Tag Archives: Music

Sunday 3rd May 2015- Music and other languages


My day started with a grocery shop. Sadly, my usual fish fingers are no longer in stock. A shiny new budget-friendly box is filling my freezer drawer with anticipation. Something I’m really looking forward to is a visit from the awesome French branch of my family tree. So today I watched an episode of Chuck in French with French subtitles.

Despite the fact that listening is a weak area for me because of my Auditory Processing difficulties, I enjoy learning different languages. My favourite language is music. Music is a universal language because whoever’s listening- no matter what their spoken language is- can enjoy and empathise with the mood the music sets. Kind of like that TV show, The Clangers. Many people from different cultures claimed that the Clangers were actually speaking their language (or so I have heard). The Clangers speak Clanger. But like music, Clanger has a similarity to human speech. The adorable moon-dwelling mouse-creatures don’t use identifiable words, but somehow their language of squeaks and whistles still makes a lot of sense to their human watchers.

Although for my first 16 years or so, I couldn’t hear speech as clearly as most people because of serious Auditory Processing Disorder, I have always loved music. It’s a language which I understand. Although my social skills lagged behind since spoken nuances and hints were lost in a sea of gibberish and background noise, I could pick up a tune by ear really quickly. On my flute I learned to play music with an emotional maturity which socially I completely lacked. The way I played and the way I spoke completely didn’t match up. Then after Johansen IAS therapy my hearing cleared up enough to hear song lyrics, and I discovered an amazing combination of languages- music with words! After that my life was changed forever.

I’ve read somewhere that children who listen to music or learn an instrument can improve learning skills and strengthen listening ability. My parents played lots of music in our house when I was young whether it was Gypsy Kings (my mum) or Nirvana (my dad). Listening to music from an early age even just in the background probably gave me an edge against my Auditory Processing Disorder which I wouldn’t otherwise have had.

I think that a lot of kids who struggle in some way with communication, in whatever form and for whatever reason, would really benefit from learning to play an instrument. It’s a way to express your feelings without using conventional spoken language. Like a fingerprint, music is unique to the individual it comes from. Personalities shine through, and listeners who make strong first impressions of people on face value ( *The Fish Finger Conundrum again!* ) may be surprised by what they hear.

*The Fish Finger Conundrum- Monday 20th October 2014*


Due to unfortunate exam-related circumstances and the fact that any vaguely maths-related homework is not my friend, blog entries have recently been few and far between. Hopefully in a few weeks I’ll have the time to post a backlog of stuff. I hope you enjoyed this post.  =)



Friday 6th March – Nothing More Concert

Around this time three years ago, I was just beginning to hear the words in music clearly thanks to Johansen Individualised Auditory Stimulation therapy.

Music is what feelings sound like. I think I have always understood this. It still amazes me that sound can express emotions and make the listener empathise and feel the same thing. However until Johansen IAS therapy, I had no idea that songs had words which make the music a story as well. As someone who had always loved music, this was an incredible discovery for me. All the slurred mush and mouth noises interfering with (and as it seemed at the time, detracting from) the instrumental background started to make sense, and I realised that songs are as much about the lyrics as the tune.

Tonight I went to see a band which I love, and only heard for the first time a few months ago, Nothing More. Nothing More are amazing. Their music is a beautiful mix of melody and powerful metal, and the words to the songs are great in their own right. Another very wonderful thing about them is all the drums. Their drummer is phenomenal, and their singer also is a drummer. They have drums on stage which they hammer along with their powerful songs, and a bass solo which involves three of them playing a bass at the same time and spinning it on a stand, which is one of the most awesome thing’s I’ve ever seen and heard. Nothing More also have some of the few songs that make me cry. 

Before Johansen IAS therapy, I would have picked up on a tragic mood from hearing the instrumental parts of a song, but not understood exactly what it was about. Back then when I had serious Auditory Processing Disorder, most of the words I heard in music (and a large portion of speech I heard in general) sounded like Gibberish. Now when I hear a song I understand the story in it. Nothing More sing and play their songs with all their souls, songs with stories which come from their personal lives. Not only is their music amazing, they also use music as a form of activism. Every concert they play is an attempt to get people to stop being cogs in an increasingly corrupt system and think for themselves (MTV, Christ Copyright), never stop loving and caring for one another even when it hurts (I’ll be OK), and to fight the stigma associated with mental illness (Jenny). The song which had me nearly crying in the crowd is (God Went North), about the singer’s mother dying. Nothing More are a musical force for good, helping to save the world one concert hall at a time.     

