Asperger’s / autism and the mental jukebox 

I’m awake, therefore there’s a song running through my head.

Today, because it’s sunny (in South Texas, what else is new?), and I’m reasonably relaxed and content, the song happens to be “Sonic” (link to YouTube video), by The Charlatans UK, a fairly unknown and under-appreciated track from their fantastic 1990 release, Some Friendly.

It’s a simple and shimmery song, with an incessant quick-paced beat, but it’s neither upsetting nor overwhelming.  It mirrors my emotional disposition with eerie precision.

I’ve noticed that whenever I am conscious, there is typically a song playing in my brain, usually in the background, but frequently in the foreground.  It has been a Law of My Nature ever since I can remember, which is astonishingly far back in time.

Sometimes the song is an existing one, written by someone else, heard perhaps on the radio or in a movie.  Other times, the music playing is my own, whether I’ve actually written it down or recorded it or not.  Usually, the latter is a fragment and little more, the way musical pieces are usually born.

There are times when my brain will repeat segments of a song over again a few times, and there are other times when one song will segue into another, like a mashup or a remix.  Or maybe my brain will take an existing song and create sort of an “instrumental, reprise” version.  Or it will take a slower song and set it to more of a Eurodance/techno beat.

Yeah, I’ve got this shizz down. 😉

Music adds a whole new dimension to my world.  It almost gives me the sensation of being in a movie, with the soundtrack unobtrusively augmenting the scene from behind.

It also gives me a medium through which to more efficiently communicate.  All I have to do is turn on a particular song and say, “this is what I’m feeling today”, and let the other person interpret that how they may, forming their own impressions.  Chances are, they’d end up somewhere in the ballpark.

Many of you are aware that the previous weekend had been challenging for me, in multiple ways.  During those times, the song “Flames” by Vast echoed endlessly through my mind, and later “A Strange Day” by The Cure (in genuine thanks to the lovely commenter who linked to the video in their comment!), followed eventually by “Slide Away” by The Verve as I began to climb out and re-emerge in some semblance of okay-ness.

Everything in my life has had its own “soundtrack” of sorts, even (and especially) my Asperger’s/autism spectrum discovery (the songs are listed here, and their meanings to me are discussed here).  Walking to school as a kid had its own mental playlist.

I had never thought twice about the Mental Jukebox in all my years, until last summer, just before turning 39 (!).  I had assumed that no one else did this, and that it was just one more thing that made me “weird”.  It was only when scanning my Twitter feed that I noticed some fellow Aspie/autistic people talking about it.

It was mind-blowing to realize that not only was I not alone in this phenomenon, but that, like all other miscellany in my life, it was Part of This (Asperger’s/Autism) Thing, too.

A-Ha Moments these days.

Is there anything they can’t explain?

Fellow autistic Twitter peeps built onto the conversation like beautiful new additions to a building.

“Yeah!  My mouth–teeth and tongue–were my own private drum kit!”, someone exclaimed, obviously excited to have been vindicated at that moment, too.

Ahhh, sweet self-discovery.  And the liberation that comes with it.

Reading the conversation, I learned that it seemed to be an Asperger’s/Autism Thing.  Not that it would be included in the diagnostic criteria any time soon, I thought bitterly.  That would mean that the so-called “experts” would actually have to listen to us first.

But my bitterness went dormant as another happy song popped into my head and began to auto-play.  I had found yet another answer, solved yet another mystery, tied up yet one more loose end.

Loose ends are OK, but they symbolize unfinished business.  So, while they’re a fact of life, they’re not always ideal for me.  My brain will work tirelessly to attempt to make sense of the inconsistency.

Maybe that’s why I like music.  It’s math, with sass.  It’s an art, and yet a science, too.  The perfect brain-balance.

Cue it, crank it.  May the Mental Jukebox play on. 😉

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(Image Credit: hikaruga)

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55 Comments

  1. Yeah!! I know you know I can relate. 😀 Adore music. 💓Always have a soundtrack in my head. My only regret is that I could never grasp note-reading or play instruments. (I just can’t make my brain make any sense out of them, though the latter stems from my joint difficulties, too.) I can literally hear original compositions in my head that I have never figured out how to put to paper. Some are instrumental. Others have lyrics I can sing. ( I don’t have what I’d describe as a powerful voice but I can pick up a lot by ear.)

