Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Musical Emotions

I just read about a number of dual sensory experiences in the book, Musicophilia, by Oliver Sacks. His examples include people who hear colors. He can add this one to the list: a woman who feels in musical notes.

My good friend, Amanda, called me this morning in a state of excitement. Amanda has minor bouts of mania and minor bouts of depression. Another friend of hers once called her the most intense person she ever know. That was before my time with Amanda. She's pretty mellow these days. Although, I guess she has her moments.

And today was evidently one of them. It's been a rough November for her. External events had brought up some emotions, and combined with the dreary Michigan November she succombed to a bit of depression. As a friend, I was keeping a very careful eye on her.

During her call she said, "Last night I listened to some sublime choral music on my stereo. It filled my whole body with feeling. Finally, I couldn't handle any more and turned it off. This morning when I was in the shower, I felt a little funny. Instead of feeling a single emotion or feeling, I had...", -- and here she paused trying to find the words -- "...a whole harmonic range of emotions, arranged just like notes stacked one on top of the other". Then she explained that it was just like the rich choral music she had been listening to.

I got her to slow down long enough to explain it.

She told me that she had seen a visual image (in her inner eye) of about 12 emotions. The feeling of each emotion was represented by a musical note on a staff. The 12 feelings or notes were stacked in a single beat on the staff. She felt the emotions within herself like a rich chord of music -- all at once. Pretty bizarre and very beautiful.

"How did it feel?", I asked, afraid of the answer.
"Just fine.", she said. "Amazing and fine."
"What emotions were there?"
"The deeper notes were fear, sexual feelings, longing, up through greed, compassion, a need to express myself, and on and on. The highest note was joy."
"How do you feel now?"
"Very connected and in harmony with myself. Everything is just perfect."

I talked to her later. It was a momentary experience. It came with a high and then a low, but she did fine. That brain of ours is filled with all kinds of mysteries!

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