Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Demon DJ; or Learning To Live With Dysphoric Melodic Mnemonic Syndrome

After further experimentation with layers and modes I was able to get this. Next up is finding a way of taming the darkest areas in the image -- I need to lighten them up enough to show some color.

So I've been sleeping well lately, usually between seven and eight hours a night. This is very unusual for me, especially this time of year. Actually, this time of year I'm usually drowning in the slough of despond and right now I'm feeling pretty good. It's always encouraging to find out that my depression can be lifted by good experiences. It's a drag being unable to perceive pleasure.

One of the things that's been helping the insomnia has been my newly-acquired habit of listening to music right before I go to sleep. To be specific, it's the Paillard Chamber Orchestra's performance of the Pachelbel Canon.

There are those who sneer at the Pachelbel Canon. "Brunch music," they call it. Simple, repetitive, boring... Fair enough. But that's why it's helping me. See, I have what I call a Demon DJ in my head. I always hear music. Always. Been this way since high school -- I learned I could play and record music mentally and since I couldn't afford a Walkman I used this ability quite deliberately to keep myself pumped and motivated when I was working. (Janitor and child care assistant.)

Then I found I couldn't turn it off. A major contribution to my insomnia it the way the Demon DJ is prone to interrupting my slumber with songs like, oh, Ace of Spades by Motorhead or Kerosene by Big Black, or Cop Killer by Body Count. Even worse are the poppy catchy songs, bands like They Might Be Giants or the stuff on the Nuggets collections or Oingo Boingo.

I've actually found myself deliberately avoiding some of my favorite music in the last few years for this reason. It's a drag. And it's difficult to change the tune that the Demon DJ is playing.

Here's something really weird. I sleep on my side. So the nostril on the down side tends to shut while the one on the up side tends to open.

Now I'm going to lay some muddled pseudo-science on you. I'm not sure how absolutely accurate the following information is -- it's cobbled together from a mixture of half-forgotten things that I've read and my personal experiences. If anyone has any criticisms of this I'd be happy to hear them.

As I understand it, at different times of the day the halves of your brain are active to different degrees -- and part of this has to do with which nostril is open. See, usually only one of your nostrils is clear at a time, and it's the one that's opposite the side of your brain that's currently dominant.

I think that there is a feedback mechanism there -- that the nostril doesn't simply open in response to the activity of the brain but that by controlling which nostril is the open one you can affect brain function. This would account for the effectiveness of the meditative techniques associated with breathing, things like pranayama.

I've found that it's easier for me to change the Demon DJ is playing when I roll from my right side to my left.

But it's a lot easier to just listen to pieces of music that soothe and calm me. See, from my perspective music is a tool that can be used to provoke endogenous altered states. By which I mean that you can use it to force your brain to make drugs for you. Punk and metal are crank and chamber music is Qualudes.

Other sonic narcotics include Air on a G-String, Sheep May Safely Graze, and others by Bach, Let's Go Away for a While by the Beach Boys off the Pet Sounds album, the last track on Oxygene by Jean Micheal Jarre, Thursday Afternoon, Discrete Music, and The Shutov Assembly by Brian Eno, etc, etc.

But the combination of structural simplicity and repetition inherent in the composition of the Pachelbell Canon combined with the intricacy of execution on the part of the Paillard Chamber Orchestra makes this specific track the best tranquilizer I've found thus far.

You may be thinking that the term Demon DJ is a little harsh for a cognitive quirk like this one. Let me enlighten you. See, the Demon DJ doesn't just play music. Sometimes he comes up with new music -- and there are a few compositions I've put together based on these hallucinations. (Hallucination is inspiration.)

But these things you kids call mash-ups? My brain was doing that a long time before samplers hit the consumer market. If I focus I can change the instrumentation in the music -- swap piano for guitar, for instance, or change the lyrics of a song. Thing is, is that sometimes the Demon DJ will perform these kinds of manipulations all on his own.

The worst was one time when the Missus had a fondness for a Steve Winwood album -- I think it was Arc of a Diver -- and it had a Jesus-is-swell song on it.

That song stuck in my head for weeks, when suddenly the DJ realized that it had the same scansion and so on as Highway to Hell by AC/DC. So now I was hearing Highway to Hell as sung by Steve Winwood with inspirational backing.

And after weeks of this, the Demon DJ added the finishing touch. Steve Winwood was no longer singing lead. You know who took over?

Bob Dylan.

And this went on for months. I call this function/symptom/rogue sub-personality the Demon DJ because he/it is quite capable of making my head a private hell...

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