Update #1- The new world of music.

Photo credit: Taylor Bonin

The other day at work, my friend gave me a CD.

It was ‘A Night at the Opera’ by Queen… I was so excited because this was the first time anyone ever gave me music.

Also because Bohemian Rhapsody was the most suggested song from everyone.

I was worried that the massive hype might ruin the experience for me but the first time I heard this song was surreal. I immediately had to listen to it again… and again.

The first line is a question I’ve been asking myself lately.

Is this the real life?

On the same day, I got a message from the Daily Guru. He wanted to give me his new book, The Music Obsessive’s Guide To Life: Volume 1. It’s 954 pages of beautifully written essays. No, there are not any pictures except for the book cover. I read and listened to a couple of them, I’m already hooked.

The next day I got an email from the staff of Spotify. They read my story and were inspired to give me an epic 13 hour playlist that covers everything from the chants of the early monks to Lady Gaga. Spotify also gave me a 6 month premium membership.

I don’t have the slightest clue how to express my gratitude to everyone.   A simple ‘thank you’ almost sounds insulting considering the amount of music/education I’ve been given.

For those of you curious, I’ve embedded the Spotify playlist below-

I asked reddit for a couple of suggestions. I got over 14 thousand.

Here are my favorites so far, the only major suggestions I chose to ignore is the Beatles.

Before you shoot me, bear in mind that I’m saving them for a special occasion.

Without further ado, here’s my list.

1. Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen

2. Beethoven’s Ninth

3. Fly Me To the Moon by Frank Sinatra

4. One Million Lovers by The Growlers

5. First Breath After Coma by Explosions In The Sky

6. Three Little Birds by Bob Marley

7. Brain Damage by Pink Floyd

8. Folsom Prison Blues by Johnny Cash

9. Length of Love by Interpol

10. Thriller by Michael Jackson

Below are all my favorites that were available on Spotify-

The second most popular suggestion was the Beatles. I chose not to listen to them,  I’m holding off for a special occasion.  But I promise to blog about my experience hearing them. I’m not sure how many weeks it will take me but I’m working my way up from the roots of music, as early as the 1300′s and up to modern music.

Yahoo did a great Q&A with me. Below are some extra questions I’ve been asked by family and friends.

What could you not hear before that you can hear now? And I was seriously wondering if it became more difficult to understand english if you could hear it properly now.

Before I could hear bass/midtones but not clearly. Now I can hear bass/midtones AND high pitches clearly.

As for english, I never relied on what I heard, but rather lipreading. Now with my new aids, my brain is building a new language for the sounds I’m able to hear now but I’ve already had the new hearing aids take some of the guesswork out of lipreading.

Before the use of any hearing aids, were you able to imagine music? So maybe come up with a rhythmic or repetitive beat or even a basic basic melody in your head? It’s almost unfathomable to “create” a sound with no prior knowledge of one and the concept of music that we are so accustomed to today is so evolved and complex that we’ve been trained since birth to digest it and understand it. So, despite never hearing what instruments or even “sounds” sounded like I was wondering you were at least able to come up with notes in your head that were not identical to each other, a basic melody basically. 

My concept of music was based off the bass I could feel. When watching films, I could almost ‘see’ the music based off the bass. It was an incomplete picture but it gave me enough to work off and all the films I created in my head had music in bass form.

Before my new hearing aids, music was 2D to me. Most songs sounded ugly through the old aids because I only had part of the picture. Now with higher pitches music finally makes sense to me. Music is now 3D to me and I’m excited about using this new tool with my films.

Describe your perception of beauty that came through music. Previously, your experiences with beauty were visual or other. You enjoyed the Lacrimosa, yes, but you also perceived what some would call beauty. Was beauty immediately recognizable and then relayed to emotions?

I think beauty in its most fundamental form is a well composed story. It has inception and catharsis. Look at the most beautiful photographs, films, songs or dance.

They all tell a story in some form. A dancer weaves across the room composing a visual expression of emotion. The ups and the downs of life.

That’s what I’ve noticed with the beauty of songs. The most haunting songs take me on an emotional roller coaster through sadness, excitement, happiness, anger, hurt, and love.


I’ve heard a healthy dose of pre-classical music in preparation for the next update. So if you have any suggestions let me know in the comments below. (only works of song composed BEFORE the 16th century)


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38 comments on “Update #1- The new world of music.

  1. Zafa Black on said:

    Music is the most beautiful thing ever.

  2. CommonEra on said:

    Hey! I didn’t bother replying on the reddit thread for suggestions 1) because it would eventually be swamped by other picks that are, well… generally more well known and popular 2) I was going to recommend some songs for a very niche audience.

