I had not attended a live music event in quite awhile. Somehow live music makes me succumb to sensory overload due to neural fatigue quicker than almost any other activity.
That hasn’t stopped me for exposing myself to short doses of live music. Last fall I took in a half hour of a jazz music festival in a nearby town. Half hour was enough. The shuttle bus pick up spot was just outside the gate. Unfortunately it took too long for the bus to arrive after paging the driver. The extra exposure to the music put me over the top. In the back of my mind I was thinking, “Why do they have to turn the volume up so loud. Why do they give the music so much base?”
That was then. A few months later I thought I would make another attempt to ‘enjoy’ a live music event. After all, I was told that total avoidance would make things worse. So two of us purchased tickets to attend a Messiah performance put on by the Peterborough Singers. A volunteer choir with a reputation for holding top notch performances.
I thought this was a more moderate choice than a Jazz Festival. The volume would not be as loud and Handel did not work too much bass into the composition.
On the whole I managed the event relatively well, all things considered. It was a lengthy performance and there were moments that I had my doubts about making it through the whole performance. But I did. Yeah!
Notes for Future Concerts
I continue to experience gradual recovery from a TBI. One way to aid my recovery is to attempt activities in moderation. While it’s hard to do a concert such as the Messiah in moderation, there were accommodations I noted that would make the next experience go better.
Notes to self:
- Have a friend reserve a seat for me and then wait outside till just before the concert begins.
- Reason: The concert venue is a busy place in the minutes leading up to the start of the performance. People are bustling around finding seats and getting their coats put away.
- The chatting get progressively louder and more chaotic as the place begins to fill up.
- Request a reserved seat that fits my needs.
- Reason: First of all, I find it helpful to be seated where I can make an inconspicuous exit should I experience sensory overload. Disrupting others or forcing my self to wait for a more opportune time to leave will simply add to my sensory loading making my recovery slower and longer and so missing more of the remaining concert.
- Be mindful of my surroundings by taking stock occasionally.
Reason: One never knows whether the conductor has some innovations in mind. Just after the intermission, as the choir was getting ready for the next number, the conductor was looking my way. He looked my way a few times before the music began again. It was the trumpet playing an arm’s length from my ears that suddenly made me realize why the conductor had been looking my way. The trumpeter was standing in the aisle just behind me. First of all, the assault on my senses couldn’t have been worse. Second, the trumpeter was standing in the aisle blocking my only escape route. After a moment’s panic I realized my best option was to put my head down with my hands over my ears. As rude as it might have looked, barging past him to the exit would likely have disrupted the whole concert… and much more embarrassing.
- Go outside during the intermission.
- Reason: Going outside would help me get me away from the chaos of people milling around, entering and exiting the concert hall.
- Second, walking helps minimize the sensory loading. So I decided to walk till I was ready to go back into the concert. Hopefully the recovery is fast enough or the intermission long enough so I wouldn’t miss any of the concert.
- Have a snack along for the intermission.
- Reason: Keeping up my energy level with some nutritious snacks seems to help with recovering from sensory overload. If no food is allowed in the venue, it makes the intermission even more important.
Overall, attending the concert was a success. At the same time, I have decided to not attend the Messiah for a couple of years. The songs seemed to have drilled down into my brain. A number of the songs kept bouncing around in my brain for several weeks. They just wouldn’t go away. It might be part of the consequence of my brain not being able to filter or moderate what I’m listening to. Not being able to moderate the sound input to avoid sensory overload, but also not being able to moderate the music so it doesn’t get fixed so persistently into my memory.
I will probably wait a half year or so before attempting another live music event.