Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Cicadas in my head

I've had this persistent ringing in my ear for months now.

It's nothing serious. It seems to be related to stuffy sinuses, plugged up tubes somewhere, some fluid in the ear. It got better during the summer. It faded away to a sound that was barely there. But it's back now, like cicadas inside my head, made bold by the coming of fall, or by too much time spent among hidden allergens in my office at school.

I believe the ringing to be at a specific pitch, with prominent overtones--D, to be exact, with the octave and the fifth. Or perhaps it's almost but not quite D. Whatever it is, music in the key of D major and other related sharp keys bothers me, especially when it's loud and reverberating all over the rehearsal room.

I am subjecting this problem to all this analysis because explaining it helps me deal with it. Certain sounds seem to produce beats when they clash with the sound in my ear. (Beats: a sort of wah-wah effect created when sound waves that are not quite at the same frequency bump into one another. More or less.) When this happens my ear-brain-voice-ear feedback loop short circuits. I become a very frustrated singer.

When I have trouble singing, it spills over into the rest of my life. Long ago a voice teacher quoted Birgit Nilsson to me: "The bird who is not happy does not sing." The Gwen Gotsch corollary is: "The bird who is not singing well is not happy."

The reading in chapel this morning: "We are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life." The speaker illustrated this, and the "by grace you have been saved" part before it, with flower pots, dirty and broken, then clean and restored, and then brought out a big pot filled with a blooming pink geranium.

I tried to think of myself as that pink geranium all day, somehow showing forth God's goodness to others. But it was the kind of day where the feedback loop didn't work well. Spent too much of the day alone, getting tired from focusing on the computer screen. All I could hear was the ringing in my ear and the buzzing in my brain, the kind that says the work is never done, no one appreciates me, and I'm not good at anything anyway. (There may be distortions here that I should analyze.)

I don't like to whine on my blog. I prefer to sing (soundlessly here, in prose), or think differently, or at least think productively. Those cicadas in my brain have to get out of the way.

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