Without Johansen IAS therapy, I would never have discovered Nothing More’s music in the first place, let alone be able to understand what it is about. Music is not only the most important thing in my life, in a way music also saved my life. 

Johansen IAS therapy music CDs strengthened sound-transmitting pathways in my brain, giving me the ability to hear speech clearly. I heard my family around the dinner table at background noise-filled birthday parties and started joining in the conversation, I made friends by joining conversations I was now able to be included in. Able to communicate with other people, I started to catch up with my age-group socially and emotionally. Sounds such as traffic came from the right directions and distances. The deafeningly loud mash of noise I heard when I was at school, the shops, in the street, dissipated and cleared like a fog lifting. I heard my own voice clearly for the first time and was startled at how it sounded different to the idea I had of my voice in my head. And I heard all the words in a song, which completely changed the course of my life. 

No longer scared of loud noises, which used to overwhelm me, I discovered my main passion, drums. 

So I thank Camilla, Johansen IAS and my family for giving me a second chance at life which I never would have had otherwise. I also thank my family’s tolerance of my decibel-heavy new interest. You are very awesome.  

I will continue this blog for as long as I can, writing about everything I learn along the way from being able to hear clearly. I hope that you find it useful and that it helps you to understand more about Auditory Processing Disorder, which (like Dyslexia) affects 10% of the world’s population. 

Saturday 28th February 2015- Bucket Drumming, Junkie Interactions and a Gig

This morning I was tapping away on my buckets, entertaining people, drumming up some cash and dealing with the public.

When I first started busking I was afraid of people looking at me. That then upgraded to photos, videos, far too up-close watching like the Flower of Scotland Man, mid-performance conversations, heckling, and more recently, Junkie Interaction.

Lots of people smiled as they passed, although one elderly man with a great big beard paused in front of me to say “That sound is horrible. Please stop”.  A young guy jumped in beside me with a selfie stick, and a few other people took photos and videos. There’s a lot of tourists in Edinburgh.  I also got some (thankfully friendly) junkie attention. I chatted away, comforted by the knowledge that my Public Relations Frying Pan was within easy reach.

One woman strung out on something said she was a rapper, and wanted to try my buckets. She played along with me, the passers-by losing interest in the tuneless racket. Friendly woman though. She gave me a hug before departing unsteadily.

Previous to her, I had another inebriated admirer. He gave me 5p, which was actually very generous considering he didn’t look like he had much money. He was drinking a can of Special Brew or something similar. He said that he loved my drumming and wanted to marry me. We were chatting a bit and I explained that I busk for confidence when playing drums. He said he drinks for confidence, so I suppose confidence is something we have (or don’t have) in common. Busking for confidence when playing gigs will hopefully allow me to have the confidence to play well without requiring drinks, and have all my concentration to give the best performance I can because I’ll be sober.

Busking makes you kind of a part of the streets, even just for a short time, and people who live on those streets are interested to see what’s going on in their area.

Tonight we had our best gig yet. In an Irish Bar which was packed with people like sardines. The dance area was full, partly because there was nowhere left to sit. The bands there were really good and we’d met one of them before at our first gig in Paisley. One band had come all the way from England. They sounded a bit like Sleeping with sirens. My best friend came to see us too. It was loud, we were all packed together, it was hard to hear anyone talking. Before Johansen and MLC therapies it would have been a nightmare scenario.

I was nervous about playing, but not nearly as much as last time. Bucket Busking and fighting nerves with more nerves seems to be working.

People’s reaction to our music was really good and it was so hot in that wee underground bar all our hair was sticking up with sweat, we all went for it and it was an awesome night. It was so amazing to see people enjoying hearing us and having fun! I’m starting to feel like a proper drummer now.

Sunday 1st February 2015- Today I’m feeling Optimistic

It’s February, and it’s still cold.

Today I’m feeling pretty optimistic.

I want to be a professional drummer. That would make me so happy I think. Playing music with my friends for a living would be amazing. And it’s not an impossible dream. Without MLC and Johansen, a career as a drummer would never have been an option for me. It’s amazing how much my life has changed since I started and finished these therapies- and what a completely different direction it’s taking from what it would have been otherwise. Without going to see Ian at The Movement and Learning Centre Scotland, I would not have the coordination to play drums. Simple, everyday movements such as walking and climbing stairs which nowadays are effortless and automatic for me, would still take up conscious thought.

