I peddled away on the exercise bike at the gym this morning while reading a book. I had forgotten to charge my headphones the night before, so a book served as my mind’s jungle-gym, while the bike served as my body’s. I barely noticed a thing out of the ordinary, until the aerobics class that took place in the adjacent studio, started its loud, rhythmic soundtrack. All of the sudden my body started moving faster, to keep pace with the aerobics beat—instead of the rhythm of the words on each page of my book.
Immediately, I was thrown into an internal carnal quandary...Where does this cellular adoration, appreciation, syncopation for music come from in our physical bodies? What about our minds, our hearts, our spirits?
My synapses skipped back to something I had seen several years ago, and as bizarre as it sounded, it struck me that there could have been a correlation.
I was watching a news program wherein a well-known, well-experienced neonatal doctor was talking about how to soothe ornery newborns. He explained that—antithetical to what we may think, the inside of a mother’s womb is actually a very loud environment for a fetus late into its third trimester. The constant swooshing of blood, and fluid; the movement of the mother’s tiny “mobile home” raps, taps, wraps over the developing eardrums of the baby in the latest stage of development, and becomes quite cacophonous. The doctor explained that once a baby has been born, if he or she is ornery, finicky, or colicky; if they are crying seemingly uncontrollably, there is a way to calm them almost immediately. He then picked up a newborn who had started to cry, gently turned the newborn’s head to the side in his cupped hand, put his mouth right up to the ear of the child, and made a loud “shhhhhushhing” sound. The baby quelled almost immediately. In between breaths, the doctor explained that the loud shushing mimicked the in-utero noises against the ear of the child, bringing them back to the familiarity, the safety, of the womb from whence they had just come. It was quite magical to witness. I have since had the opportunity to try out his theory on a few newborns since seeing the interview, and it has, in fact, worked. Every time.
Could the loud, in-vetro rave to which we are subjected during the eighth, ninth moth of pregnancy, contribute to our primal, driving response to music? Could the blood flow—to the rhythmic beat of our mother’s hearts—that pulses through her womb right before giving birth, be our first physical experience of music? Could this possibly be our soul’s umbilical chord attachment to music, the rhythm of a drum, the backbeat of a song, the pattern of a melody? Even if it is a mere reflection of the thump, thump, thumping of our own hearts—is there something that harkens back to a different state of consciousness, is there something that soothes a different stage of development—when we put earphones over our (now) fully grown ears, and tune out the rest of the world with our own chosen sound...?
As I peddled away on the bike, I let the rhythm, the melody, the timbre take over my body, my soul, my state of being. Time entered suspended animation, and for the first time in a long time, my workout went by in a flash. As I walked out of the gym, into the jarring quiet from the recent and comforting cacophony, I felt a touch ornery with the transition.
If only I had someone to “shushhh” into my ear...
For now, however, I shall just have to remember to charge my headphones :)
Polo REO Tate was born in Lansing, Michigan, where her family has deep ties to the community. Her Great Great Grandfather was Ransom Eli Olds (R.E. Olds), a pioneer and prolific inventor most notably responsible for inventing the first internal combustion automobile—the Oldsmobile. Growing up, [...]