    So I’ll do it here! :p

    Doesn’t need to be done right away or anything, if you’re put off by the idea now, that’s alright, all I ask is that you kind of think on it, and I hope that you’ll dabble into it. Fine. What am I going to recommend?

    Melodic death metal. Hear me out: it lives up to its name and comes up with extremely melodic guitar work that always makes up the majority+ of the song. I think it’s very catchy. It’s main focus isn’t the vocals, imo, but the guitar. I was never a guitar fan, but this is a genre that literally put me in my place when it came to trash talking guitars and how they are extremely overrated. Obviously its very technical, and even though I consider it much, much easier to listen to than plain death metal, it is still a hard listen to for many people. Even then, with all the “spookyness” regarding the death metal genre and sub-genre, I still think you should listen to said genre. I think it is an AMAZING genre, it is definitely one of my favorites, along with progressive music (more so progressive metal, but there are many great progressive rock bands as well).

    Again, I can assure you that the genre lives up to its name- I can’t really write down how great the melodies feel or sound, but it literally expanded my… well, scope/library for/of melodies (and I don’t limit myself to only metal bands; I love different genres of music: pop rock, indie rock, generic rock, proggy metal/rock, math rock, experimental/technical metal and rock, some classical, soundtracks for movies and video games, instrumental metal and rock, electronic/house music, punk, and almost every sub genre of metal and rock). It can do so much more WITH melodies than most genres, imo, and it creates so many DIFFERENT, emotional, melodies than many, many other genres.

    So yeah. I’ll stop myself from actually posting bands because 1) don’t want to make this lengthier than it already is. 2) If you don’t feel like listening to the genre, be it now, in the far see-able future, or ever, I don’t want to write up a whole recommendation on what bands to listen to (I don’t think it’d be that long though. I have a small number of perfect bands to drop on someone, if someone ever wanted to be introduced to the genre), because yeah.

    Offer stands! Email me, or just reply to me here, I guess. I also can vouch as being a biggie on math rock, and progressive metal/rock. :D

  3. BRAZLNQT on said:

    You said ” My concept of music was based off the bass I could feel”. Listen to some Drum and Bass and UK dubstep. I think it will blow your mind. My favorite artist from London is Burial. I highly recommend it! Congratulations!! I find music to be the language of feelings and emotions that mere words cannot describe.

  4. willyfogspain on said:

    You should listen also soundtracks like The last of the Mohicans, The mission, Out of Africa, Conan, etc.
    Enjoy them!

  5. Nancy Sherman on said:

    Before, you were creating beautiful stories projected on the screen, but only 2/3rds were the expression of your creative talents, now you can complete the whole picture – congradulations. Saw your story on line and googled for more info and found this site – seldom have a written a comment in response to an article, however, your’s touched my heart and brought a smile and best wishes for someone I do not know, nor will never know. As you have “heard” = music touches the soul with it’s many sounds and beats – NS

  6. nicole on said:

    Hi! I was born with a 50 db hearing loss in my right ear. Before I started kindergarten, I lost the rest of my right ear so I no longer wear a hearing aid in that ear. My left ear is perfect. I am 10, and I am so happy to hear about your story. I have a few suggestions for music. Anything by Adele is really touching. If you want to feel high energy songs, try Madonna (Vogue or Like a Prayer) or Lady Gaga (Just Dance and Bad Romance). If you like good beat songs, try LMFAO Party Rock Anthem. I danced to that this year. If you want a boy singing a touching song, try One Direction. Good luck and enjoy your new hearing world!

  7. Melima on said:

    I have some suggestions for you although not all of them pertain to the pre-1600′s.

    First is Eric Whitacre. He’s a relatively new composer in the choral world. My favorites from him are “Cloudburst,” “Sleep,” and “Lux Arumque.” He’s unique in his compositions by dividing each part (Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass) into more than just two or three parts. Sometimes he goes into 18-part harmonies which creates a haunting effect, to say the least. Here’s a link to “Cloudburst.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQaiHQyPztE It’s best listened to in surround sound as you’d normally hear this in a room with cathedral-like qualities. (Also, make sure you have your bass turned up.) His compositions remind me of renaissance music because of the complex harmonies and rhythms he uses.

    Next is Hans Zimmer. His entire soundtrack to “Sherlock Holmes” is by far my favorite, with “Psychological Recovery” topping the list for me with his dark, but comical references to Big Ben’s bell theme. Also, from “Pirates of the Caribbean: Stranger Tides” the track “Mermaids” is a haunting look at the kind of music Mr. Zimmer and Mr. Whitacre create when they work together.