And without Johansen Individualised Auditory Stimulation Therapy, I would still be afraid of loud noises.

A music theory teacher I had for a short time at school (before he was fired for insulting other members of staff) once said to me “maybe in a parallel universe, Jennifer will do something important with her life”. Imagining a Jenny in a parallel universe who hadn’t had help from Johansen and MLC makes me sad. I have a vague idea of what that story would be like, and as a lover of happy endings, I have a feeling I would be disappointed. Thanks to these therapies I have the opportunity to explore and live up to my full potential- whatever that may be. It’s my duty- and pleasure to live my second chance at life to the full. And of course use my experiences to help other people with Auditory Processing Disorder and Retained Reflexes as much as I can.

My unpleasant theory teacher wanted me to be a musician. In some ways, he may get what he wished for. Although I reckon that I still have as much aptitude for music theory as a shellfish does for mountaineering. I play a small concert on my flute every weekend I can manage. Some tourists and streetgoers particularly like my flute version of “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica. The thought of him seeing me play drums- the last instrument anyone at the music school would have expected me to have a talent for- in my usual unquiet, finesseless and deliciously unclassical manner makes me smile.

Tomorrow is Plant Physiology. Meh.

It’s a testament to Johansen IAS that despite a hectic lifestyle juggling a full-time college course, keeping this blog, busking, and being part of a band in another city, my hearing has not been a problem recently. I barely think about it sometimes. I’ve been taking easy, clear sound processing for granted.

However, I will definitely be my Personal Listening Device for class tomorrow. It’s going to be 5 hours of lectures. My hearing may not be 100% perfect, but the fact that I’m so far managing to keep afloat with this course and with life in general astonishes me.


Saturday 29th November 2014 – Day Off!

I took the opportunity of some energy combined with free time to fight the mould in my shower and write up this diary after an incredibly busy week.

Now that the mould kingdom is vanquished (or at least severely reduced, since it may have worked its way into the sealant) I can have a shower which actually feels clean.

One of my friends from college has a band, and I might go to see them play tonight. 

Cycled to the pub where the gig was being held. It was good to cycle. I’ve not been on my bike for a while, mainly because when I have a lack of mental energy, I do stupid things. If you want to live any considerable length, making stupid decisions in traffic is something best avoided.

My friend’s band were really good. They were like if the Beatles were into eco music and songs about plants. They had a really entertaining song about mushrooms and how they’re Fun Guys. Plant flashcards were brought out for the crowd at various points. Their drummer seemed to be their secret weapon. He drummed, played guitar, and sang, often two at the same time.

Fun night.

Saturday 27th September- The Teenage Years begin

I did not want to get out of bed.

It’s harder to get to sleep since I moved here, and also harder to wake up. My curtains really keep out the light and my new bed is like a big bean bag- getting out of it is difficult, and then you realise that you don’t want to.

Maybe it’s my furniture’s fault, or it could be the start of my teenage years. The Retained Reflexes I had caused Delayed Development. Now that the Retained Reflexes are gone, thanks to therapy from The Movement and Learning Centre Scotland, I’ve been catching up with my age group quick. Auditory Processing Disorder also kept me lagging behind socially. After Johansen IAS therapy, auditory processing is only a difficult area for me, and I can hear as clearly as almost anyone. Over the past few years I’ve learned a whole load of new social skills I missed early on.  

Last night was exceptionally late by my standards, but something I’ve noticed over the past few months is my difficulty/reluctance to get up on time. It’s as if I’m living out the jetlagged teenage years. I had some insomnia when I was a teenager, but this felt much more normal and healthy. Without the adrenaline jag of a Retained Moro Reflex, it’s so easy to go back to snoozing even if you’re going to be late. My anxious, too-serious, adrenalized past-self is long gone. Who cares if I’m five minutes late? It’s not the end of the world. And if it is, Armageddon can wait. I’ll sleep through it.

Today was a university music jam. I was really looking forwards to it. A chance to play drums! Again, like wind band, I just dived in without thinking about it much. Have I played in front of people before? Yep. Once. Have I ever played drums for a jam? Besides with my bandmates in Glasgow, nope.

Before the music jam, I bought some work boots for gardening. The salesman was very keen, referring to the shoe in his hand as “he” and telling my all about him. Good boots and good prices, despite the shop being a little eccentric.

