My ears are tired

My ears are tired of writing music. They are ringing, buzzing, echoing, twanging and refusing to process any more auditory signals.

I often think that Sound Engineers have the most amazing hearing – and the most amazing auditory signal processing cortexes in their brains. It’s something you’re born with, but still, to be able to hear what they hear…it must reveal a different world to the one I experience.

My ears don’t work so good

I probably have no business composing music, since my ears don’t work so good. When I was a child, one of a twin, I had frequent ear infections from my left side ear canal being abnormally narrow. I remember spending time in hospital, and having grommets put in, etc. As an adult, I worked for a mining company, and one day, while going underground in a cage – which is like flying in a plane, but down, not up – my right eardrum burst. I think I might have had a cold and the change in air pressure caused it to rupture. After that, I was unable to hear very high or very low sounds. Now I am somewhat hard of hearing – due to physical, not attitudinal problems.

The dictator in Sacha Baron Cohen’s 2012 film of the same name, being hard of hearing when he wants to be.

I did once decide to get hearing aids, and went the whole testing route and got a hellishly expensive top-of-the-range Swedish engineered hearing aid system. The first time they switched it on in the lab, I heard the weirdest things ever, like someone who is deaf suddenly experiencing sound: I first did not know what it was. Then I realized I heard my hair brushing against my ear, and the raindrops flowing down the windowpane next to me. It was not good.

What a bloomin’ noisy world

Suddenly, the world was incredibly noisy, and not in a pleasant way. I thought I was losing my mind, so many sounds, all the time. I realized I had been used to the quiet. But on the up side, suddenly music became much more complex, more beautiful, more absorbing. For someone with a very tenuous attention span, like me, the constant barrage of noise was difficult to cope with. I needed to screen things out, otherwise I would literally try my damndest to focus on every single thing I heard.

The solution was to invest in a couple of sets of very good noise cancellation headphones. And I left the mixing and balancing of the bass lines and drums in my compositions to the Sound Engineers with the good ears who could actually hear those low notes, or those very, very high notes. Now my long-suffering husband has to put up with my detachment from what’s going on around me. He has taken to approaching me by waving a hand or coming up sideways, because I don’t hear him and it nearly gives me a heart attack when I realize someone’s there.

This is XKCD – not me. I would never hear that hum generator.

Relying on other ears

Handing over the mixing and mastering to an expert is like a coin toss for me. I send off the track, hoping that I had actually been able to pick up and fix the bum bass notes, and hoping that whatever comes back will be good. And hoping that I have not made a nana of myself. (Did poor old Ludwig Van B. feel this way when he started going deaf? Poor sod. I feel for the man now.)

So much for the hearing input. As to the processing, to point out the obvious: music production, music performance, playing it, recording it – it is all mentally exhausting. Makes my head feel like it’s falling off.

Luke Garfield, who does most of the engineering of my tracks, put out a guide for music producers with helpful hints. One was to listen thoughtfully and consciously to a lot of music in different genres.

“Great music producers and create music artists are known to be obsessive – they are invested in the industry, live and breathe music, listen widely, and have broad tastes. They understand that many ideas can filter through when you write and produce music that comes from a wide knowledge base. Improving your experience with different types of music will bring you closer to being on a level playing field with these experts.

It’s really like reading widely: the more you read, the more ideas and words you pick up. These then subconsciously influence on your own ideas and musical vocabulary, and your own creations. So, listening to a wide range of types of music, and understanding what you are listening to, exposes you to new musical ideas and improves your ability to express yourself through music.”


Easier said than done, Luke.

By the time I’ve finished a song, I have no more energy left to listen to anything. The Earworms in my head are not those of artists and albums that I like, but of my own songs, that go round and round and round in a bad case of musical Tetris Effect syndrome. I literally dream of Logic instructions, commands and keystrokes.

This is what I see in my mind even when I’m sleeping…the Logic screens and commands.


I am all listened out.

I cannot get myself to listen to any more music. Just as I am unable to read and review anyone else’s Fiction writing.

I am giving myself, this time of the year, a Music Break. No more frantic writing and editing. No more educational listening. At least until 2023.

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