Are you the type of person who has to have music playing while you’re home alone, bustling around the kitchen cooking or baking? Or busy doing other household chores? Or deeply engrossed in your I-phone, browsing through your E-mail or Facebook or whatever? Or taking your early morning walk? Or even just sitting around doing nothing at all?
Well, I’m not. I’m really comfortable enjoying complete silence whenever I’m home alone, regardless of what I’m involved in, especially times like this when I’m sitting at the computer writing an article.
When my kids were teenagers, it was a different story. During those years music was, well, music. You could even understand the words and sing along. And sing along I did! Sometimes I even danced.
I remember fliting around the house doing my chores to some of my old favorite tunes, like Everything is Beautiful, Honky Tonk Woman, Bottle of Wine, Light my Fire, Proud Mary, I Got You Babe, and every song the Beatles and CCR ever recorded. Those were the days, my friend! Oh wait! That was another one of my old favorites!
I had them all – stacks and stacks of those old 45s, and whenever a new one came out that I was particularly fond of, I would set the old
record player to play it over and over and over for hours.
That didn’t always sit too well when the kids were in the house. Apparently, they didn’t appreciate some of those old tunes like I did, and every so often one of my special favorites would come up missing.
Once I found my Patsy Cline’s "Crazy" broken in little pieces, lying in the creek behind our house. Nobody did it, of course, but now I have it on a CD and my dearly beloved and I play the whole album in the car while we’re driving along, with Patsy’s inimitable voice at full volume, enjoying every minute of it.
But that’s not the story I had in mind when I started this article. Guess I just got carried away reminiscing. This really was just to be about me not appreciating the loud, mindless, incomprehensible noise they call music these days, and preferring the gratification of complete silence instead. But several weeks ago, I became aware of an uninvited musical symphony and voices singing in my head.
This was a lot different than when you start thinking about a certain song and you can’t get it out of your mind. It’s like you can actually hear it like a radio playing in another room.
It first came on gradually, sort of a repetitious, spooky-sounding, funeral-like refrain. The melody was familiar, but I couldn’t place it. Eventually, I was able to discern a chorus of men’s deep-toned voices singing the words but I couldn’t make them out. Then just recently the words began coming through loud and clear: "Delta Dawn, what’s that flower you’ve got on? Is it just some faded rose from days gone by?"
The song went on to the end, then repeated itself several times before it finally went away. And it’s happened numerous times since. Strangely, Delta Dawn wasn’t even on my favorites list.
This began to worry me, and when I mentioned it to my husband, he immediately summoned Google and came up with a condition called Musical Ear Syndrome, a form of Auditory Hallucination. This may be explained by the hypothesis that when a person’s world becomes too quiet, the brain manufactures its own sounds, based on auditory memories.
Google went on to say that in most cases, people who experience this tend to fear they may be deemed mentally unstable or psychotic, but this is not the case. These sounds do not indicate any level of mental illness and can be rationally explained. (Whew!} Dr. Neil Bauman, PhD, has conducted extensive research into this phenomenon and it was he who coined the term "Musical Ear Syndrome" in 2004. It’s like when a stroke in the visual cortex (the part of your brain that processes visual information) causes a defect in your vision, the brain produces an image to fill the vacancy but that it is inconsistent with reality.
Thank you, Dr. Bauman. Good to know I’m not mentally unstable or psychotic! I’ve just let my world become too quiet and that’s probably the worst thing that can happen to a person of Italian descent. So tonight, when I’m baking up a batch of Pizza Tortellini, I’ll be sure to have the radio or TV turned up to the highest volume and sing along in my loudest voice. (And I can get pretty darn loud!)
PIZZA BAKED TORTELLINI
1-1/2 lb. cheese-stuffed tortellini 2 cups marinara sauce
2 cups mozzarella cheese 20 slices of pepperoni
1/4 cup sliced black olives 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
Optional: Fresh basil Optional: Grated Parmesan
Preheat the oven to 425°. Prepare a large, ovenproof skillet by spraying it with cooking spray or lightly brushing with olive oil. Add the tortellini to the skillet. Pour the marinara sauce and 1/2 cup of water over the tortellini; no need to stir. (I always stir it – can’t resist.) Top with the cheese, then the pepperoni, olives and mushrooms. Bake for 25 minutes. Top with fresh basil and grated Parmesan cheese if desired. (Don’t forget to add some loud music!)
Carole Branz Wahler grew up in the Morristown area and is a graduate of Lafferty High School . Her parents Ernest "Stump" and Lena Branz owned and operated the Third Base Restaurant on Route 40 for many years. Today, she resides in Bradenton, Fla.