No Ear for Harmony

The walls of the soundproof booth closed in on me.  I strained to hear the barely audible chimes and beeps piping through the headphones placed over my ears.

The noises dwindled, trailing off into the depths of my fuzzy head like soap bubbles swirling down a drain.  I began to wonder if the sounds I struggled to hear were only in my imagination, conjured up to reassure me I still had full range of hearing.

As an ill-prepared, hung-over college student sweats during a final exam, knowing her sins may have finally caught up with her, I sat in the chair wondering if this would be the end of the line for me and the love of my life.

I’d been to a lot of concerts in my forty-three years, many of them in small venues, crushed up against a speaker by an unforgiving crowd.

I’ve attempted to use ear plugs a few times, but they always fell out, and frankly, I didn’t like the way they tickled my ears and muffled the very sounds in which I was seeking to submerge.

Salve for the wounds of the week.

People ask me all the time, “How do you manage to go to so many concerts?  I’m always too tired at night.”

And here is my answer:

I go because I have to go.

It’s like oxygen to me.

All day long, I’m suffocated by The Wiggles and Radio Disney, and I have to cleanse my musical palate at least once every two weeks.  Preferable once a week.  Four weeks, and I start to get the shakes.

A musician at heart, I played the piano as a child, and as a young adolescent, I discovered that banging out some Beethoven was an enjoyably therapeutic way to release angst.

My musical tastes expanded with the New Wave movement of the ‘80s, and I discovered bands like The Cure, The Smiths, and Depeche Mode.  Coupled with the upbeat pop sounds of Duran Duran and INXS, I delighted in the ability to always find a song to fit my mood.

Music became more to me than sound emanating from a Sony Walkman.

Music became a manner of holistic healing.

Solace in another’s lyrical expressions.

And today is no different.

I’m not likely to connect with a poet at a coffee house, but set those same words to music, and I’m all ears.

I can listen to almost anything and enjoy it.

The magic of the live show lies in the connection between performer and audience, artist and appreciator.

Each artist speaks his or her own language, and the listener is invited to partake in the dialogue for the evening:  a love lost, then found; a memory preserved; an emotion that at the writing of the song was so strong and prolific, it overtook every cell of the songwriter’s body.

During a good live performance, all of these stories, feelings, people, and places will be transferred from artist to listener, aided by chords and melodies.

There is nothing else in the world better to me than listening to a live show of a musician who is performing with his/her whole heart and soul.

"A life without music is a life not worth living." I dramatically pondered.

I panicked, envisioning denial of the heartfelt harmonies of The Mastersons.  The gorgeous, rootsy ballads of Ryan Adams.  The witty, rollicking missives of Rhett Miller and Old 97s.  The meditative melodies of Chris Martin and Coldplay.  The playful, rhythmic groove of Bob Schneider.

I sat with sweaty, wringing hands, waiting for the results of the hearing test.

“Everything looks good.”


I’ve got tickets to a show next week.

I’ll try to remember the ear plugs, I promise.


  1. Phew! That's a relief!

  2. There are lyrics and chords that truly resonate in my soul, in my bones, in my heart. Songs for specific memories, emotions, thoughts. I can time travel with music, or change my mood like that. Sadly its been eons since I've been to a concert, since most venues are 1.5-2 hrs away and I have little kiddos and no nighttime sitter. But....someday....I will return. Your post encourages me!

  3. I'm glad you're going to give earplugs a try. As a music lover who has had a partial hearing loss, let me tell you it is frustrating to have sound distorted. Take care of your ears!

  4. You took me back to my salad tears in Boston? So many great concerts in small venues so often! Late nights working on art assignments with mix tapes from friends, or WBZ blasting into me via ear plugs. Now I live in Maine. My son is 15. And I'm starting to say, "what?" frequently at work where there is a lot of ambient noise. I am happy for your clean bill of hearing health, and I hope the same for myself. But either way, NO REGRETS!

  5. I feel the same way about ear plugs--not that I ever go to shows any more. I admire you for actively seeking a break from The Wiggles. My younger son just discovered Barney. :P Great post!


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