The jam…..A really brilliant drummer I met was there too. He can play anything and has tons of drum experience. I asked him about some stuff, and he taught me a double pedal exercise. Unfortunately for the first hour, there was no key for the drum kit. We played on the tables, which was fun, but there’s only so much you can do with a table.

We got drums from the cupboard. The other drummer played amazingly, then I had a go. The musicians seemed to want me to start with a rhythm. I had no idea what to play. I’m still really not used to leading music. I ended up playing very similar stuff. In the middle I kind of freaked out a bit and froze, making for a very awkward jam. I couldn’t think of what to play, and they had to play without me for a bit. I got lost again and handed sticks back to other drummer. It didn’t help that seat was so high my feet barely reached the pedals, but I can’t blame the kit for my performance. Not much anyway. I did my best. For my amount (lack of) experience I did okay. I love drumming, and am again faced with the fact that I still have a long way to go to become a good drummer. Yes, it had its embarrassing, awkward, ego-shrivelling moments, but I want to be at the next jam. I want to be the best drummer I can be, and that means working my way up from the beginning.


Friday 12th September- Day 5 of Student Life- My First attempt at Busking

In the morning I went climbing with a friend I made at a party in our flat. Climbing in Freshers week is free. It was fun. Making friends is much easier now that I can hear people clearly. I’m a little older than most first years, although not by much. That’s because after school I had two years spent doing college courses, learning new skills, and going to lip reading classes. Those two years gave me time to catch up with my own age group socially. My problems with Auditory Processing Disorder was much reduced by the time I left school, thanks to Johansen IAS therapy, but I hadn’t adjusted to being able to hear clearly. I still had a lot to learn, including social skills I hadn’t learned as a child. The two-year gap let me move to full-time higher education and leave home when I was ready.

Yesterday I took out money for food shopping. I saw my bank balance and remembered that I play flute to a fairly high level, ideal for busking. Busking might help me earn a little extra money. I should have a student loan by next week, and my parents would help me if things got tight, but part of me also just wanted an excuse to play. For years my flute had sat in its case. The instrument I used to love more than anything just brought back memories of school and playing it made me feel sad and pissed off instead of happy. I should be grateful for the fantastic musical tuition and teachers I had, but classical music, intense studying and mind-grinding French Baroque just wasn’t for me. Constant failure in aural music classes because of my then undiagnosed serious Auditory Processing Disorder hadn’t helped. All the chords with their roman numeral names sounded exactly the same to me. In tests I used to guess the opposite answers to what I thought was right, because then I was more likely to be correct.

So for the first time after a five hear hiatus, I had a purpose for playing and the desire to play my flute. I phoned up the council and a man said that as long as I move after every 30 minutes and stay out of Princes Street Gardens, that’s fine. I don’t have an amplifier, and I am not another bagpiper, so he seemed all for it, and wished me luck.

I decided that Busking couldn’t be more disastrous than my attempt at orchestral drumming. Last night I was up late thinking of what pieces I could play to entertain people. French baroque stuff is not happening. In fact, I never have to play music I don’t like again. I realised that I could play whatever I like.

I played 3 songs on The Royal Mile, just to see what it was like. Funnily enough, it was more nerve-wracking before I started playing. Once I got going, it was okay. I used to have a fear of people looking at me, but they were just like, “there’s another street musician”. There are loads of musicians and entertainers on The Royal Mile, and I wasn’t nearly the most unusual thing they had seen. I packed up after a five-minute trial with an enthusiasm to try it again. Even if I don’t earn any money, Busking will be great to help with nerves when I play drums in front of people. Eventually we will have a gig, and I want to be as prepared as possible.

Before next time, I’ll  need to practice a whole bunch of music, enough songs to play for half an hour or so without repeating myself. For the first time since my first years at secondary school, I played my flute and enjoyed it.

Thursday 11th September- Day 4 of Student Life – Fresher’s Week Rock Gig

Tonight I went to a rock gig with the Edinburgh Uni Goth & Rock Society. They’re really nice people with a passion for music and a great sense of humour. I wished I had brought my earplugs because it was so loud, but it was great. There were other first-years there too and we swapped phone numbers. I met the society’s Grand Vizier, who jokingly introduced himself as “the Grand Vizier Self-Titled”. I love how they are much less serious than other Edinburgh uni societies.

