I have just been having one of those days. It's hot. I had to run out and buy a new fan to replace the one that I "smoke checked" this morning.
Only had a half pot of coffee... so, I decided to just kick back and start going through my music collection...
Now, I do have an excellent
memory... not eidetic, but really damned close to it. I was used as a ringer
in bar trivia contests and have
won more than my fair share of money, prizes and free drinks... often while quite intoxicated. The only thing keeping me from trying out for Jeopardy?
I would be the one to get all the obscure categories like "16th century music of India"... I digress...
But, where my memory truly excels, is my hearing
. I remember EVERYTHING I hear... used to drive my ex wife crazy
... she knew that trying
to twist my words never ever worked, because I remembered every single word of every single conversation. I remember words my mother spoke to me when
I was 3, just as clearly as if it were yesterday. Now, it isn't 100% retention. Past about 2 years or so some of the auditory memories are lost, but
just the banal stuff like idle shopping line chatter... important conversations stick with me much longer... often for many years. The most important
things such as my children's first words I never forget... and it seems like the way that I recall them is different as well because I literally
every bit as clearly in my head as if they were just spoken.
But where it gets a little spooky... (and I have heard that term quite a few times) is how I recall music
. The only place I have ever heard
this sort of thing referenced is The Hunt For Red October
... the sonar guy. His was explained as very discrete hearing... mine is more of a
discreet auditory memory.
So, to my point. I have been like this my whole life, so to me it is really no big deal... and sadly, something I have always just taken for granted.
Frankly, at times, it is really damned inconvenient
... because it often works both ways...
To explain: While going through our CDs, I found an old Genesis CD... threw in in my player, and started listening to the song Taking It All Too
... classic song. It immediately sounded wrong
. One cymbal was a little thin, bass drum was a bit flat, and the base guitar sounded...
like the strings were a bit old and lost some of their brightness
... and I was disappointed. It was a remaster
So, I went outside to have a cigarette and my wife joined me a few minutes after. She looks at me and immediately asks "what's wrong"? After the
normal round of matrimonial banter I finally relented and told her exactly what I related above. She looks at me and says "I have heard you say stuff
like that hundreds of times and every time I have to ask how the hell do you do that?
". I looked at her and it was like no one had ever asked
me that before
and said... "I'm just weird that way"... the thing is, I have never really given it that much thought.
I remember every song I have ever heard. Every symphony, sonata, opera (captive audience
), soundtrack, background music, theme song, every piece
of God-awful "muzac" I have ever heard... it is all in there. If I focus a bit I can tell you exactly
where I was the first time I heard
it... what radio station I heard it on, what the weather was like, and what mood I was in at the time. The 1980 "Miracle on Ice"... I still hear it
like it was yesterday. I wasn't allowed to stay up to watch the game (grounded)... I remember the smell of the shag carpet I had my face pressed my
face against trying to hear the game under the door to my room. Like it was yesterday.
It is also somewhat selective
. Curiously enough, I am nearly tone deaf... if I hear a note, I have no idea what that note is unless it's a
middle C. It is I think, a product of how
I recall it... I literally "rehear" it. I often don't hear the actual words being sung because my
brain focuses on the fine details of the sound... My memory seems to work on tonal relationships
stressed on the under and overtones, the tonal
quality, harmonics, etc... Lyrics take me a few times to pick up completely, but, if the voice I hear is the ever the tiniest bit off, I immediately
catch it. Guitar harmonics? I can immediately tell you exactly which order of harmonic (1st, 2nd, 3rd etc..) and whether it is a natural or artificial
harmonic. I can tell you immediately if it was a straight, wound or bare string etc... haven't a clue as to which chord or note is being played.
Those are just two examples... I pick up those details on every instrument being played. So, a music prodigy I am not... which is quite OK by me. If I
am listening to a song on headphones I actually recall what I heard before and replay it a few seconds ahead of what I am listening to now. I can
harmonize perfectly with what I am hearing and sing along, even if I can't recall the lyrics one bit. I hope that makes some sense...
Unfortunately, there is a darker side to this... it's why I have never discussed it before and why so few people even know that I can do this. My
hearing seems very strongly attached to my emotions, to the point where my recall of what I have heard is tied very closely to my emotional memory...
most people have felt this... for example, if you hear the song that was playing at an emotional moment in your life, such as your first kiss, you
hear that song years later and it kinda makes you feel that experience all over again. Mine is more extreme... I have that reaction to everything I
hear, if I have ever heard it before... sometimes without even realizing it. It may have been a song playing on the radio in the background that I
wasn't even aware of, but if it is tied to any emotional happening in my life, even if 20 years have passed since it happened and I never heard the
song again until now... when I hear it I will recall that exact moment all over again... it has taken years to tame down that response to where it is
now mostly just annoying. I also learned to control it through re-association... if I hear something that generates a strong negative emotion, I try
to re-listen to it during one of the better times... with varying success. At times, it can still even get to me if I allow myself to lose focus. If I
am listening to music myself (which I prefer) I can let my guard down a bit, but beyond that I have to be really vigilant.
It is the only of my senses that is intrinsically tied to my emotions like that. Show me a horrible picture? Whatever. Bad smell? I'll puke maybe. If
I hear the song on the radio that was playing when I heard my grandmother had died... I'm probably gonna cry no matter how hard I try not to.
Sometimes it really sucks as much as it is a blessing.
The reason I throw this out there, is because I tried to look up "phonographic memory" and the only reference I can find is on "Urban dictionary".
Likewise, I wonder if anyone else out there has a memory that "hears" like mine does or retains everything the same way. I also wonder if the
emotional tie is because my hearing is so acute, or if my hearing recall is empathic? I know this can't be completely unique... I'm pretty damned
ATS seemed like the best place to ask about this... lots of open minds.
And no, I am not programmed to kill on hearing a certain song... that I am aware of