To Hear Sound for the Very First Time

From “Hearing & How It Was Made" by Ryan O'Neal of Sleeping at Last

"While learning as much as I could about the sense of hearing, I was reminded of some videos I had seen a while ago, of people hearing sound for the very first time. One video after another, brought me to tears. The videos are of people who have lived most of their lives without sound, who just had cochlear implants installed in their ears and turned on, allowing them to hear sound for the very first time. It’s incredibly beautiful...

In some of my research on cochlear implants, I learned that when they are turned on for the first time, patients often say the sound is kind of 'digital' or 'mechanical' sounding, which is entirely normal. I guess the ears and brain eventually normalize the signal and things begin to sound more natural.

I thought that was entirely fascinating, so I made it a part of my song. The piano that starts out the song has a digital/mechanical feel, and there are layers of harmonics that weave in and out as the melody moves forward, almost like ringing in the ears.

Slowly, the mechanical feel of the piano falls away and transforms into a richer, more real piano sound, and more and more natural instruments are introduced as the melody repeats.

All to nod to the experience of the cochlear implants being turned on for the first time; subtle and strange at first, as a world of sounds get pulled into focus."