Does anybody else do this?
I’ll be listening to a piece of music, something I’ve heard plenty of times before — frequently it’s a track from some film score, though other kinds of music can do it, too. Then suddenly, my ears shift focus, in much the same way I imagine those “magic eye” pictures resolve from meaningless noise into meaningful shapes (I actually can’t see those worth a damn). I find myself listening through the music to a layer I never noticed before.
I don’t know if that makes any sense. It would be easier to explain in person; I would put a piece of music on and wave a hand in the air to illustrate which harmonic line I’ve switched focus to. (It’s always a harmony; the melody is what I’m listening past.) Not infrequently it’s something the bass elements are doing, because they more often provide the foundation or embroidery to the melody in the treble — but sometimes it’s a high counterpoint I never really noticed before, or something in the middle registers that was somehow tucked away inside all the other things I’d heard before.
(I sometimes wonder if the way my brain processes music qualifies as synaesthesia. I often conceive of it in spatial or kinetic terms, and I was annoyed when I found out that “texture” didn’t mean what I wanted it to, musically speaking. Individual sounds have texture, goddammit, although it isn’t the same as the texture I feel with my fingertips. I guess I mean “timbre,” but my brain insists that no, if it mean timbre it would say timbre, and what it said was texture.)
In other words, I shift my attention to an instrument or line I hadn’t noticed before — but it really feels like I’m listening through to it. As if the rest of the instrumentation was the reflection on a glass window, and I just now managed to look past that into what lies behind the glass. It just happened to me a moment ago, sparking this post — “Pageant,” from the Cirque du Soleil show Kà, for anybody who’s curious; there’s a bass counterpoint that suddenly leapt out at me — and if you can do the trick, Michael Kamen’s score for Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves is a lovely, lovely thing to listen to, especially the track “The Abduction and Final Battle at the Gallows.” That’s the first piece that ever refocused for me, and I still love to close my eyes and follow all the different layers as they come in and out.
But yeah. I’m almost certainly not the only one who does this, but I sometimes wonder, and isn’t that what the internets are made for? I’d love to hear how other people experience music in general, whether you process it in terms of other senses or whatever. Tell me I’m not alone in being weird. 🙂