was sort of the high of the entire year. Now, granted, it may not have been the best quality, music industry could produce, but I was fascinated deeply by the sounds of the music from countries like Turkey, Israel, Russia and Yugoslavia (back then, it was ONE country).
I started listening to hit lists at the local radio station and when that got too predictable, I tuned in on “American Top 40” – just to discover that the hits from overthere, would eventually appear on the local radio station’s hit list. That was fascinating too. And I got curious, because I somehow realized that this world of music was bigger than I thought – and still somehow connected.
I started to sing for myself, and even at 11 scribbled down my first song. It was about my mom;) I discovered, through music, a different way to use the written language. Rhymes, poetry, metaphors. And I figured out that the exact same sentence written in English and Danish would sound profoundly different. I don’t really know how to explain it, but it was like I could taste the texture of each language.
Being a teenager, I dove into pop music like a lot of my peers. I didn’t really have any channels for the alternative music, listening to the pop radio and being influenced by that. I bought a lot of music magazines and of course, some of them described alternative music like Nirvana, Metallica and stuff – but I also saw these penpal adds in the magazines (I was a lot into penpalling – so much easier to write than talking face to face), where people who said they listened to these genres were really cruel about pop music – or should I say; people who listened to it. So, not really knowing the music genres of grunge, hard rock and so on, I kind of decided, that that wasn’t a place for me. I didn’t want to become so hateful. And quite frankly, I felt judged for loving music in general.
Now wait a minute! How does that add up? If you know me a little bit, you will know that today I call myself a Slipknot fan – how did that happen? Well, first of all, bare in mind that I have lived for almost 4 decades, so there is a rather large gap between then and now. And somehow, the signs were there, that I had the alternative preference in me as well; for one, I had always been interested in expanding my knowledge of genres in music. Two, I didn’t really judge the rock genre by the music, but rather by the attitude of the fans of that music (and yes, that was a huge mistake, but I wasn’t old enough to know any better). Thirdly, instead of rock, I found my alternative preference in techno groups, like The Prodigy. And if you know The Prodigy, you will know, that they actually can be compared to Slipknot by the energetic feel and the playful artistic sound the music has. And as I grew older, came into adulthood, the medias of music changed. I no longer depended on the local radio stations, that primarily delivered the hits (therefore pop music), because Spotify was invented. And that, to this day, is a fucking source of GOLD, because going on genre adventures is now so easy and straight forward. I no longer depended on the whims of a radio DJ, but could set up my own playlists.
It was through Spotify, that I came across Slipknot. I had made a playlist of rock music and when a playlist ends, Spotify kind of goes on with playing songs, that are similar to what you have on that particular playlist – and then sometimes I would add the songs, I heard, to the playlist. And one day, doing the dishes in my kitchen, this song came up. And immediately I got curious. I stopped what I was doing and listened. It was rythmic, chaotic, angry and sensitive all in one – and it was unlike something I had ever heard before. The song was with Slipknot, “Before I Forget”. Adding that to my list, eventually made Spotify suggest other Slipknot songs, which I then added too.
“Spit it Out”.
“Wait and Bleed” and
“Duality”. In that order!
After that, I lay on my bed one day, in a mental mess, and I just kept replaying those songs, because they soothed the pain somehow. I listened to the lyrics. I felt them. I connected. And then I picked up my phone and pressed the search button, entered the word Slipknot, and just hit play. And from there, it didn’t really take long for me to make a specific Slipknot playlist, “XIX” being my constant go-to for whenever I need some encouragement. I am going to get a tattoo saying “XIX” one day, to remind me to keep up the fighting. But that it another topic for another time and place.
Enough about Slipknot.
I don’t limit myself to one particular genre, never have and never will. Because music, to me, is really about the diversity, the different expressions and feels. It soothes me in ways, I cannot really describe, but I have this idea, that it is due to the fact, that however chaotic the expression is, there is a rythm and a certain order of things in every kind of music. Intervals, keys, rhymes, chorus against the verse, the pace. All kinds of music, all songs, come together like a piece of art. Some of it is rather obvious and not really original. You know those songs; they kinda sound like something you have heard many times before, without distinct identity and feel. A lot like most songs that enters Eurovision.
