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Delirious With Weird

Thursday, December 02, 2004  
Sure plays a mean pinball...


I was asked the other week whether I’d rather be blind or go deaf. This is the most difficult question ever. Are we talking from birth, or as the result of an accident? From birth = rather be blind. Result of an accident = rather be deaf, I think. I've talked about this dilemma a lot over the years, and as my mum has quite serious hearing problems, it's a horrible question to consider.

My reasoning is blind from birth = don't know what you're missing, learn to cope better moving around, etcetera : deaf from accident = can still enjoy music on a physical (i.e. volume) level, going to clubs and dancing, and communicate via lip-reading and so on (I know a few people through work who do this, it's quite incredible). Plus I suspect deafness may be easier to solve/cure/correct than blindness.

Think about it though; if you encounter a blind person in your day-to-day life it’s generally very apparent that the person is blind, and as a consequence you are generally very understanding and accommodating, and do your best to help them, or at least to not hinder them. But saying everything twice and always making sure you look at someone face-on when you talk to them, constantly having to turn the television up so loud that it hurts your own ears, is, frankly (and I say this as someone who lives with someone about to get a hearing aid) fucking annoying. Deaf people get treated like shit in society; they get none of the consideration that blind or otherwise obviously handicapped people receive. They're treated as if they're subhuman and it's pretty disgusting. People compensate for obvious disabilities; blindness, physical afflictions etcetera - people don't notice you're deaf, and ergo assume you're an awkward twat rather than someone who needs a little consideration.

Saying that, my mum finally got her hearing aid on Tuesday. Now she whispers so quietly that my dad and I can barely hear her, and complains that we’re shouting if we talk at a reasonable level. I ate a packet of crisps in the same room as her on Tuesday night when I got back from football and she complained about me scrunching the packet deliberately to make as much noise as possible. I wasn’t doing that. Normal, everyday ambient noise, which my mother has been masked from for the last… well, five years or more, probably (when we finally convinced her to go and see a specialist he said that he couldn’t understand how she’d coped with day-to-day life, such was her hearing loss), is now an unwanted intrusion into her near-silent bubble. It’s going to take some getting used to. And, frankly, right now, I wish she was still deaf.


A question I posted on ILM;

Do you JUST listen to music or do you have music on while doing other things?
Q Video games, washing up, reading, surfing the net (NOT driving - this question is about listening AT HOME only), or anything else? If you JUST listen to music (notnecessarily all the time) without any other activity to distract, how do you do so? Describe a "typical" listen to a record or song when you are consciously listening to music as opposed to just hearing or playing music in the background.

A Basically...

I have my iPod while commuting to work, and at work we play music ambiently in the office (iPod again, often on random, though we have a large amount of jazz etcetera at work too). At home in my bedroom / office whilst surfing / playing Champ / writing / doing anything at the PC or in the room generally I have a Denon mini system that I listen to stuff on whilst doing whateveritis, and which is set up so the speakers are positioned nicely to listen to music in/on my bed.

I don't often listen to music before going out, because I don't really "go out" as such - if I do anything even close it's just going down the pub to chat shit with friends, and I don't get changed for that. I've never been massively into clubs or bars because I find it suitable neither for listening to music or enjoying a drink or talking to people, which are the three things I'd want to be able to do.

But I also have the "music room" as I call it, where I keep my CD collection and my separates hi-fi and also my TV and DVD player - this is a dedicated room, basically, for listening and watching (and playing PS1 [soon to be Xbox]). A few times a week, sometimes everyday, sometimes less often, I like to sit down and listen to a record in much the same way as you'd watch a film; sitting down, focusing, lights off (or maybe just lamp on) and soak it in.

I'm intrigued by the ideas of connections between modes and methods of consumption of music and musical taste...

Now I want more responses from you lot, in the comments here, especially to the last part of the question, i.e. the bit in italics just above this bit.


Ignore that singles list from two weeks ago – that was just the voting for Stylus. What I really think will be presented shortly, as will albums of the year, in the only format acceptable - A TOP 40 RUNDOWN. Balls to you, BBC – I love you but you killed TOTP when you moved it from a Thursday.


12/02/2004 08:58:00 am


Blogger station - 4:48 pm

I listen to music in all sorts of places.
To and from work with my cd walkman.
When I'm at home, doing all sorts of menial tasks, like cooking, ironing, and washing up - you don't concentrate on the work you're doing, so you get right into the music.
I also listen to music whilst reading - then, the music takes the background, so you can concentrate on the book/newspaper/whatever, but it is always important what is on.
Also, I listen to music with my guitar, and strum along. That's odd, cos you are always concentrating on it note-by-note, which is normally a different sensation from usual "listening".

