Hearing Too Much

La Voz de Galicia – 19 de agosto, 2022 →

Cristina PatoI call it a polyphonic ear, although what I write about today has nothing to do with music. Just so that we’re clear, the Royal Galician Academy (RAG) defines musical polyphony as «the combination (…) of several voices or several instruments that execute different yet harmonic melodies.»

The polyphonic ear to which I refer here is the ability to listen to many things at once and at the same time, not pay heed to them all. In my case, it happens that in order to be able to work, I have to isolate myself sonically because I tend to attend to any little sound (no matter how slight), or to any conversation (no matter how far it is). It also makes it increasingly difficult to hear music (because I hear the sounds that make up the musical work separately), or being in company (because without intending to I follow all conversations around me). I read somewhere that it is an inherited ability, but these days, when I am upset because I am incapable of scaring mice away from the house, it made me reflect about what it means to hear more than one needs to.

The mice eat in my kitchen every night, but I hear them as if they were right next to my bed. In my head, those infrasounds amplify themselves in such a way that I am incapable of not being attuned to them. And in the obsession of trying not to hear them, the only thing I achieve is the opposite. It happens around these sounds, and the same thing happens to me with television, and with social media, and with false news: no matter how much I want to tune them out, no matter how much I don’t want them at home, it is increasingly difficult to get rid of them because, just like mice, they are everywhere, taking over our lives, ending the most valuable thing we have: the silence of being with oneself.

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