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That’s too cool that you can pick stuff up by ear! 😁😁. That’s one of the most powerful and effective ways to learn anyway 😉. I took the clef/staff basics I learned in elementary school and taught myself chords and basically taught myself how to play piano, at least for a while. My hands cramped awfully after a bit though, and I wanted to go further than I could teach myself, so mom got me into piano lessons with a teacher; the first one sucked so she enrolled me with a better one, with whom I stayed for 7 years 😁💖. Turns out to the cramping was due to my finger positions; I learned hand placement and that was much better on my joints. Now my only deterrent is my hearing. It’s a weird type of hearing loss, where on some days, my ears hear different pitches than I know they’re supposed to be, which drives me up a tree lol. I try to sing more, though, because I can play music in my truck, where it won’t bother the apartment neighbors 😁😉💖💜

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Wow. Love the piano.💙 That is awesome you found such a good teacher! I can imagine that really helps! Sounds like you have found a good way to adapt with the hearing loss!☺ In a different life, I might’ve done more in music, I suppose, but it is what it is. Now, I just try to encourage the next generation as much as I can. 🙂My middle son has taught himself several songs on piano and he is an awesome percussionist. My oldest boy is more of a singer/songwriter, ( specializes in parodies with a sprinkling of deep social issues) my daughter has an amazing voice and natural dance ability, and I think my youngest boy looks ready to try and follow them all. lol. Naturally, I am a proud mama, if you can’t tell. 💓

        Liked by 2 people

  2. I love music! I’m always singing something. It’s horribly off key and all around bad, but I belt it out anyway. I wish I could actually sing well. I was the only child not allowed to sing in my class chorus, that’s how bad I am😱😧
    I get songs running through my head, these days it’s usually a song from one of Ben’s movies or one of his YouTube searches. Lately he’s been stuck on a kids show called Numberjacks. 😕
    Music is tied to many memories too. Certain songs can take me back to exact moments from 15, 30 even 40 years ago.
    Rock on!✨🎉🎊🎤🎼🎸🎶💥💖💞🙌💃😘😍😎

    Liked by 4 people

  3. My son was playing in an orchestra performing in St Giles last night. The music was composed for the concert and inspired by plain chants discovered at a nearby monastery. After the concert was finished we were walking out but various people in our party started chatting to others so whilst I waited I started singing some plain chant like phrases to recall the resonances in the cathedral. Songs in particular seem to be able to express things I can’t so I think I will build up my own dictionary of songs. Anything to help others understand me better!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Oh wow, that’s so beautiful! 😍😍. What instrument does he play? 💓. Music is so amazing. Yeah I have found it to be a great tool–for relaxation, for energizing, for focus, even for grieving or depression. And of course for road trips, preparing for a karate tournament, for meditation, and especially during acupuncture treatment (!). Chants are absolutely gorgeous. I love that type of music 💟💝💖💝💟

      Liked by 2 people

  4. you too, eh? im telling you, we really are related… all day its been secret by chelsea lankes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQlzYrqwLm4

    except its only the parts in the middle without vocals. except that there are no parts i the middle without vocals. ive been replaying the music from the middle of the song without the vocals, especially the part where the synth drum goes back to the chorus. ALL DAY. if it starts to get on my nerves i listen to something else. also can this girl eat a sandwich? (im not skinny-shaming, but i feel kind of bad for her. shes got a nice face.)

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Cool song! Thank you for sharing that 😁. Hehe I *used* to have a frame like that before my health went downhill, but hopefully I’ll get back to something close to that again once I get healthier 😁👍🏼💝

      Her music sounds a bit like contemporary ’80s music! I like it 👍🏼👍🏼💝💕💝💜💙

      Liked by 2 people

        1. Oh yeah! 😘😘. I promise, health over appearance, always! 👍🏼👍🏼. I don’t want to be emaciated any more than I want to be morbidly obese; neither are healthy and neither feel good. I’ve been both over- and under-weight and both suck. (Neither situation was on purpose or for the “usual” (assumed) reasons, either.)