Blogger Geoff Love - 5:54 pm

I LISTEN to music in the bath, a few candles, maybe a beer, maybe a joint, but that is almost the only time i LISTEN to music. I LISTEN to Radio 4 in the car on the way to work (and on the way home) and i HEAR Radio 4 as an anmbient burbling whilst at work - i finally plucked up the courage to introduce a radio to the open-plan office i'm in, suffice to say i can barely hear it, other people thought they were hearing voices! Any other time, sadly, i only HEAR music as a background. I used to say i could read and listen to music, but i cannot and don't know anyone who can. Though i still associate reading the Lord of the Rings with listening to The Second Coming (and vice-versa). A question i would ask is does anyone else associate books with pieces of music?

All quite unlike being at Uni where i could lay, stoned, listening to all the cd's i'd bought with my student loan!

I have always loved the pub as a place for listening to music, moreover of making people listen to my choices on the jukebox. The barmaid at my village local would always give me as many free credits as i wanted because she liked my taste in music, the jukebox wasn't great - Tina Turner, Foster & Allen, etc. Though there were jewels to be found - There She Goes, Sugar Kane, She Bangs the Drums, etc. Then before i left for uni they gopt a lot of NOW's, and the gretaest blahdblah in the world...ever!? which ruined it. I could never lose at pool though if Rock n Roll Star came on. Tears of a Clown was disc 04 track 04. Beautiful.

Blogger Ian - 6:26 am

I listen to music mostly on my computer, either as the background to net stuff/email/writing or while playing something simple like Minesweeper or FreeCell - it keeps me distracted enough I don't get bored (because I am constitutionally unable to just sit and listen to music and do nothing else, unless I am riding in a vehicle), but is mindless enough I can still focus in on the music. It just gives the hindbrain something to do, essentially.

I'll also throw albums on my stereo when I'm doing the dishes/reading in the living room, but that's more background stuff.

Blogger kye - 8:35 am

For a short while earlier this year, I brought my discman with me to school, commuting to work, basically everywhere. When it got to the point where I was listening to my discman while riding in the car with my family, and they were listening to the radio, so that I had to turn up the volume on my discman almost to maximum to drown out the radio (probably doing permanent damage to my ears), I decided it had gotten a bit ridiculous. My mom once asked me, "Do you have to bring that thing (the discman) with you everywhere?" No, I didn't - and I was never really able to concentrate enough on the music when I was outside, around other people - I'm too easily distracted. Plus I really hate it when a person on the subway is listening to music and you can practically hear every word of the song through the excess noise coming from their headphones - and I don't want to seem any more anti-social than I already am. Finally, I generally enjoy listening to sounds, just sounds around me...or silence, which is cleansing.
I also dislike listening to music, especially music that is very special to me, with people who don't share my reverence, so I try to avoid this.
What results is that I mostly only listen to music in my bedroom. I have a cheap Sony micro-stereo, but I usually only use it when I'm getting ready in the morning, getting dressed and so forth, or when I come home, usually at night, and play something while I'm getting ready for bed, picking out clothes for the next day (I still have this habit, and sometimes if I'm enjoying the record that's playing enough, I'll just sort of spend an hour trying on different combinations of clothes whilst listening to the music.) Also on the rare occasions when I'm going somewhere for the evening, I'll play something on the stereo beforehand to gear me up. In all these cases, I choose a CD I have already listened to numerous times, something that uplifts me, that is not too out-there (my sister complains about volume, and for some reason I don't like playing music I know my family'd be like, "what the hell are you listening to?").
Rare occasions when I'm home alone: this is the only time I blast music. I'll still be doing stuff while I'm listening/dancing, though.
Like Ian, lately I mostly listen to music while on the computer. I spend a frightening amount of time on the computer. Net stuff - email, music zines - if there's some article I'm really reading, I have to turn off the music. (I've never tried reading literature while listening to music and i know i'd never be able to.) (When on the comp, I always listen to music on headphones.) The majority of time on the computer lately is spent staring at the Microsoft Word screen, as I attempt to write essays. I take forever, and I prefer just doing all the work on the computer rather than writing out rough copies by hand, so we're talking a good chunk of my time. Since the work is so tedious and just something I dread in general - I really have to force myself to do it - I pick to listen to music that "helps" me. Something that's, again, not too challenging, because challenging and limit-pushing/escaping/whatever you think music should be reaching for is good, but when I need something to get me through, I'm not gonna pick something that in a way depresses me, or something where I'd have to focus on the words too much. Finally, if I'm trying to write something good I'll often pick a favourite record, or one that I consider especially beautiful, as if that will translate itself to the page. (I usually just end up sitting in front of the comp not writing anything, and listening the whole way through - the time goes fast.)
What I consider challenging/just very good, i listen to at random times, often with full attention.
In bed, before going to sleep - on headphones again, and I'll listen to whatever I feel like listening to at that moment. I hate falling asleep in the middle of a record though.
I like music in the car more than in almost any other environment.
I don't link books to music, but when a memory i treasure is linked to an album, it'll take on all that added meaning, and i'll like it all that much more. it's awful when an album's perfectly good, and one i'd probably like, but it doesn't remind me of anything, just a void. i don't listen to these albums much.
Speaking of those essays...it's 3:10 am here, and i have an end-of-term test for "Major British Writers" at 11, and a physics essay due at 10am, worth 34% of my mark, and i've written 3 paragraphs, and i don't think i'm going to write any more, and i think i'll hand it in as it is tomorrow, cause i won't feel like doing it any more on the weekend than i feel like it now, and i'm so sick of this, and i truly hate university and i foresee my dropping out and realising my secret dream of becoming a mail-carrier/city parks worker, which i would do did i not feel i would be letting a whole lot of ppl down, having to confront their incredulity and blah blah blah blah blah. and here i am writing this! i'm going to bed and i'm going to fall asleep to some music.

