Thursday, December 24, 2015

Musical Torment


It’s remarkable how quickly Heaven can slide down into Hell. Went to sleep feeling just fine and some stomach bug invaded making sleep and comfort impossible. Music, normally the most agreeable and healing of companions, suddenly became a torture in my fever-addled brain, with Irving Berlin tunes looping again and again in a severe-case of ear-wormitis. Be Careful It’s My Heart became the soundtrack to endlessly circling disturbing images and physical discomfort. Without getting too graphic, I was hoping for some discharge that would both relieve my stomach and eject the tunes, but was graced with neither.

I first heard the term “Ohrwurm” from my German friends and recalled earlier torments in my life. A passage from My Boy Lollipop by Mille Small that had me running for the radio dial when the song came on in my teen years. A couple of days in a Zen meditation retreat at Mt. Baldy, with Billie Holiday torturing me with endless repetitions of the bridge to Love Me or Leave Me. Research says such things are a common phenomena, more likely to occur with songs than instrumental pieces and usually just a fragment of the song. As a music teacher singing every day with kids, I’m sure I’m responsible for a certain degree of musical torture as kids go home imprisoned by small little melodies and lyrics. But there can be no heaven without hell and I suppose it’s the price we must pay for all of music’s considerable gifts.

I thought I might trick my brain in substituting Irving Berlin for Bach, but even if I could, it would not help. The most exalted passage of music endlessly repeated is still torment, like eating crème brule for every meal. There’s some deep teaching lesson somewhere in here, but I’m not in the mood. The worm keeps burrowing in my ear and the bug riding the roller coaster in my stomach. Well, at least they’re having fun.

Not the happiest way to wake up on Christmas Eve, but you gotta play the cards you were dealt. Wish me luck. "Be careful, it's my heart……"

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