Tuning in: Music and empathy

A car pulls up in our street, its windows wide open.

Music is playing in the car – lively music with heavy bass heartbeats.

The street is, to use the technical jargon ‘acoustically bright’ – a few young summer trees notwithstanding, you can hear every word of a conversation along its straight, wide, semi-detached-lined, length_

The music stops – cut off with the engine.

Though the car’s an inanimate object, and the sound has no more bearing on its original creators than the electrons bringing you this post have upon me,  I can’t help feeling – just for that fraction of a second before reason takes over – ‘Doesn’t that seem rude?’

I’ve wondered, every summer for years, why the feeling springs unwanted to my mind.

Just the other day, I found the answer.

Some people relate to music more deeply than others – almost like as with an intense friendship.

It looks as if I’m one of these people.

Weirdly though, I might have known all along.

In ‘The Price of Time’ and its yet-unpublished sequel ‘The Evening Lands’ characters have the ability to ‘visit people’s minds’, including their own. Inside a mind are rooms with machines for the various faculties (power of reason looks like a Difference Engine, while a portrait gallery represents ability to remember faces, etc).

Last year a plot turn required a character to see empathy. I chose to represent empathy as a crystal dial like an analogue radio set, which ‘picks up’ people’s feelings by resonance.

The crystal dial has radial lines with the names of everybody the person cares about.

And in one particular character, these names are interleaved with those of their favourite pieces of music.