    Up now is Moses Hogan and Jester Hairston. “Witness” by Mr. Hairston is a great Spiritual composer, especially for a’cappella music. The best link I can give you is this one http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uoYNYWU2iG8&feature=plcp though there are some “pops” in the sound every now and then. Again, great to listen to with the bass turned up. By Mr. Hogan I’d suggest three of his a’cappella compositions: “Elijah Rock,” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bsUDTgnewQY&feature=plcp “Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel,” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5QuTAerbeGA and “the Battle of Jericho.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ks7fLAwzVxY and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b278b1fowoE (I’m giving you two links for these reasons. The first one has a unique Afro-American Spiritual feel to it and the faster tempo. The second one is for the better bass. I’m obsessed with having a good bass since in choral music it is your foundation. Also, Mr. Hogan wrote these songs with the purpose of having a strong bass and the song just isn’t the same without it.)

    Lastly, I’d like to introduce you to Mr. Peter Schikele, otherwise more comically known as P.D.Q. Bach and Igudesman and Joo. Peter Schikele is a musical parodist, and quite a good one at that. He has many great pieces such as the “1712 Overture” which mocks the “1812 Overture” by Tchaikovsky, and many others. “The Art of the Ground Round” is funny in it’s usage of lyrics. The first two pieces in this link are the ones I recommend, although the others are still good. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OkjR3cdXSS8
    As for Igudesman and Joo, they make a great duo for helping audiences warm up more to classical-like music. The first of _ I’d like to recommend to you is “Mozart Bond” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JuDxH3XjXSM&feature=related The second is “I Will Survive” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ncNaCAkauA And lastly is “Where is the Remote Control?” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_LV6dWcFaw (Fun note: Aleskey Igudesman is the featured violinist for the “Sherlock Holmes” soundtrack.)

    I hope you enjoy discovering the big world of music from the world of orchestral, rock, choral, and many others.

  8. hoobie on said:

    Man i am so happy explosions in the sky are on there. They were the first band I thought of when I heard your amazing story. Please check out my playlists that i have made on you tube over the years www.youtube.com/user/hoobsdoobs.

    I am deaf in one ear and count it as a blessing as i play many instruments and gain so much happiness from music. I hope you feel a great deal of happiness from my playlists.


  9. SamanthaS on said:

    Songs before the 1600′s? Besides a lot of music from the Tudor’s-Era, I love listening to Guillaume DuFay’s “Nuper Rosarum Flores” and also Gilles Binchoise’s “triste plaisir et douloureuse joye” and “adieu adieu mon joiluex mon souvenir” have amazing vocals and music with them. Well worth listening to in my opinion! Hope you have an amazing time going through the past!

  10. Andrew on said:

    Thank you for sharing your story, I was really moved now perceive the music in a completely different way

  11. Your story has inspired me and helped me remember why music is the language of the soul. Thank you so much for sharing it. I will continue to follow your journey through the terrifyingly beautiful universe of music. Just, wow…

  12. Erin B on said:

    I went from being a full-time musician to a hard of hearing girl who can barely pick up her violin. Thank god for hearing aids. But my biggest reccomendation is you listen to “The First Day of Spring” by Noah and the Whale. It’s a mix of classical, indie rock, and everything else, and it’s one of the few songs I’ve never tired of, even after years of playing it nearly every day.

  13. Renate DeRoch on said:

    Being a fan of classical music, you should definitely check out E.S. Posthumus. It’s modern classical with touches of world music and rock. Their cd’s are available through cdbaby.com. I highly recommend Unearthed and Cartographer. The latter is a 2CD set with it’s own mythology created by the brothers that made up the group. It’s the story of an ancient island civilization that was lost to the world (sound familiar?), complete with a language created by the brothers. So you aren’t distracted by lyrics, it’s more like listening to an opera in a language you don’t understand. Everything is conveyed through the music and the mood. Not sure if they are on Spotify.

    Welcome to the wonderful world of music. I’ve enjoyed reading about your experiences and impressions. Your list of favorites is shaping up nicely. You were born with a natural ear for music, you only just discovered it.

  14. Olympia on said:

    Don’t know if you’ve heard of Pogo,this is still my favorite remix of his:
    and you might be interested in listening to the virtual 3D version of it too

  15. Robin S on said:

    Hi Austin! Very interesting story, it must be exciting having nearly a thousand years of music to catch up on. As you were saying you didn’t understand dancing and as not much seems to have been passed on to you I thought I should link you some electronic and dance music, as it is completely different from rock or pop music and may well amaze you.

