The Beach Boys film Love and Mercy portrays Brian Wilson as experiencing music playing constantly in his head. In this new article for The Guardian, Victoria Williamson discusses how the growing body of research suggests that this rare phenomenon might have been behind his creative talent.
"There’s a memorable scene in the Beach Boys film Love & Mercy, where the band are on a plane and Brian Wilson has a panic attack. Later on, Brian is back at home, recounting the experience to his brothers, and he says: “Before it happened, there was music in my head – like always – and then threatening voices started.” As a psychologist who specialises in musical memory, those two little words – “like always” – really stood out for me.
It tells us that Brian Wilson had music going through his head almost continuously. Of course, many of us are able to activate a musical memory when required – for instance, if I asked you whether the third note in Happy Birthday was higher or lower than the fourth, you would probably be able to summon up the tune – but to have it playing constantly like that is rare: one survey we did suggests that less than 5% of people experience it".