Benjamin wrote this essay after an interview. (Knowing that music was integral to Benjamin’s therapy, the reporter had asked about visceral responses.) Benjamin’s viewpoint illustrates the depth of feeling that someone with autism can have—and debunks the myth that autism shuts down emotional sensitivity.
At school, every student in my Language Arts class has a writer’s notebook. Sometimes we do journaling, and I recently wrote about my love of music. I’d like to share this entry with you: One of my favorite things in life is singing in choir—I’m in the big Festival Choir at school. All my friends are in choir with me, and it always brightens my day to see them. This year, we are 100+ singers; gorgeous sound! We sing amazing classical works, and also spirituals and other things. In music which has chords with intensely beautiful dissonances (like Eric Whitacre or Morten Lauridsen’s songs), it makes me feel overwhelmed with awe, and I get intense sensations in my body.
At times, my heart feels like it is being squeezed, and I think of colorful, iridescent fireworks bursting or showering. Other times, I’m soaring like an eagle beyond earth’s atmosphere, beyond gravity. Sometimes, there’s the bubbly tickle-prickle of soda-pop in my chest from excitement as I become part of the dissonances. The different feelings shift like the waves of an ocean, and can be followed by an amazing feeling of resolution, like I’m floating in a warm sunset tide-pool with schools of tiny, tropical fish; I’m so relaxed. In general, I feel so much joy that I want to become a bird and fly away to heaven, riding on the music like a glider riding on thermals!
On days when I’m feeling down, singing in choir makes my day so much better; music can be incredibly therapeutic. In fact, I sometimes think about compiling my favorite classical choir pieces to make a music therapy album. My idea is to help someone who’s in terrible grief for instance, or to help calm anxiety—that’s part of what music does for me.
In our spring concert, we performed movements from “Carmina Burana” with the Fairview High orchestra. It is such exciting, intense music, and I just know that the walls of the church shook with sound when we performed! During our May choir concerts, we sang a particularly intense song that felt like a volcano bubbling, ready to explode, but we had to hold it in and keep it under control. I am sure I’ll be singing all my life and plan to be part of various community choirs after high school. —by Benjamin