Friday, 8 July 2011

Musical Pictures

Gobsmacked, adj. : flabbergasted, astounded; speechless or incoherent with amazement.

It’s been four weeks since I posted my musings on the nature of my ‘verbal’ thoughts and lack of ‘pictorial’ memory. In discussing this with a friend of mine, she suggested something that left me utterly gobsmacked. In fact it has taken me this long to come to terms with just a few of the idea’s ramifications.

What I learned was simply that when people listen to music, they see pictures in their heads. Is this true? Are people really going around watching and making up brand-new Fantasias in their heads all the times they listen to music? Consider my mind blown.

The suggestion was made after I had given a fairly in-depth rant about how London’s best orchestras were lost on me. I’d had the good fortune to see some of the finest musicians in London on a school arts trip in 2003, but within the first movement of each concert I would invariably fall asleep.

To paraphrase dear Alice, what is the use of a song, without words or lyrics? Well, now I know that is quite easy to relax and let your mind make up its own stories for the music--that is, if you have a visual imagination. I’ve always thought of songs as having their own colors, but any pictures in my head I find directly relate to the story in the lyrics or the actual music video. I don’t get the Fantasia Channel, I guess. So even when I can appreciate the skill that goes into a performance, I can't keep myself awake without lyrics.

Now this has got me thinking: what does this mean in other areas of my life? Do I see pictures when reading books? Yes. A book tells you exactly what’s happening, and it’s easy to turn that into pictures. But could I do the same with an audio book? No. I have never been able to concentrate on an audio book for more than a few sentences. What about a play—a book without the easy-to-picture narration? Again, yes, I can make pictures out of the scripts of plays. So it seems that there is a visual element to my verbal thoughts. Just as I “see” the words of my thoughts inside my head, I must also “see” the words coming from external sources, if I am to give them pictures and/or concentrate on them. 

Just how different am I from all these pictorial thinkers? And how many of "us" are there?

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