          Thank you so much for posting these! They’re neat, especially for when I’m in the mood for something light and dance-y 😁😘💖🌟💖

          Liked by 2 people

  5. I feel quite the same about music. Although I never learned to play an instrument, I do remember my favorite activities in grade school being music, lunch, art, and PE. I was such a little tomboy I use to trade sports cards and Pokemon cards with the boys bc the girls wanted to do dance and stuff. I even had my own collection of baseball, basketball, and football cards. Totally off topic, anyway as for music, upbeat tempo is not a favorite. I think it has something to do with my mellow, laid back personality.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts! Yep, count me in; I was a little tomboy too! Only I had a distaste for sports, mainly because I wasn’t coordinated. At least until I found karate. Now THAT was awesome!! I’m hoping to heal my neck enough to get back into it, even if I have to forgo the sparring part 😉💓. Music rules 😁😁💚💙. It’s interesting how many of us on the spectrum like music! 💟💟

      Liked by 2 people

      1. What’s sparring? Have you every thought about MMJ for your neck? What other Tomboy traits did you have. I don’t think I’m on the spectrum.. I took a few quizzes online and they all came back negative for autism/Asperger’s.

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  6. Wait, hang on a minute… Do you mean that most people (i.e NTs) DON’T do this soundtrack to the day thing? I’m always humming away to myself, my work colleagues have noticed. But I didn’t actually ask if they do or don’t have some kind of track running through their head all the time. I sort of assumed everyone does. I mean people talk about ear worms, I thought that’s what they meant. I’m going to have to ask around now.

    In my case, I use my jaw, moving to the beat /rhythm, pretty much all day long, hence my badly worn teeth, my front teeth are worn flat and level due to what I now realise is grinding /stimming. But it’s not random grinding, there’s always a tune attached. Sometimes made up, sometimes my track of the day (my phrase for a long time now, how odd others have a similar phraseology), but always there to grind away to.

    My, my. Finding my tribe mates, fellow square pegs, other AOSs, companion autistics, it’s all been such a revelation. How many more commonalities are yet to emerge?

    For me, my ultimate calm down and beat the overload music is Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, the whole album, either v 1 or v 2. My pick myself up and face the world music is a variety but mainly Sia tracks, as she puts it so well, in a kind of, come on then, bring it on world, you can’t beat me down, because I am Titanium, the greatest, unstoppable. But there are a few others in there, Rachel Patten Fight song, Christina Aguilera Fighter, and so on. These are my running tracks, when I want to run away from the world they help bring me back. But I’m now playing Fighter in my head and chances area it’ll stay. At least it’s a rest from Bridge over troubled waters, that has an especially sad connection for those of us in the UK at the moment https://youtu.be/8O1CcwYf79I 😢. That’s been haunting me all week.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow !! I never realised that this was “part of the spectrum”. My Wife and colleagues are always laughing about my humming etc. I don’t “beatbox” per se but I do “percussion” with lip pops and tongue clicks while I hum along with the random tunes my brain makes up constantly.

    If I’m not humming, I’m listening to my ample MP3 collection on headphones .. everything from Punk to Prog, from Classical to Jazz, Orchestral to Indie. Blues to R&B. I listen to pretty much anything (I even have a cd of Mongolian throat singing!) Music and sounds in general are exceedingly Important to me. I don’t just “listen” but actively listen. The aural equivalent of peering at something small. I love listening to a classical orchestral piece and picking up on the breath sounds between notes of the woodwind players or the slight environmental sounds behind the music (bows being moved, fingers turning sheet music, the slight muffled cough of someone in the audience..) Music and sounds are one form of stimulation I literally cannot get enough of.

    Thank you for a really interesting post yet again !

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I always thought it was just a ‘me’ thing… And THIS: ““Yeah!  My mouth–teeth and tongue–were my own private drum kit!”, someone exclaimed, obviously excited to have been vindicated at that moment, too.” What a great description. I do that, albeit very quietly. If I’m awake, there’s a song running though my brain, I don’t think there ever isn’t one, and usually I’ll be tapping along with my teeth or my tongue.

