Hallucinated Sheet Music

Vaughan Bell writes at Mind Hacks:

Oliver Sacks has just published an article on ‘Hallucinations of musical notation’ in the neurology journal Brain that recounts eight cases of illusory sheet music escaping into the world.

The article makes the interesting point that the hallucinated musical notation is almost always nonsensical – either unreadable or not describing any listenable music – as described in this case study.

Arthur S., a surgeon and amateur pianist, was losing vision from macular degeneration. In 2007, he started ‘seeing’ musical notation for the first time. Its appearance was extremely realistic, the staves and clefs boldly printed on a white background ‘just like a sheet of real music’, and Dr. S. wondered for a moment whether some part of his brain was now generating his own original music. But when he looked more closely, he realized that the score was unreadable and unplayable. It was inordinately complicated, with four or six staves, impossibly complex chords with six or more notes on a single stem, and horizontal rows of multiple flats and sharps. It was, he said, ‘a potpourri of musical notation without any meaning’. He would see a page of this pseudo-music for a few seconds, and then it would suddenly disappear, replaced by another, equally nonsensical page. These hallucinations were sometimes intrusive and might cover a page he was trying to read or a letter he was trying to write.

Though Dr. S. has been unable to read real musical scores for some years, he wonders, as did Mrs. J., whether his lifelong immersion in music and musical scores might have determined the form of his hallucinations.

Sadly, the article is locked behind a paywall. However you can always request it via the #icanhazpdf hashtag on twitter .

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  • BuzzCoastin

    this is a continuation of Sacks previous work or derived from it
    Vilayanur Ramachandran has also done a lot of work in this area of brain function
    the research shows that in these types of cases
    the brain fills in info it lacks from sensory inputs
    which to me suggests that
    much of what we call reality
    is actually fill-in from the brain’s programming
    hence, hallucinations closely related to every day function

    it’s also the underpinning principle of NewSpeak & The New Brave World Order
    and
    also the basis of what is sometimes called esoteric arts

  • http://sheetmusic.ws/ sheetmusic.ws

    hmm this is entertaining

  • BuzzCoastin

    could be, but it sounds distracting
    but
    in this article & Sacks work
    it’s about hallucinations caused by the lose of function

  • BuzzCoastin

    right, it’s an old shamanic technique
    Castaneda’s Don Juan used it
    google: don juan peripheral vision for the big picture

  • BuzzCoastin

    Richard Feynman used to see math symbols in different colors and some would be in motion.

    This kind of thing was something Milton Erickson worked on too. Of course you’ve realized by now there are ways to use this GUI to program your experience of existence, right?

  • Calypso_1

    Julian Assange?!

    …i was going to ask if were introduced to psychedelics at an early age.
    How are your spatial skills?

  • jnana

    Im curious what are the benefits and drawbacks for you?

  • BuzzCoastin

    everything in ones past is a problem if you let it be
    if you figure out how to use this strange GUI you’ve discovered
    you’ll be glad to have had that past, if that is indeed the cause
    Milton Erickson has some clues for you

  • Calypso_1

    Any degree of ambidexterity? Dyslexia/ dyscalculia?

  • BuzzCoastin

    sounds like you’ve got the basic tool kit
    good luck

  • Calypso_1

    Heh, i’ve always contended right handed guitar was a lefty instrument. How about temporal sense, particularly when you get lost in the ‘wood grain’. : )
    Have you noticed an association w/ those visuals & attempts at mathematical thought or just stress. How is your sense of time w/ music?
    If you don’t want to answer, no worries.
    I’ve unfortunately had far more opportunity to work w/ those exposed to meth & crack in early dev than a psychedelic.

  • Calypso_1

    I see equations in chem light green that are floating on the surface of constantly changing topological bubbles & involuting tori. Unfortunately, they are in some bizarre alienesque calligraphy. Inspirational and have certainly led to real insights but not directly translatable.

  • kowalityjesus

    I came down here thinking that I would impress someone by saying I can walk to a piano and play that fugue right now…a bit overshadowed, I’m afraid.

    I did compose a beethoven-esque symphony movement in my head when dozing on shrooms once.

  • Calypso_1

    Just consider yourself in good company. It’s a delight to play.
    How many of the Beethoven Quartets have you played? I love to study those scores. No.11 is my favorite.

  • kowalityjesus

    Tragically, far, far too few. Praised be God’s name, that might change in the next year. I have a friend who believes that the late quartets are the pinnacle of all music, specifically opus 131 (#14). I think a higher pinnacle would be the Prokofiev piano sonatas or Ravel’s Miroirs (performed by Richter), but the quartets give us galaxies to ruminate. Brahms himself was so haunted by their excellence that he placed many completed quartets of his own in the fireplace, bearing in mind the cold winds of history.

  • kowalityjesus

    Hey Calypso, look at that, all Ray Johnson’s comments were deleted! Foul play? was that actually Assange?

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