    Here is some garage from early 2000′s. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b4eMyOzD9UI

    This is house that’s getting everyone dancing at the moment. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnigNbYVQJE

    Here’s some dubstep, a bit different to most dubstep but one of my favorites http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5mOIXdC4rgA&feature=related

    This is drum and bass/jungle, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UbIZHhBLMAk

    This is bassline, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=op56AizVYPE

    And here is some nice relaxing electronic music I think youll enjoy, by Burial, Four Tet and XXYYXX. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSUu32d8b3g http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ADPwRFsIZrk http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PMd9eYXT0mM

    Hope you enjoy all these!

  16. Iustinus on said:

    There is actually a smattering of Ancient Greek music that survives—about enough to fill one CD. Unfortunately modern reconstructions of the performance (if not necessarily the melody itself) vary a good deal. If I had to pick one piece out of these, I’d say Hymn to Nemesis, by Mesomedes of Crete. After that perhaps the Song of Seikilos (found inscribed on a gravestone, the lyrics speak of enjoying life while you can—the melody survived as an early Christian hymn!), and the small chunk of Euripides’ Orestes that we still have.

  17. Brian M on said:

    Don’t publish your full-length blog entries just yet, or at least until you copyright them. You should upload updates to keep the interest flowing, but your full blogs could very well end up being a very lucrative book deal. (a la “Julie & Julia”). I work in an unrelated section of a publishing company, I’ll see if I’m able to find the right people in the right department to chase after you.

    • Thanks for the advice Brian,

      I looked it up and it looks like I’m safe- http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2007/07/07/copyright-explained-i-may-copy-it-right/

  18. Please don’t forget about non-Western music! Everyone’s been suggesting the Western stuff, which is beautiful, but there’s plenty of music from the Middle East, Eastern Europe, across Asia, Africa, and pre-colonial America and Australia that is a wonder to behold. The intricate beats of Indian drums, the soulful melodies of Iran, the passion in aboriginal and African harmonious chants, the ethereal wooden flutes of the Andes, the high, almost mournful sound of the Chinese gu zheng…

    I am no expert, but I would be happy to help if there was any particular genre you felt you were missing. :) Happy listening!

    • I would love to hear these, where should I look to find those?

      • Hmmm, there’s a lot, haha, so I’m wondering if a comment is the best place for all of it, especially since I’m asking around for more stuff…

        Would you like what I find in a comment here, and I just add comments as I send you more, or would something else be easier?

        I made my website my music blog thing, in case you were curious, but there’s not much there. It’s just pretty much all over the place. Still, figured it might be interesting at some point.

      • I JUST REALIZED that Spotify exists, aha. I can also work on lists there and share them with you if you want.

  19. If pre-16th century, then Hildegard von Bingen comes immediately to mind. I’m partial to the recording by Rosa Lamoureaux, but Anonymous 4 also has a solid recording.

    Another favorite of mine is the Alleluia Nativitas by Pérotin. He’s from around 1200, I think.
    The first time I heard it, it felt like ice water, clear and bracing. On a tangent, the Hilliard Ensemble is perhaps my all-time favorite group for interpreting choral music from the Middle Ages and other eras.

  20. The carmina burana whilst in latin and inspired by late renaissance/early baroque music was actually composed in 1936, and has also some Stravinsky Influence. It’s been used in an impressive number of Movies, advertising, reinterpreted, but I’d suggest listening to it as the score to the Escalibur film, especially the scene where the knights ride to what they know will be their final battle.

  21. Bart Vergauwe on said:

    Hi Austin,

    listen to this and imagine yourself in South America (Gustavo Santaolalla): http://youtu.be/Zh2GgCFR2dw

    This gives me goosebumps everytime I listen to it. If you like it, try to listen to the whole motorcycle diaries soundtrack.


  22. Ollie King on said:


    I’ve just stumbled across your story during some research for my university course – what an incredibly journey you must be on. I have to say, I’m quite jealous. I can’t remember the first time I heard music, but it’s an event I really wish I could remember.

    Anyway, here are a few suggestions.

    1) Georgian music. Georgia has the oldest polyphonic choral tradition in the world. Their music is different to that from the Western world, because it uses a slightly different scale, and their idea of harmony is different. Start off with ‘Shen Khar Venakhi’ by the Rustavi Choir, and then check out other things from Rustavi. It’s all on Spotify.

    2) Bach. I’m sure you’ve come across him before, but he was an incredible composer. The Brandenburg Concertos, or the Cello Suites (especially the prelude to No.1) are fantastic places to start.

    3) Vaughan Williams. An English composer from the early 20th century. Start with ‘The Lark Ascending’ (make sure you listen to the full version), ‘Fantastia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis’ and ‘Five Variants on Dives and Lazarus’, and then branch out from there.

