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Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Day the Music Died

I went down to the sacred store
Where I'd heard the music years before
But the man there said the music wouldn't play
And in the streets the children screamed
The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed
But not a word was spoken
The church bells all were broken
And the three men I admire most-
the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost-
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died

It was the year I turned 46 that my hearing took the last train for the coast. It didn’t cash out completely, all at once but, when I woke up that otherwise beautiful early Spring morning everything was severely muffled. It was as though I was hearing through an MSA Sound Blocker™ 26. Bob, Jen and Oni sounded like the trombone-y adults on the old Charlie Brown cartoons and I could barely hear my own voice.

Though I’d known since I was 22 that this day would come, and thought I’d prepared for it too, I was scared and panicked with a side order of freaked out. I had Bob call Dr. McKenna, the member of my Brain Pit Crew charged with minding my hearing levels. I went in and he prescribed prednisone, a steroid to take down the tumor's swelling and restore my hearing to previous levels. We’d done this twice before and it worked. Turns out, in this case, third time was NOT a charm. The hearing didn’t come back up and, over the following year, continued to fade.

To prepare for this day I’d listened again, again and then 100 more times, to the music I never wanted to forget. I figured that, If I heard it enough times, my brain would remember it. I listened to Franz Liszt’s piano transcription of Der Totentanz, Aaron Copeland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, Steve Reich: Different Trains/Electric Counterpoint, Kronos Quartet Plays Terry Riley: Salome Dances for Peace and their Black Angels, Jeff Beck Guitar Workshop and Truth (Shapes of Things and Beck’s Bolero in particular off that album), Talking Heads (specifically the concert album Stop Making Sense) and Paul Simon.

My brain HAS remembered quite a bit of these plus so much more. Nine years later, I still occasionally wake up with tunes buzzing through my head. It's not the same as how y'all hear them but hey, I'll take what I can get. I can’t bring Kronos Quartet’s music to mind and it pains me mightily that I can’t hear, in my head or otherwise, Yo Yo Ma’s The Goat Rodeo Sessions or NIN’s The Downward Spiral or the second side of Abby Road.

This is my reality now. I understand, accept it and I'm learning how to roll through it though I still mourn the loss -- some days more acute than others.

There can be music still but it has to be heavy on beat -- there’s got to be a deep groove going on. I’ve got to be able to feel it in order to experience it. Luckily, I’ve always been a big drum fan. I took my Helen to see The Blue Man Group when she was here for her birthday. I expected it to be a wonderful visual thing for me but I could actually, totally feel the drumming. Not the guitars but the drumming was a zillion kinds of tremendous. Astounding. It was heaven. Major league heaven.

And, the next time the Kodo Drummers of Japan are in town, I am SO there!

So then, music hasn’t actually completely died, it’s just morphed into something different. I can dig it.

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