I’ve always lived in a gray zone with music – it is a constant in my life and part of the reason I refuse to ever live with a TV, and so I feel a great affinity for music…yet I have no actual talent of my own, and my musical appreciation is less … *something* than among those with better ears or more talent.

It used to bother me, that in between place, but it doesn’t anymore. I enjoy my music, I get a lot out of it, and it is what it is. We all have unique relationships to things in our lives, whether it is the visual, auditory, or whatever sense or combination of senses. It makes no sense to wish I had some other special talent or relationship with music, and so I have learned to appreciate the affinity I do have.

I haven’t ever educated myself on music, not counting the years of piano lessons and high school band. I listen to what I like, and I pay little attention to the technical aspects. Music theory is just the name of courses that music majors have to take, as far as I’m concerned. This isn’t to say that it isn’t likely a fascinating subject, it is simply something I have never been inclined to study.

So it was a bit out of character for me when I picked up a book called “Musicophilia: Tales of music and the brain” at the library a few weeks ago. Being the unrelenting procrastinator, I didn’t start reading it until I got the “almost due” email. I tried to renew it, but can’t…someone else is apparently waiting for it. So I started reading it this weekend, and I’m finding it fascinating.

Some of the fascination is simply reading what a neurologist and music lover writes about the various connections between music, language, and (in some) color and taste in the brain. What we’re exposed to, musically, as children can make a huge difference, just as being exposed to more than one language in early childhood will permanently change the structure of our brains. People who have brain injuries very often have remarkably changed relationships with music and other arts afterwards, sometimes increased, sometimes decreased, and sometimes simply different. And yet sometimes the brain, remarkably flexible, makes adjustments, and reforms connections so that despite brain trauma, there is no discernable difference in the end. I think we’ve all known, to some degree, that if we’re born with an impairment in one sense, or end up with an impairment (through disease or trauma), other senses become stronger in compensation. This is also explored, from a neurologist’s point of view, but presented in an accessible story format.

What is also fascinating is to hear the stories of people who have incredibly strong associations of color with key, for one example. And that those with absolute pitch, a concept which I never before understood, “feel” the differences in pitch in a way that simply “hearing” doesn’t seem to cover. One person described it as similar to recognizing faces…a description which I found amusing, since I have neither good facial recognition nor pitch recognition processing in my particular brain.

I’m only halfway through, and the book was due today. I’ll gladly “rent” the book for an extra couple of days until I finish it. My apologies to whoever is waiting for it.

And, as it seems fitting, I’ll mention a few of the music blogs I’ve recently become addicted to:

carlyle at ps