Tuesday, August 26, 2008


On the way home from the weekly swim lesson yesterday afternoon, my youngest daughter said something that caught my attention (not that I’m not paying close attention to every syllable that comes out of the darling’s mouth).

She announced that while she and her best wee girlfriend, who is also four, were playing in my car the other day (did I know they were playing in my car?), they pretended that they were driving but were allergic to music.

Allergic to music?

I’m hoping this wasn’t solely my daughter’s idea, originating from the fact that ever since I somehow managed to blow out my front speakers, I’ve had to crank up the back speakers to even hear the music in the front seat. I hope I haven’t turned her off to Ben Harper, Foghat, the Outta Hand String Band (my little brother’s former band), or God forbid, to music in general.

Allergic to music?

Can you imagine anything worse???

There are, in fact, worse things: terminal cancer, watching your child starve to death, physical torture, etc., but still, it’d be pretty bad to be allergic to music. Wouldn’t it?

Personally, I can’t imagine never listening to “All Along the Watchtower” or “Many Rivers to Cross” or “Message in a Bottle” again (just to name a quick three). Music is so important to me, to my sanity. It’s important to all humans. We have music accompany almost every important cultural ritual, and have for millennium.

All people of the world, including the most isolated tribal groups, have a form of music; music has become a fundamental part of human life. It is a means of communication: it speaks of joy, heartbreak, protest; and it often reflects what’s going on in the world at a specific point in time. People share emotions and opinions via music and it changes as the world changes.

A musical allergy, therefore, would be very serious, a blow to something deeply human.

Even the most tone deaf among us still seems to enjoy music. It’s true, right? I mean they like it so much, they still try to sing along, all the while knowing it sounds awful. They just can’t help themselves, music is too good.

A music allergy just wouldn’t do.

But interestingly, it seems that there are some people who have the opposite of a music allergy. Instead, they have an auditory reaction to visual stimulation, they “hear” more than the rest of us.


It’s just now coming to light that perhaps 1% of the population, which is now approximately 6,719,249,978(!!!) people worldwide, have what is termed “auditory synesthesia.”

Caltech lecturer in computation and neural systems, Melissa Saenz, discovered the phenomenon quite by accident (don’t you just love science?), when some students visited her in the Caltech Brain Imaging Center.

These individuals hear sounds, such as tapping, beeping, or whirring, when they see things move or flash.

Surprisingly, the scientists say, auditory synesthesia may not be unusual—and may simply represent an enhanced form of how the brain normally processes visual information.

Sanez writes, “These individuals have an enhanced soundtrack in life.”

An enhanced soundtrack is something I think I could live with.

Alas, I’m neither tone deaf nor enhanced. I took the auditory synesthetes test at the Caltech website and did not hear a damn thing.

Wanna try it?

View the video, they recommend repeatedly, in a quiet location, at: http://www.klab.caltech.edu/~saenz/movingdots.html. (And although the website directs you to: "Click the bottom left arrow to play," I could find no arrow and simply clicked on the link below the video.)


nicoleantoinette said...

Wow, this was really interesting. And yes, an allergy to music would be awful!

Ellie said...

Veddy Interesting, Beth. I look forward to checking that out, but I can hardly turn OFF Tom Petty -- for that reason or any other.

Maybe your girl is just allergic to bad kid music. You've risen her auditory bar.

Jacquie said...

Okay, let me just go buy a quiet location real quick.....


I think I'm allergice to muzak.

Pickles and Dimes said...

Cool! I can't wait to try this at home (much quieter than Riotous Workplace).

Leslie said...

Can you imagine the steps you would have to take with an allergy to music. No tv...no phones...no restaurants..there is music everywhere.

Slick said...


I don't even wanna think about it.

I gotta have my music!

roger said...

I watched the video dots and I didn't hear anything, but I started sneezing uncontrollably. So I took a Claritin and stopped sneezing, but it has impaired my hearing. Thanks a lot Beth. I'm still trying to get rid of an erection I've had for six days after my watermelon binge.

Beth said...

Oh, so you're the deaf guy with the big errection....