Blogger station - 9:38 am

A question i would ask is does anyone else associate books with pieces of music?

I've got loads of these, most of them very random:
- Maribou Stork Nightmares by Irvine Welsh & Schism by Scheer
- A Farewell To Arms by Ernest Hemingway & Walk This World by Heather Nova
- Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy & Cold House by Hood.

Blogger Ian - 2:16 am

Sometimes listening to a song or album I really love can _remind_ me of a movie or book I really love, but it's not a constant connection of the two in my mind, just a momentary thing (can't think of any examples, sorry).

I _hate_ falling asleep with music on, but if I haven't slept all night this tends to happen on the Greyhound back to Guelph. Doesn't matter how loud or energetic the music, I'm out like a light.

Anonymous Anonymous - 7:30 pm

My various music listening modes are:

1) On my Jukebox/MP3 player during my commute. It helps me feel like I'm not really there, not really stuffed on a smelly train, not really nose-to-armpit with the next sucker, not really on my way to my McJob. So used am I now to this, that whilst my Jukebox was out of action this past month, I found it excruciating being forced to listen in on inane mobile phone chatter and other ambient commuting noise. This is my first real case of gadget dependency and I've got it bad. Worse, I think it may be self-perpetuating.

2) At work (I was much the same as a student). It can't be anything too challenging, but as long as it's something tried, tested and much loved, background music really helps me to concentrate, when reading or writing, or trying to make sense of stuff. Depending on what I'm working on I will choose different tempos. If it's drudge work I could do standing on my head, I'll choose something loud and upbeat to fire myself up (say, Chemical Brothers, Pixies, The Music, QOTSA, or some new 'shouty' tracks I've just downloaded). If it requires serious concentration I'll opt for something slower (e.g. Cocteaus, This Mortal Coil, Natalie Merchant, Tanya Donnelly, Turin Brakes). I am much more efficient with music than I am without. Again, I think this has to do with my intolerance of ambient noises - I find them terribly distracting (other people having loud telephone conversations is the worst - my concentration is shot to pieces). And I don't even work open plan. I realise this makes me an antisocial colleague, but that's tough. I'll always rip my earphones out as soon as somebody approaches.

3) At home: while doing chores like cleaning or while sitting at the PC, or in the kitchen. I love listening to music while cooking. Usually I sing along badly, dance around the kitchen and generally 'escape'.

4) In the living room, while reading. This is probably my favourite mode of listening, but I don't get the house to myself enough to do it; consequently my CDs live in the kitchen or on my Jukebox.

The only times I'll concentrate entirely on the music are:

5) Either in or on the bed: while falling asleep, while waking up, or having just come out of the shower...any of those scenarios. I went through years of falling asleep with my phones in, starting from when I was forced to share rooms or having noisy flatmates. I definitely prefer listening to music alone - it's a very personal experience for me.

6) Gigs - I can't get enough of the live experience.

I just re-read this and I come across as:

a) Somebody who can't bear the sound of silence. The opposite is true. I think it's the lack of quiet in my environment that makes me want to control it with a brand of noise I actually like.

b) An incorrigible escapist. That bit is true.

I can totally understand your mum's sensitivity to the crisp packet, by the way. I react the same when I visit my parents and they have screeching Italian TV turned up really loud (usually featuring much high-pitched female shouting). I can't bear it, and often curtail my visit as a direct result.

- Spagbag

Anonymous Anonymous - 10:35 pm

Because there's little time in my life for the amount of music I want to hear (small kids, non music friendly work place) I find myself listening to it constantly during those moments when I'm able to. For me that means: doing the dishes, folding laundry, walking from parking spot to work, trying to mold my daughters musical interest while playing with her on the living room floor (all she wants to hear is Fountains of Wayne), then there are the precious moments when the house is empty and I can crank up what I like and dance naked like the absurd character in the William Carlos Williams poem that I resemble more and more every day.



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Nick Southall is Contributing Editor at Stylus Magazine and occasionally writes for various other places on and offline. You can contact him by emailing auspiciousfishNO@SPAMgmail.com

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