Friday, May 25, 2007


We meet many people during our lives and some of those people tend to remain in our memory. We even recall people we met only briefly and whose names escape us. No doubt we remember them because there was something about those individuals that left us wondering about how they would manage in the future.

I mention this because I wish to write about a young man I met whilst working in Sydney a very, very long time ago.

This memory was triggered early one morning when I could not sleep and I had a sudden suspicion that I was experiencing tinnitus. I became aware that there was a humming sound in my head and I thought, “I wonder if this is tinnitus.”

The noise sounded like two rather pleasant notes recurring over and over in my left ear.

I then thought, “If this is tinnitus then I can cope with a bit of music playing in my head.”

It was the thought of music in my head that triggered the conversation with the young man.

I don’t remember spending much time with him at work because I do believe that he wasn’t one of the regular people on my shift. He may have been filling in for someone on the night we had the interesting conversation that left me wondering about how his life panned out.

When we met, he had just finished his last year at high school and, as he had to wait a few months before beginning his university course, he had started work at the bank.

Our job involved shiftwork at the computer centre of the bank and I do know that the conversation occurred on a night when we were working the graveyard shift. There was nowhere to go during the meal break so we would spend that time with co-workers.

During our conversation, I asked what course he had chosen to do at uni and he said that he was going to do Law.

I must have appeared to be an empathetic listener because it wasn’t too long into our conversation before he began to confide in me.

He told me that it was his parents who wanted him to do Law. Obviously he had the academic ability to complete the course and they had decided that he would, indeed, do the course.

When I asked what he wanted to do, he said that he wanted to write music. He said that he heard music in his head and, as he tried to explain it to me, I could sense how important his need to capture this music was to him.

And he wasn’t talking about simple little “rock and roll ditties” but complex symphonies.

I was only a year or two older than him but I felt the need to offer some sort of reassurance and advice.

No doubt I would have told him that I completely understood about the concept of hearing music in his head because my head is always filled with words that swirl about until they formed into sentences and then formed into prose and eventually it becomes essential that those words are written down so that my head is left vacant allowing the process to begin all over again.

My advice at the time was that, if he couldn’t go against his parents’ wishes, he would always have his music and he may be able to concentrate on it sometime in the near future.

I do wonder if he ever had the chance to follow his passion. I hope he did.

My regret is that I can not remember his name so that I can Google it and find out whether the music in his head was written down and eventually performed by an orchestra.

The music in my head does continue. I am not sure if it is tinnitus or not.

I remember that my maternal grandmother would complain about her tinnitus so I have always been aware of this condition. My grandmother was very irritated about this constant noise in her ear and she would bitterly complain about it.

Given my suspicions about hearing music in my head, I did a bit of research and I found a most helpful site:

I have learnt that the word "tinnitus" means "tinkling or ringing like a bell". I have also learnt that tinnitus is usually a roaring, buzzing, or ringing sound in the ear. This site even has audio of the noises that tinnitus can produce.

My two recurring pleasant notes don’t seem typical of the experience. Maybe, like my co-worker, I am simply hearing music in my head. Although I am not sure that I can build a symphony upon those two notes.


The Mind's Ear said...

Hi there Michelle searching for my own answers i seem to have stumbled upon this page,it was interesting enough to keep me going till the end.How i found this page ofcourse has to do with my ability to hear music much like the young man you knew in Sydney.Im an Avid listener of all things Metal so its only fair i hear constant heavy riffs,solo guitars and my personal favourite acoustic arpeggios with my head,and i face the daunting task of converting these beautiful pieces of music into reality.Sadly many of the best ones ive heard are lost in the sands of time..its not like i could do anything to RECORD them as i had/still have little understanding of musical notation,but i now know i can not only hear music but control it (not just the volume or instrument)but the music itself i can just think *AGGRESSIVE GUITARS or HAUNTING PIANO MELODY* and my mind will produce something to that effect,ofcourse the quality of the music depends on my mood...but generally i can create something genuine and unique based on things i have listened to recently.I'm sharing all this with you because i feel most people dont understand when i talk to them about this,it'd be nice if we could discuss this phenomenon i believe it's an ability all human beings posses the only differences are that some people are passionate about it and perhaps some people dont like music at all,but you know those two notes you hear? thats all you need to start a symphony *example:28 days later theme* Sorry for the long post i'd love to read your reply sometime soon :) -Obaid

Michelle said...

Thanks Obaid,

I find your story very interesting and it certainly reminds me of my co worker in Sydney. He was just as passionate about his music as I can see that you are. I don't hear music as such but I can understand that others can hear music and it would be great for you to record it. I am more a verbal person so I have words, sentences and dialogue constantly in my head. I see it as almost the same thing as someone like you with music. Fortunately I can record my words. I do hope you can capture your music. I do so much appreciate that you took the time to write to me. Best wishes, Michelle.