The Story of Hans

When I first met Hans in 1978, I didn’t immediately grasp the depth of the scars history had etched into his life. He was a man of few words, whose eyes, however, spoke volumes—if one was willing to read them. Today, as the echoes of past mistakes threaten to be drowned out by the currents of right-wing ideology in Germany and Europe, I feel compelled to share his story. It’s not just the tale of a broken man but a warning and a plea to our collective memory.

Hans was born in 1926 in Mülheim an der Ruhr, in the industrial heartland of Germany, into a world still reeling from the scars of the First World War. The political and economic instability of the Weimar Republic shaped his early years, a time of turmoil that eventually laid the groundwork for one of the darkest chapters in human history. At 17, as the world plunged once more into the abyss of war, Hans was conscripted into the Wehrmacht and sent to the Eastern Front. There, in the icy grip of the Russian winter, he experienced the brutality of war in its most raw form.

The injury Hans sustained from a grenade, which tore away a large part of his lung, was just the beginning of a long ordeal. Captured by Soviet forces, Hans was transported to a prisoner of war camp in Siberia, a place synonymous with desolation and harshness. Despite his severe injury and the brutal environment, Hans clung to life with a tenacity that was both remarkable and heartrending. The cold, the hunger, the back-breaking labor—all left marks that never fully healed.

The war eventually ended, but Hans’ battle did not. The journey back to Germany was a slow and torturous process, fraught with bureaucratic hurdles and the physical challenges of his still-healing wounds. Upon his return, the joy of reunion with his family was overshadowed by the realization that he, and the nation itself, would never be the same.

His own father didn’t recognize him, and his death certificate already hung framed in the living room—a symbolic image of what the war had made of him: a man the world had already given up on.

The road to physical recovery was long and fraught with complications. The loss of a huge part of his lung meant that Hans would forever be short of breath, a constant reminder of the war’s impact on his body. Yet, it was the invisible wounds that proved harder to heal.

Hans eventually found work at AEG Kanis in Essen, where he worked as an auditor. Yet, the shadows of the past never left him. Alcohol became his constant companion, an attempt to numb the inner demons that haunted him at night. When AEG Kanis closed and Hans went into early retirement, he lost an important anchor in his life. The years that followed were marked by a slow but steady decline that culminated in his death from cirrhosis of the liver. The memories of the horrors he had witnessed and endured haunted him, leading him to seek solace in alcohol, a refuge that would eventually claim his life.

I accompanied Hans in his final years and witnessed how an incredibly strong man was slowly destroyed by his memories and alcohol. I heard only a few of his war stories, but each one deeply moved me and haunts me to this day. They were windows into a soul too deeply wounded to ever fully heal.

The journey of Hans from the moment of his grievous injury on the Eastern Front to his eventual return home is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit amidst the darkest of times. After the grenade tore away one of his lungs, Hans found himself not just battling for his life on the frozen battlefields but also facing a long and arduous path to recovery that would test his limits in every conceivable way.

I aim not only to tell Hans’ story but also to shine a light on the shadows that, decades later, threaten to spread across Europe once again. The resurgence of right-wing ideology, the increasing polarization of our society, and the allure of simple answers to complex questions are alarming parallels to the conditions that once paved the way for the rise of National Socialism.

We must not allow history to repeat itself. We need to keep the memories of people like Hans alive, not just as a monument to the horrors of war but as a warning against the dangers that arise when hatred and intolerance are allowed to flourish unchecked. I wish we could stand together for a world where the dignity of every individual is respected and where the horrors of the past are not forgotten but used as lessons for the future.

Hans’ story is one among many, but it stands as a testament to the countless fates destroyed by war and hatred. By telling it, we not only remember the suffering that was but also commit ourselves to working for a better, more peaceful future.

Hans was my stepfather.

He entered our lives when I was 5 years old. He was a complex character, yet absolutely reliable and a role model to me in many ways. Today, I realize what an incredible and decent person he was. He was only 66 years old when he passed away. He lived much longer than any doctor had predicted for him, and aside from the alcohol, he truly made the most out of this life. And he inspired a boy whose biological father was mostly absent.

I miss him dearly.

