Original post: http://bearlamp.com.au/new-music-powers/

I have written before about how I am pretty terrible at canvassing music in my head.  This lends to the appalling ability (to musically oriented people) to be able to do things like listen to the same song on repeat 500 times or more in a row without being bothered by it either way.  I never cared more than the sense of "this is interesting but irrelevant" on the idea.

Being indifferent to music has given me the ability to be completely useless at holding a musical preference, or explore the value of music in terms of going to music events, or participating in musical experiences.

This week something changed!  Or more accurately last week.  Last week I was listening to a piece for the n'th time, but at the same time was quite badly sleep deprived.  As I was listening the music started falling apart.  Different parts of the music changed volume so that I could isolate different instruments and follow different features of the music.  At the time, being a bit sleep deprived I took it as a warning that maybe it was time to go to bed.  hint hint: your going a little nuts.

Today I noticed I can still do it.  When I am no longer sleep deprived I can pay attention to music in a different way than I used to be able to.  I can single out the drums and only "listen" to that part, or the guitar, or the vocals.  (it's pop music on the radio).  

Of course the reason I bothered to write about it, and the reason that it's interesting is; as half the readers can probably imagine - I told a musical friend of mine that I had developed new powers and he said, 

Wait, people can't normally do that?

So I get to add this to the pile of typical mind, sensory perception assumptions that we make when we interpret our own individual world through our own senses.  What if your's worked a bit differently?  How much would that fundamentally change how you operate as a human?  How much you assume about the world around you and how it works?  And how everyone else works?

Question:  What are your natural assumptions about how your senses work?  Have you ever noticed anyone else acting on different basic natural assumptions?

Meta: this took 45mins to write.

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4 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 8:09 AM

I'm colorblind. I have color cones in my eyes, but the red ones are mutated towards higher wavelengths (i.e. green). This makes red-green-brown, blue-purple and grey-pink hard to distinguish.

As a result, I pay quite a lot of attention to colors and shades in everyday life. I don't trust my eyes and often test my perceptions against other people's ("Hey, is that shirt green or yellow?"). To the point that I actually discern more shades than most people. I'm sometimes wrong about their names, but I see shades other people don't notice, e.g. me: "This grey has more red than green in it." someone else: "What are you talking about, it's just grey."

On these occasions, the only one who agrees with me on subtle hue differences is actually my sister, who is not colorblind, but has been painting as a hobby for 20-ish years, and is also accustomed to pay attention to hues.

Also the injunction not to trust your senses / brain has always seemed obvious to me. So was the idea of testing your beliefs against the real world / other people's belief.

Bottom line, you can apparently train your perception by not trusting them. And color blindness taught me distrust in my wetware.

P.S. : I've started playing an instrument when I was 7 and was also very surprised to learn several years later that people can't pick apart instruments when listening to a piece of music.

I would like to share my experience about music in my head. I don't have any musical education, but sometimes in the state of hypnogogia, I am able to hear beautiful music in my head. I understand that it just neural net somewhere in my mind create music which is based on many samples I heard before. But I was never ever able to remember it or record it, as I don't have formal musical education.

But once I stood in the house without internet, and can't sleep. I heard this music again and I was able to put it in my hand, so my fingers started to play it! So if I have a piano there I would probably be able to output my unconsciousness music out. As music is not my main interest I didn't try it again.

Another case happened at 3 after midnight on one party, when a group of 3 people including me started to sing strange but beautiful reparative song.

Conclusion: sleep deprivation affect music abilities in positive ways.

A similar thing happened to me with music as a result of practicing mindfulness meditation. I was listening to music in my car and I thought "Well, I should bring some mindfulness to this task." One of the common things you do in mindfulness is try to direct your mental attention at more specific aspects of something you are perceiving, and I realized that by paying attention to individual musical instruments it actually had a significant impact on how the song seemed. I wasn't exactly surprised, because many things are like this (maybe everything?) but it was neat how strongly your mind can filter out other aspects. This is fundamentally the same as when people write tasting notes for wine, or when a designer focuses on the blank space in a design, or when you pay attention to the feeling of your butt on your chair.

Next time you are eating, try to pay separate attention to the flavor, the smell and the texture of what you're eating. Also pay attention to the way it feels different to swallow the food than to chew it. If you are hungry, you may notice that the satisfaction-sensation from eating actually comes from the act of swallowing, rather than chewing, which is why diets where you chew food and spit it out have never been popular.

Random thought: Try listening to MIDI samples of classical music with different instruments - it might be easier to take the music apart that way than by listening to real performers with real instruments.