27 Feb, 14 | by Emma Foster
My sister is doing a degree in music. I listen, fascinated, to her stories; music school isn’t like med school. Their days begin around noon, fellow students sport wild hair colours and outfits (tutus anyone?), and the last exam she sat was held upstairs in the local pub.
Image credit: http://www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk/p/study-your-exam-and-have-a-beer–1/
Most people enjoy listening to music; it enriches life, provides comfort, pleasure, intellectual stimulus, and show-cases the capability and creativity of human-kind. And I wonder, is there something apart from relentless practice that separates the orchestra pit from the audience? Are our brains wired differently?
I don’t know if I can answer these questions, but I will share with you a fascinating case study. To paraphrase:
A 35 year old music connoisseur and composer reported a musical hallucinosis, which occurred about an hour after listening to Wagner’s ‘Siegfried’. This auditory hallucination was a piece of music, familiar yet not quite like any other he had heard before, involving drums and other percussion instruments, interspersed with string instruments. The music itself was frightening, terrifying, and yet at the same time, fascinating and exciting – music that he wished he could compose.
Brilliant and yet uncanny.
Sometimes I get auditory hallucinations. Hallucinations of my pager ringing. It happens to a lot of doctors (I’ve cautiously asked around). No one has volunteered hearing an unknown symphony though.
I’m very curious – have you encountered any seriously developed musical hallucinations in your patients?