    4) Choral music. Anything recorded by “the Sixteen” is fantastic, in particular ‘Miserere’ by Allegri, ‘Spem in Alium’ by Tallis, and anything by Palestrina. ‘O Magnum Mysterium’ by Morten Lauridsen is stunning too.

    5) I’d be very interested to hear your response to Cage’s ’4’33″‘.

    6) Traditional music.
    Scandinavian traditional music is beautiful – try Annbjorg Lien, Unni Boksasp Ensemble, AskerLadden, Moldestad – Mjølsnes – Høgemo, and many more. Again, all available on Spotify.
    English traditional music a very broad church, but a wonderful genre. Eliza Carthy’s ‘Red’, Fay Hield and the Hurricane Party’s ‘Orfeo’, Fairport Convention’s ‘Liege & Lief’, Nancy Kerr & James Fagan’s ‘Twice Reflected Sun’, and The Albion Band’s ‘Rise up Like the Sun’. I can link you to some Spotify playlists if you like what you hear.
    Quebecois music has an amazing infectious rhythm to it. Anything by Genticorum, La Bottine Souriante and De Temps Antan is worth listening to.

    I think that’s probably enough. Possibly some music there that you’ve not been suggested before.
    Have fun with this journey, as I’m sure you already are.

    All the best,

  23. Russell Tatum on said:

    Miles Davis- Kind of Blue (one of the greatest albums created in the 20th century)

  24. Pingback: My Virgin Ears | Gener@tion X

  25. Hi Austin!

    I think your story is very inspiring and I have many suggestions for great songs I think you should listen to.

    1. Adele (Rolling in the Deep) Since this song came out, it has been a definet hit world wide. This song has It starts off with a 5 second acoustic intro, and then Adele starts singing about “the scars of your love.” The chorus doesn’t come until a minute into the song, which is late by pop standards. By then, it has built to a climax with a pre-chorus containing the backing vocals “You’re gonna wish you never had met me” and “Tears are gonna fall.” You know she means business! There is no bridge, but the chorus shows up 3 times, accounting for almost half the song.

    2. Whitney Housten (I Will Always Love You). Whitney Houston is one of the most inspiring singers this country as seen. Her songs are very pastionate and every song she made was legendary.

    3. Dupstep – Srillex (Cinema), Srillex ( Scary Monsters), Dubstep is a beautiful expression of art, a form of music free from restraints and perceptions of stylistic music. There are those that say “its just noise”, which is an extremely uneducated view of this diverse genre of music. Within this genre of music there are many many artists, each providing their own take on the sound of dubstep, from remixes of popular songs, to original pieces

    4. If you are looking more for a soft and slow beat song, I would reccomend Country. Some of the best country artist are Jason Aldean, Lee Brice, Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton, Tim McGraw, Luke Bryan, Rascall Flatts, and Eric Church.

    5. Blink 182 (All The Small Things)

    I hope you will like all theses songs i have suggested you, they are all uni

  26. Pingback: Deaf filmmaker truly hears music for the first time | CNNnews.info

  27. Ella Twary on said:

    You should listen to some George Winston. December is my favorite album.

  28. Susann on said:

    Hi, lately i´m listening to Ravel. He was a great composer in the 19th century in classical music. I like all of his work. Try the “Piano Concerto in D major”. They are three pices played in a piano conzert. I hope, you´ll like it too.

    Have fun with the music :-)

  29. Some to definitely listen to: The Lark Ascending by Ralph Vaughan Williams, Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E Minor, Claire De Lune and The Girl With the Flaxen Hair by Debussy, Adagio for Strings by Barber, any of the Chopin Nocturnes. For non-classical music, I highly recommend Bedshaped by Keane, Fix You and The Scientist by Coldplay, Maybe Im Amazed by Paul McCartney, Shine On You Crazy Diamond by Pink Floyd, Over the Hills and Far Away by Led Zeppelin…these should get you started!

  30. Hey Mr. Chapman,

    i just read your amazing story on the german yahoo news site and thought i should just drop you a line. It´s unbelievable what high tech can do today. I hope you enjoy your new ability to listen to music. Greetings from the other side of the great ocean and “Bleib tapfer” ( which means stay brave in german ;) ). I hope my good old “school english” ist good enough so that you understand what i write. As an old punk rock fan i´d recommend you Bad Religion – Generator if you like melodic punk rock.

    Best wishes – beste Grüße


  31. I really, really hope you and your filmmaker friend are working on a documentary of your journey into the world of music! : )

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