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Brian Hong

Do you still 'hear' music after you fall asleep?

March 16, 2009 at 5:49 AM

A question has plagued me for many years, and I am sure it has affected you as well: do you still “hear” music after you fall asleep? I believe that I have solved that question, unintentionally.

Last night, as I went to bed, I decided to go drift off with some music. After pulling the covers over me, I grabbed my iPod and set it to an album called Score, which is a live performance recording of the progressive metal band Dream Theater in Radio City Music Hall (if you don’t know them, check them out. They are amazing). The iPod was set to album repeat, and I dozed off as the album went to its third track.

Throughout the night, I, as usual, went through several reoccurring dreams that I experience every night: a pink washing machine clanking around, a girl that I really like (not telling her name) coming to my house to visit me, me finding out that I’ve suddenly lost 50 pounds. Then, all of a sudden, the haze of my sleep suddenly cleared out and I found myself in a small room, and there was a young man on the ground, and standing over him was a tall woman and (I’m guessing), her teenage son. I looked around and heard music coming from somewhere, but I didn’t know where as this was a closed room, with no windows, doors, or openings of any kind. All people who experience dreams where things don’t make sense know that it doesn’t seem weird while experiencing the dream, so I took no heed and just focused on the scene unfolding before me.

I suddenly recognized the music that was playing. It was the 25 minute epic by Dream Theater, Octavarium, as performed on the Score CD. I had no idea why that music was playing at that particular moment. All of a sudden, the music reached it’s climax point where the singer, James LaBrie, along with drummer Mike Portnoy start screaming lyrics, and the tall woman and her son started screaming along, accenting every syllable with a kick at the man on the ground. They were screaming “Trapped inside this octavarium! Trapped inside this octavarium! Trapped inside this octavarium!” All the while, they tortured the poor man on the ground. Why this image was in my head I don’t know-Dream Theater is not a band about pain and death.

Finally, they reached the biggest point of the song, and screamed it even louder, “TRAPPED INSIDE THIS OCTACARIUMMMMM!” As they screamed it, along with James LaBrie and Mike Portnoy, who suddenly came into the room behind me, we all lifted off the ground and flew into black space.

Suddenly, I woke up, and it was 3 in the morning, with the music still playing in my ears. With the effects of the dream I had had still fogging over me, I concentrated on the music playing through my headphones to clear my brain. Sure enough, it was Octavarium, and it was at the point right after the climax, where Juilliard-trained keyboardist Jordan Rudess went into a synthesizer arpeggiated solo. It made the dream rush back at me, and I realized that I was listening to music while I was still deep in my REM sleep, and the music had been incorporated into my dream, along with a violent image that otherwise would not have been in my head.

This was a very shocking experience, and one of the clearest and most vivid dreams I have had. I knew I needed to write this before it cleared my head, and I am sharing it with you. I think I have solved the issue that music is still recognized and played in your brain, even if you are in a deep slumber. I even think that music makes your dream even more articulate; in other words, it enhances the clarity of your dream. This is a really cool subject and I hope it happens again so I can explore it further.

*Yawn* I think I’ll go to bed now…..and I’ll listen to Shlomo Mintz tonight. I wonder what image that will give me ;)


From Paul G.
Posted on March 16, 2009 at 6:31 PM

Interesting. You have some "unique" dreams my friend ;)

To me, I don't know if I experiene music the way you do... (with dreams that is). But when I'm not playing my instrument, or listening to music I'll still hear it. Often, I hear solo Bach or Tchaikovsky's music. I just have this amazing connection to Tchaikovsky's music and love it. If I'm sitting in a classroom, I'll begin to hear the orchestration of the first movement of the concerto in D. Or other times, certain parts of the Canzonetta will be "selected" by my brain and I'll hear them. Just a while ago, I was hearing the second movement of the Souvenir D'un Lieu Cher.

So yes, I do experience music when there is none, but it's just different from the way you do.

Interesting subject :)

From Emily Grossman
Posted on March 16, 2009 at 6:52 PM

The first dream I remember that integrated conscious music into my subconscious happened when I was four.  I dreamed I was being kidnapped, and the kidnappers were trying to pull me into their car.  Suddenly, my cousin Rhonda was there.  I started singing "Help me Rhonda, help help me Rhonda...  Help me Rhonda yeah, get me out of the car!"

Another great one happened when I was at summer camp after fourth grade.  I dreamed I was running around with a pack of pink dogs.  Then, a pack of blue dogs came and began attacking us.  Suddenly, Rocky showed up and started beating up the blue dogs.  I awoke to "Gonna Fly Now"  (the theme song from Rocky) playing over the camp's intercom system.

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on March 16, 2009 at 7:10 PM

I've heard music that was on my CD player in a dream too, but I don't remember it anymore in that much detail.  Once I unfortunately fell asleep while attending a seminar and my dream had a plot that followed the seminar for a while, but then it got so weird that I woke up.

From Corwin Slack
Posted on March 16, 2009 at 8:15 PM

 A word of advice from an older man who only listened to classical music with headphones.

Don't. Your hearing is too precious to waste this way. I am experiencing hearing loss. You will too some day and the more your listen to music directly piped into your ears the sooner the day will come. From all you have written it appears that you have the potential to make your income from music. Don't jeopardize it!

From Brian Hong
Posted on March 16, 2009 at 8:50 PM

Mr. Slack, I appreciate your words.  I completely agree.....this has been brought to my attention before, yet I have ignored it.  I find that I must now take heed. 

My wonderful mother read this blog and also let me know that I can experience hearing loss, as did my violin teacher too.


Thank you for your words and I will take heed.

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on March 16, 2009 at 10:37 PM

Corwin, does music in the ears at a very resonable volume about 2-3 times a week for less than 30 min make that much dammage!  If Brian agrees, please tell us!  I put Oistrakh's music in my ears when I want to forget my problems before going asleep (I take it off just before going asleep though)!  Maybe I'm wrong to think that this is totally secure?   Are you sure it isn't the violin that does this? This is much harder for the left ear than a soft volume music in a cd player of ipod.   Thanks for you honnesty with everyone! Funny dream by the way, Brian lol


From Corwin Slack
Posted on March 17, 2009 at 12:35 AM

I am not a doctor so I don't know what the limits are. I never have listened to rock music and I am starting (or well on my way) to losing my hearing.  I listened to classical music on a Walkman tape player 30 years ago. Perhaps there are other causes as well but I don't think my listening was harmless.

I do keep reading articles like this:


From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on March 17, 2009 at 11:18 AM



From Terez Mertes
Posted on March 18, 2009 at 4:14 PM

 I use a classical music radio station as an alarm each morning and it fascinates me the way the music pervades my dreams. It's actually a great way to start the day, although sometimes it will feel so soothing, I'll decide not to fully wake up. Good thing for noisy, annoying commercial breaks!

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