what do you hear?

“The faculty of embarrassment was located in the pregenual anterior cingulate cortex by neurologists who made brain-damaged subjects sing along to “My Girl” and then listen to their own singing played back without musical accompaniment.”

From Harper’s Findings June 2011

Forget “brain-damaged”, most people are at first uncomfortable with their own voice when they hear it played back on another device – even embarrassed. Somehow the resonance of our voice in our heads often sounds quite different from how we sound to the rest of the world, and that sudden realization can be startling. Why is that? Is it just the surprise that we sound different? Personally, I was shocked at just how nasally I sounded playing back my voice on our little cassette recorder as a kid. I remember asking, “Is that how I sound?” And my sister giving me the bad news.

Makes me wonder, too, whether people hear other people’s voices differently from one another, possibly related to the size, shape and location of the ear and ear drum. Could it be that my daughter’s enjoyment of the singing of her pubescent Disney stars is related to just how differently her ear is to mine? Why is it that bagpipes make me want to tear my ears off while others find them beautiful?

I’ve often wondered if other people see colors differently as well. Is my blue your green? Why should they be the same exactly? To me it actually makes more sense that we all see them somewhat differently, if not completely. My brown is your gray. Without any prodding as far as I can tell, my daughter fell in love with pink as a color – as so many young girls do, but I’m certain (no, hopeful) that “my girl” will soon learn to love other colors as vividly. Something oddly creepy about an older woman purposely surrounding herself in too much pink.

To each his or her own, I suppose, and for good reason maybe.


  1. The most inaccessible bagpipe music to outsiders is the Pibroch, a short phrase played very slowly, repeated each time with a different complex ornament, one ornament for each repetition of the phrase. Highland ornaments are much more complex than the Classical ornaments, trill, turn, etc. Boredom can set in on the second note. And yet I loved a pibroch when the player, having mastered the ornaments, played it with complete intensity of feeling.

    You too can love the bagpipes if you find the right piper!

  2. luke says:

    You so have me there. Not only the right piper, I’m guessing, but if I actually learned more about it, listened to it more and learned to understand what it is i’m listening to. I was just complaining (yet again) that my kids look at the lovely potato soup I made for them and without tasting it, say, “Yuck!” I think I’m guilty of similar response. Taste it, for the love of God, before you judge it! Thanks for the note!

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