The Friday Morning Listen: David Lynch, Alan Splet – Eraserhead (2012)

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Everyone has played the “If you had to live without one of your senses…” thought experiment. I can never make up my mind. The link to the external world via our senses is precious, and while it’s easy to inventory the repercussions related to the loss of a particular sense, it’s nearly impossible to get at what it might actually be like.

I cannot imagine not being able to hear. I mean, not only can I not imagine deafness, I can’t imagine the depths to which this change might chatter my existence. No music? No speech? It would be life-changing. Even more difficult to ponder: hearing music for the first time at the age of 23. In a Web posting that’s recently gone viral, filmmaker Austin Chapman tells his story of switching to a new pair of hearing aids and having his profound deafness swept away to reveal the full world of sound.

In Chapman’s account, he friends introduced him to recorded music, the playlist including selections from Mozart, the Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson, Sigur Ros, Radiohead, and Elvis Presley. The most moving passage of Chapman’s story comes here:

When Mozart’s Lacrimosa came on, I was blown away by the beauty of it. At one point of the song, it sounded like angels singing and I suddenly realized that this was the first time I was able to appreciate music. Tears rolled down my face and I tried to hide it. But when I looked over I saw that there wasn’t a dry eye in the car.

I finally understood the power of music.

I’ve had that feeling of being overwhelmed by a passage of music. And while in some cases there’s some sort of backstory involved — the song might have a particular memory attached to it — very often I have no idea why I’ve been pushed over the edge. But here we have a person hearing something for the very first time. Is this a more “pure” experience?

Chapman placed his story over on Reddit, where so far he has received over 14 thousand listening suggestions. The most upvoted comment was not a particular song but the idea of beginning with music from the 1950’s and then moving through the decades, the idea being to take in music’s progression. Hmmm…that’s a tall order.

What music would I suggest? Mozart’s Lacrimosa (and the entire Requiem) is indeed a gorgeous piece of music, but at the opposite end of the complexity scale is this: Pat Metheny’s “Farmer’s Trust.” Its simple elegance gets to me every single time.

Of course now that I’ve said that, I’m going to listen to the recently reissued soundtrack to David Lynch’s cult freakout Eraserhead. Lynch has always placed a focus on sound in his films. With Austin Chapman now getting to experience the full sensory range in his own work, I felt inspired to dial up this jarring collision of industrial noise, spoken word, and Fats Waller.

Mr. Chapman, you’ve got an incredible adventure ahead of you. Let us know how it’s going.

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Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he originated several of our weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Mark Saleski
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