It’s funny how sounds can trigger memories at the most unexpected times, isn’t it? Twelve years ago, I had my first experience in an MRI machine. As they slid me into the long tube, lying flat on my back, I wasn’t quite prepared for the loud noises. (The headphones they provided were a bit of a joke, as anything coming through was drowned out by the machine.) A series of loud pounding sounds ensued, so I decided right then and there that creativity was required: I would imagine what could be making such sounds! As a life science teacher, I knew that Rabies was a mammalian disease, but choosing to ignore this fact, I decided that it was the sound of a mob of rabid woodpeckers attacking an oil drum. And I was inside the said drum. This may not sound relaxing, but it gave me something to think about.
Since that 1997 MRI, I’ve had more than a dozen such scans. Lest I sound ungrateful, I really do appreciate that a doctor can see inside my brain without using a scalpel. And it isn’t very often that a mother of young children is told she has to lay down and be still – so I do appreciate that. But the sounds are quite loud. In 1997, the pounding was primarily what I heard, but in the past few years, I’ve noticed particular pitches being sounded for a period of time, followed by a series of different sounds. And ear plugs or headphones, provided by them, don’t really make much of a difference. So the “sound challenge” goes on, beyond the woodpeckers. Last week I was blessed to have almost an hour in the tube, having scans of the brain and of the spinal cord. So double the fun! (I do wish there were a better way to express sarcasm in writing, so in case you don’t know me, I’ll let you know – the sarcasm in the previous two sentences is dripping. Profusely.)
If you know much about an MRI, you know that the “M” stands for “magnetic,” meaning no metallic objects can come in with you. (no clothing with zippers or metal fasteners, no hair barrettes, watches or earrings, etc.) I’d love to bring a pitch pipe with me to hear what the actual pitch of the long note is – I think it’s a D – but since I can’t move or bring metal along, I’ll just have to estimate. But my imagination is NOT metallic – so in my mind, I can think of all sorts of things with the sounds. This time, I decided I was inside an Atari console, the kind our family had in the early 1980’s. (I’ve not thought about these games for quite some time!) With the regularly spaced out, then closer beeps, I was imagining a game of Space Invaders, then came a drawn out noise that made me think of Yar’s Revenge (the game with the giant fly that never really made sense to me). With the Atari sounds not taking up the entire hour, my mind needed somewhere to go, so I went through much of the score of The Sound of Music in my head (this is how I arrived at D, as the repetitive pitch was the “Re” of “Do-Re-Mi” – a later pitch was A, I think, as it was “La”). After the final rendition of “Climb Every Mountain,” I still had time and had to switch musicals, so we went to Les Miserables, and I actually thought through “On My Own” and “Stars.” A bit more of “Yar’s Revenge” sounded, and it was finished. Out of the tube I came.
What? No more time with loud sounds to accompany my thoughts? Maybe next time I’ll get further – I’ll have to start with Les Miz so I can get through the entire score. I did choose two songs that are near the end… I’ll have to do it justice and start at the very beginning. I hear it’s a very good place to start, you know.