Monday, January 23, 2006


I have music in my soul.

Now, when most people say that what they mean is they like music. Maybe really like, maybe actually love. But for me it’s different. I have music in my soul.

Today I sang for the Archdeacon at my church. It was Elgar’s Ave Verum, and I sang the solo sop part. We also sang some great hymns. And tonight I went to a gig – the Bedouin Sound Clash at the Birmingham Academy (it was interesting – loved some of the stuff, but was annoyed the pseudopolitical message and the serious overuse of the echo pedal for the vocals. I did have fun tho, and the support guy – a reggae artist – was wicked).

But all that is just enjoying music, which I do, a lot. And yet sometimes it’s more than that. The right music touches me in way that is almost indescribable. It sends a quivering tingle across the skin of my entire body, gives me a delicious swinchy feeling (yes thats a made up word but it sounds the feeling) inside and even, ahem, makes my nipples erect (I only put that one in because it proves that it’s physical and not mental). It’s not a sexual feeling either. It is just amazing, and wonderful, like light filling me up and running up and down my limbs. Sadly, it's not necessarily reproducible. I can’t listen to a piece of music and think, right, I will get the feeling with this one. It doesn’t work like that, even if the feeling has been there before. It occurs with certain chord sequences I think – but I can’t think about it to much or the thinking destroys the sensation. It is linked to a complete submersion of myself in the music – just enjoying it, and that happens mostly when I am singing. I do know what pieces are more likely to induce it though, and I give myself to them with greater ease than others.

The first time I remember it happening was when I was 16 and on holiday in Spain with my parents. I was listening to Elgar’s Nimrod from Enigma Variations, while lying naked under a sheet with the moonlight streaming through the open window. It was silent in the villa except the quiet throb of cicadas from outside, and I was completely and utterly relaxed and absorbed and I just remember being swept away by this feeling of joy and light.

I get the feeling with many different bits of music, but hymns often invoke the feeling. I don’t know if it’s because they’re simple – to my shame, it is simple, obvious songs that do the ‘right thing’ that most invoke it. Songs that feel as though you know them. I have a deep and profound sense of music that feels right. Complicated music can sound great, and I can really enjoy it, but never in the same profound sense as something simple. Simple hymns are the most likely to open me up in this way.

And therein lies the dilemma. Is it God? Is it God reaching out to me and touching my soul through music? It’s such a strange and deep reaction and part of me desperately wants this to be true. Imagine, a direct experience of God. It does feel like a wonderful touch, an opening of my soul. In that moment I am one with the music, I am there. If I believed it to be the touch of God, then so many of my religious doubts would disappear.

But I also know there is a condition where people feel external stimuli in other modalities – like hearing colours and seeing sound. Is that what this is? Do I feel sound? Or am I medicalising a wonderful gift?

How do I know the truth?

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