And some of the music rises to the challenge of art and poetry and takes you to a different dimension. But I really enjoy it all, at different times and occasions.
And that, to me, is also the difference between listening to music, even at loud volumes (preferably) and being soothed – and the unorganized, unorchestred noise of a super market, a down town rush hour or traffic – or even neighbours. It’s unrythmic, disorganized and to me, that it equal to the shrilling sound of a fork on a plate – it hits every single open nerve I have and it freaks me out.
Now I can deal with it at certain levels, depending on how stressed or relaxed I am in the moment, but too much of it, especially merged with crowds of people, sharp lights and lots of smells, and I’m heading for a melt down, as we autistic people call it.
Today, I literally ran out of the grocery store, after my purchases, desperate for air and having no walls around me. I regained focus enough outside to take the 5 minute walk home, traffic rush hour pounding on what was left of my nerves – and when I got into the stairwell and the door closed behind me, shutting the noise of traffic out, I stood by the stairs and cried from exhaustion and panick. I still had two stories to go, since we lived on the second floor, but I just collapsed at the foot of the steps, allowing myself a moment to breathe and recover. I am so grateful that no one else was using the stairs at that moment.
That is what noise does to me. Music on the other hand evens out the waves, turning high seas into still waters. And I guess the musicality of the family has rubbed off, because I spent most of my teenage years writing songs and singing to myself. I joined a musical production at high school and a rare friend, who played the piano, made the music for one of my songs, that we performed at a “Music Night” event, that the high school made. I made a tape for my mom once, with my own songs, some Alanis Morisette songs and “The Rose” (one of my mom’s favorites). Once my mom and sister told me, I should join one of those music contests, like X Factor. But something held me back – and in retrospect I think I somehow knew that however much I loved music and singing, that was not for me. The stage, I mean. I have no idea, if the talent was actually there, but it doesn’t really matter, because that part of me was way too personal. I might as well have been asked to take off my clothes in public. So I keep my singing to myself. Even my girlfriend hasn’t heard me sing properly. The closest I get to it, is humming. But then again, I do that a lot. I have these different random scales that I hum, especially when I need to calm myself down and I’m for some reason not able to put on my headphones and start the real music.
Music is my soothing companion and my friend. It never lets me down and will always inspire me, regardless of whether I am at low point or a high point in life. I remember my life and my past like a soundtrack, the memories painted in the colours of the music, I listened to at the time. When I write, I use music to catch the essence of my mood. When I write fiction, I make a playlist that serves as a sort of soundtrack to the story. Music is deeply engraved in my life and being, like a tattoo that doesn’t need a retouch. Music does not need me to be socially skilled, it does not need me to say the right things at the right time and it does not demand that I’ve got my shit together – it just wants me to be. Come as you are;)
I don’t really listen to hit lists and charts anymore. Primarily because I can’t tell the difference from one artist to another. Every once in a while I check out the charts from America, UK, Denmark and Europe on Spotify, but it very rarely provides me with something, that I can or will add to any of my playlists. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and I just don’t understand the “young” anymore – but I have a very strong dislike for autotune. I’m sorry, but I do. And that basically eliminates most of the music on the charts. I don’t like playback at supposedly liveshows. It is so disturbing to see an artist mouth the lyrics out of sync. I don’t care if it’s half of a second, it looks ridiculous. And I don’t really get, why people would do those things, because 1) it’s rather obvious and 2) when they actually DO a real live performance, their fans are gonna be like: WTF??! Or maybe not – if so, that scares the shit out of me!
I’m going to stop myself here, before I get myself worked up again.
So the point is; having an auditory sensitivity issue does not rule out using music for relaxing, even if the stress levels are high. Because music and noise are two very different things, one can be controlled, the other one can’t. One has an order of things, the other one is chaos. One can communicate with you, the other one just yells at you.