Tag Archives: music

Welcome to the Deaf community – What took you so long?

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As I sit here typing this, I am getting used to the sounds of my typing and all those other sounds around me, as they’re coming to me via my new hearing aids. Yes, I discovered two months ago that I have a hearing loss and having lost all of my upper range.

The strange thing is that before the hearing test, I had no idea that I had a problem. I had assumed that people these days mumble too much, that TV has a poor sound quality as standard and that everyone struggled to hear in crowded places like railway stations and coffee shops.

Asking people to repeat things that they had said was so much a part of my everyday conversation, that I had ceased to notice and my family had made it into a joke.

Being told that I had a disability was a shock and I found it hard to take in at first. Even attending my first audiology appointment, I thought that I might have a slight problem, I even allowed that one ear could be at fault, but to discover that my hearing was serious enough to require my wearing two hearing aids, was a complete surprise.

As I come to terms with my new hearing aids, I wonder just how many years I have really needed them and simply didn’t realise? One in six people have a hearing loss issue. When you think about that it’s a staggering figure. Even more surprising is the fact that of those about half will have no idea of the fact.

This problem is such a national one that The Royal National Institute For Deaf People (RNID), who have been established as a charity since 1911 recently changed their name to Action On Hearing Loss, as a way of attracting more people and in doing so, help them. It was the charity’s website which gave me my first indication that something was amiss where my hearing was concerned.

The Action On Hearing Loss website  has an online hearing test and at the end of this will advise you to see your GP if there is a problem. I took the test twice and thanks to their advice, my GP’s referral and two great audiologists, I can sit here and listen to so much more than I could just a few days ago.

I can tell the real difference when I turn the aids off and the world becomes warm and fuzzy and loses its top notes. Fellow musicians will only need to think of turning off the treble on the amp, that’s my hearing without aids and it makes a big difference to every single conversation, TV show and piece of music I play or listen to.

Are the hearing aids perfect? No, I find them strange, it’s like having two earpieces in, not just for an hour or two, but all day and it feels wrong. Is the sound natural? Not quite, no, my brain has got used to a certain way of hearing and filling in gaps, things are odd. Hearing aids in no way give back hearing, but they do help and are worth the effort needed to use them. The sound is electronic, how could it be anything else, but the result is wonderful. If you have thought that perhaps you might have a hearing problem, my advice would be to go along to the website or to book a hearing test, because in this situation ignorance really isn’t bliss.

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Music as a writing tool.

When I write, I listen to music, many writers do. However I don’t simply turn on the radio, or put on a favourite CD. I make my choice very carefully, let me tell you why.

I am going to refer to novel writing as an example during this short article, however the process works just the same for nonfiction, short stories, poetry, articles, plays, screenplays and anything else which I care to write.

Music is very important to most people, myself included. We only have to hear a song on the radio, to be reminded of a lost love, or a great holiday. Both music and lyrics have the ability to change our mood. When I approach a new writing project, it is music as a soundscape which is foremost in my mind. What time period is my novel set in? This question is an easy one. I will assemble a playlist of suitable period mood music. One of my novels is set during World War Two. For this book I have a number of playlists, these include original broadcasts and BBC radio plays and sketches. As well as popular hits of the time. In addition I also have another playlist of French music and wartime broadcasts, for my chapters set in France. By using these playlists, I can instantly alter my mood and emotions and fine-tune my writing to the time my book is taking place.

A note about using period music with characters:

Just because a song was popular at the same period as the writing, does not mean that a certain character would like it. Do you like every kind of music being played right now? An example for anything set during The Second World War, is that older characters will think of most popular songs as ‘a lot of noise’ and instead will prefer the softer strains of earlier music, from their own youth, such as Twenties and Thirties hits.

If I’m writing something set in the 60’s, nothing works so quickly as the Rolling Stones or The Beatles to change my mood. You can add to this by listening to interviews of your chosen period. Now of course there are period settings which pr-date musical recordings. But if you look around you will find, as I have, re-creations of ancient music. If a story is set in the future, well I might try ambient sounds or so called ‘New Age’ music for a soundscape. What is important is to change my mood and my thoughts.

Character moods:

Once I have a good choice of music, all of which would have been available to my character I can look more closely. How old is my character? This first question will evoke certain ideas about the music they would have enjoyed in younger days. What is their social position? Sounds like an odd question. Ask most people what the 60’s generation listened to? And you will most likely be given a list of the top pop groups and solo pop singers. What about the Jazz fans. These were the art school set and often the university crowd. These groups wanted something more intellectual than pop could offer.  Think about Brian Epstein, the manager of The Beatles and his love of classical music. Characters are individuals and this individuality includes musical taste.

Music as an important character/story device:

Musical taste can be very useful to convey character tastes and add tension. A wife who hates her husband’s constant playing of heavy metal music from his youth. She constantly has to turn up radio 2 in order to drown out his noise. Add character to a parent/ child relationship by introducing rival types of music. Give a character a theme. Below is an example from my novel in progress, which is a horror/fantasy and is set in different time periods, from the Victorian age to 2011.

Example:

Ryan Donovan had played back last night’s kiss in his mind over and over. He knew that it had been good to him and she certainly seemed to enjoy it. He keyed the car’s ignition and wondered if he could consider their next meeting a first official date. He reached over and clicked on the radio. R.E.M.’s Everybody Hurts filled the car’s interior.

 

“Not this morning mate.” The man reached over and turned it to CD and hit play. This time the car was filled with vintage Sinatra and Frank was waxing lyrical about the Young at heart. Ryan grinned.

 

“You said it Blue eyes.” He sang along, enjoying the impromptu duet as the car moved swiftly through the morning traffic. He had judged the early commuter traffic well and the road was now just a thin thread of late workers and those in no particular hurry. His mobile rang and he quietly cursed his not having put it on the hands free. Looking in the rear-view mirror for any unwanted police attention, he picked up the phone, pressing answer.  As he did this, he turned down the volume on the CD.

At times having background music appear in a story can evoke a different atmosphere. It can also signal something which is not quite the norm. Normality can be turned on its head by changing perceptions. The 2015 teenager blasting out Doris Day or the old lady being asked to turn down her Ibiza unplugged CD. These stand out and can add instant character to a scene. A cafe scene, with a song playing on the radio. This can set the scene with perfect normality. Music as you can see, doesn’t have to simply be background sounds, but can instead provide impetus for your own creative flow.

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