When one of my new friends asked the organizer what was the name of “that big guy with long hair”, he said that didn’t really narrow it down. Some people there looked a bit scary, but they were really friendly. Despite the loud music, I could hear no worse than anyone else there, probably better than most, if they were regularly exposed to this decibel level without earplugs.

There were four different bands. The first sounded something like Guns ‘n’ Roses. The second group were a loud punk band. After than came screaming heavy metallers with garden gnome facial hair. The final band played industrial music. I hadn’t heard much industrial music before, but I liked this. The group I saw performing were kind of like the Prodigy meets Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson. There was a woman in a black headdress behind a sound board, and two men, one singing and the other drumming. They were both smeared with black paint. It sounded stranger than most music but I’d definitely listen to it again. Industrial music is darker in colour than most music, because of the bass. The singing is distorted and so instead of the ordinary pinkish line of a voice, it’s a darker shade, sometimes white or yellow. Blue tinges for lower vocals. The shape of the singer’s voice was rippled and cut into slices midair by the electronic distortion and sometimes had a texture like 3-dimensional static from a TV screen. The bass was zigzaggy and the electronic backing more brightly colourful and beautiful. The undistorted electric tones were smoother, slightly glassy and transparent and bright, pure colours. Smooth, oval-like shapes. They were at the background of a stage-sized mass of distorted, grainy, zigzagging, spiky sound slamming out into the room. The drums gave it some more even, solid flattish pulses of colour, and the cymbals put gold into the mix from the side of the stage. It was unusual looking music, like standing inside a fireworks factory in the middle of an arson attack. Quite a night.

Wednesday 23rd April 2014- R.I.P Kevin? & My first night as a drummer

I think that Kevin might be dead. He’s lost another leg and is thin. When I carefully unhooked him from where he was hanging, he didn’t move, in a floppy way. I put him on some leaves and tried feeding him a piece of leaf sprayed with water, but he didn’t stir. I think his eyes were closed.
He may not be dead, and it’s always hard to tell with stick insects. He’s at the grand old age of a year and a few months. If a stick insect may be dead, I usually give them a week just to make sure.

Today felt like the most exciting day of my life so far. I’ve been practicing like mad to learn a song sent to me, by a band looking for a drummer. Their music is really good- if I heard that song on the radio, I would like it! I would love to play music with them.
I practiced, waited, and angsted. What if they didn’t want me if my playing was rubbish tonight? What if they were way beyond my level anyway? They might not like me! I smile too much to be edgy and cool! What if my Auditory Processing difficulties pick tonight to go nuts and I can’t hear them properly. Will they think I’m stupid or not interested in them? The list of worries and what ifs? went on and on.
I could have cycled to the train station, but I was so excited I thought I might get taken out by traffic. My mum gave me a lift to the station.
I had never been so excited about a musical event, ever.
After getting off the train and texting a description of myself (purple/pink jacket, green backpack, probably smiling), a car pulled up and two guys got out and waved, asking if I was Jenny.
In the car we chatted. They were really nice and told me not to be nervous. They were the bandleader/ lead guitarist, whose Gumtree advert I replied to, and the rhythm guitarist. The small studio they drove to was amazing. Posters of famous bands on the walls, a padded ceiling, sound-absorbing boards on the walls, a soundboard hanging on one wall, music equipment everywhere. And there was a drum kit. The cymbals and hi hats were beautiful. Shimmering sounds. The crash had some almost silvery white tones, which is unusual.
Altogether there were five of us, and I wasn’t the only girl there! They were all really fun, kind cheery people who made me feel welcome.
All set up, we started with the piece I’d learned by ear and they’d rehearsed previously. Having people to play with, and give a backing to was amazing. I loved being an important part of the music, keeping the beat and playing those pretty cymbals. The bass drum slid forward a bit on the rug, and the singer shoved it back for me in the middle of the song.
Hearing vocal cues was difficult. Hearing most of what they said was hard, with the background sounds of instruments and a brain only wanting to think about drumming. But I listened hard and picked up when I was meant to come in and the words relating to different parts of the song, something I could never have managed in the past.
Their music was even better than in the recording. They’re all really good musicians. I have never had so much fun playing music in my life, and just went for it.
The bandleader said I did brilliant! They played some other songs, both of which were really good, and I did my best with adding some drums. At the end, they gave me a lift home.
Dozing off in bed that night, I got a text with a picture of me and the bandleader in front of a Led Zeppelin poster at the studio, saying well done and see you next week. I’m in a band!
Getting to sleep was quite difficult.