    It’s just annoying when it’s a song I don’t care for, the same song for days, or a small looping fragment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “It’s just annoying when it’s a song I don’t care for, the same song for days, or a small looping fragment.”

      Yes!! You get those, too? Ugh lol. A couple days ago I had the creepy, ominous score from the movie “Silence of the Lambs” overlayed with “Pop Goes The Weasel” stuck in my head 😳😱. Not the best mashup ever lol 😂😂. And it was fragments of both!! I had to “break” the “loop” with some other, more palatable, song lol 😉👍🏼💓

      Liked by 1 person

  9. So weird – I posted a comment on your other recent post (Is Asperger’s/ Autism a Mental Health Issue) asking whether you found music helpful during childhood. I added a link to a Smiths song. Little did I know, you had just written about music (and lots of UK bands too!) – woo-hoo, synchronicity 🙂

    I love the Cure too – was lucky enough to see them live last year for the first time ever.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lol I love it! Synchronicity rocks 😁👍🏼👍🏼. Omg I ❤️❤️ UK music. I’m even aware of the “baggy” sub genre and the Madchester scene. I ❤️ shoegaze, too 😁👍🏼👍🏼. Beats American music hands down. Oh yeah! 👏🏼👏🏼💚💙

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Haha – I clearly don’t know my sub-genres. I’d never heard of “Baggy” even tho the Stone Roses were one of my faves back in college. Not sure I’d heard of shoegaze either, even tho I like several of the bands in that genre too – Cocteau Twins, Kitchens of Distinction.
    If you do want to find a good US band to go see, both the Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear are touring this year 😉 I’ll join you for either, lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awesomesauce! No worries, luv – baggy was an extremely obscure, almost nitpicky, short-lived genre (3-4 years) 😉😉.

      I love all the bands you mentioned!! The Curve is another goodie 😁. Kinda like old school Shirley Manson of Garbage whom I had the pleasure of seeing last fall (!!) 🤗🤗. I do need to check out Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear! Thank you so much for the recommendation! 🙌🏼🙌🏼💞

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I find that the vocal songs in the recent Persona entries are some of the most memorable ones, especially “Your Affection” from Persona 4 and “Rivers in the Desert” from Persona 5. In terms of non-vocal OST some memorable series OST for me include Sonic the Hedgehog, Etrian Odyssey, 7th Dragon (same composer as Etrian), Kingdom Hearts and Utawarerumono.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sweet! 😁😁. Thank you so much for these; I’ll go look them up 👍🏼. I’m old school lol – mine were Super Mario Brothers from the old Nintendo (1985) and various F-Zero themes from the Super Nintendo lol 😂🌺

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’ll like the FM synths in the Etrian Odyssey series – Yuzo Koshiro (the composer) made them on retro PCs, including the PC-88. So essentially there are two soundtracks for each mainline entry in the Etrian series.

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  12. interesting! i have many friends with children on the spectrum that are non-verbal. many hum tunes regardless of their speech fluidity. My son is 13 and has choppy speech. However, when we sings, he catches every word and speaks a bit clearer. He also *loves* music. Thanks for the insight!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Sounds so much like my child, a song that forever plays in his head for weeks and calms him and then it goes onto another one extremely opposite it’s genre, and I wonder what is happening in his mind. Sometimes only he knows, but I have come too realize even though he dances too a different drum beat, he is free, and not held back from who he is.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I can definitely relate to this. I wasn’t told about Asperger’s until abou 25, and still I haven’t heard show me proof, but if this is something that is typical with it, it’s a benefit! I find that if I don’t make sure there’s a song on repeat in my head, that my head might start to drive me crazy, sometimes just repeating the same stupid crap over and over again. Anyway, thanks for the post.

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  15. Nope not alone with that, and I find that often to release it and move onto something else, I have to play it for real (good if i like it, hell if i dont) and sometimes many times over. I repeat songs until i drive even myself crazy.

    Liked by 1 person

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