Phoenix

You Need to Fail to Succeed

And I did, many times. That doesn’t mean I always succeeded after I failed, but whenever I succeeded it never came without failure before. That said…

A New Paradigm for Music Makers

In an industry that’s constantly evolving, The Crow Hill Company emerges as a breath of fresh air. While still in its early stages, the platform promises an ever-growing collection of free professional resources for music makers. But what sets it apart is its philosophy: it aims to be a “love letter to music makers.” This isn’t just a repository of tools; it’s a community, a support system, and most importantly, a philosophy that values the process as much as the product.

What’s in the Vault?

While the company is tight-lipped about upcoming content, they’ve teased that it’s something they’re “incredibly reluctant to share,” which only adds to the intrigue. Given the secrecy, one can only speculate about the revolutionary tools and resources that might be in store for members.

The Maestro Behind the Mission

Christian Henson is a name that commands respect in the world of music composition. With a career that boasts multiple nominations and awards, he’s a versatile talent who’s worked on everything from TV shows to epic sci-fi films. But what truly sets him apart is his unique, self-taught approach to working with the orchestra, a skill honed through collaborations with a diverse range of artists.

The Spitfire Legacy

Before The Crow Hill Company, Henson made waves with Spitfire Audio, a company that provides essential tools for composers. Spitfire developed a cult following and became a significant supporter of the music industry. This experience undoubtedly informs his new venture, bringing a level of expertise and credibility that’s hard to match.

The Importance of Failure: A Lesson in Resilience

In a recent video, Christian Henson tackles a subject that’s often swept under the rug: failure. But he doesn’t just talk about it; he embraces it as an essential part of the creative process. The video serves as a manifesto for all creatives, urging them to see failure not as a setback but as a stepping stone.

Why We Need to Fail to Succeed

Henson argues that success is often the byproduct of a series of failures. These failures, or “fluff ups” as he calls them, are not just obstacles but valuable lessons. He stresses the importance of repurposing these failures into lessons that can guide future endeavors. This philosophy aligns perfectly with the mission of The Crow Hill Company, making the platform not just a resource hub but a support system for creatives.

The Symbiosis of Philosophy and Practice

What makes The Crow Hill Company and Christian Henson’s message so compelling is the seamless integration of philosophy and practice. They don’t just provide the tools for success; they equip you with the mindset needed to use those tools effectively. This dual approach ensures that you’re not just technically proficient but also emotionally and philosophically equipped to navigate the complex landscape of creative work.

A New Era for Music Makers?

The Crow Hill Company, backed by the wisdom and experience of Christian Henson, promises to be more than just another platform for music makers. It’s a philosophy, a community, and a treasure trove of resources rolled into one. As someone with over 30 years of experience in the music industry, I can say that this is exactly the kind of holistic approach that can redefine how we think about music production.

Are you ready to embrace failure as the ultimate teacher?

Watch this:

I Suffer From Sensorineural Hearing Loss

During my lifetime I developed a condition known as sensorineural hearing loss which resulted in permanent loss of high frequency hearing. My right ear is affected a little more than the left, albeit due to a congenital auditory canal that is somewhat narrowed. This condition makes it difficult for me to hear certain frequencies like human speech, especially in noisy environments.

A prominent example of someone having the same problem is Phil Collins.

This type of hearing loss is caused by damage to the inner ear, specifically to the hair cells in the cochlea, and are — in my case — the result of many years of exposure to loud music both as a performer and as a producer. Today I want to be open about my hearing loss and speak about the challenges I’m facing as a result.

Living with sensorineural hearing loss is a reality that I never thought I would face when I was younger, but it’s something that I have learned to live with over the years. Looking back today, I couldn’t hear certain frequencies too well very early on when I began playing music, especially when I was surrounded by background noise or chatting people. It’s a condition that has affected my (social) life significantly, and it’s something quite serious. I’m sharing my story in the hope that it will inspire others to take steps to protect their hearing, and to avoid the same fate that I’m enduring.

Diagnosis

I was officially diagnosed with sensorineural hearing loss in 2011, after I noticed that I was having more and more trouble hearing in even only lightly noisy environments, like a dish washer in a kitchen that was affecting my ability to follow a conversation with someone. As my hearing continued to deteriorate, I knew that something was seriously wrong. After several tests and consultations with my doctor, I learned that I had developed sensorineural hearing loss as a result of exposure to loud noises over the many years as a musician.

The news was pretty devastating, because it’s something you can’t just fix. Music is a massive part of my life, and I love to have deep conversations, but now I was struggling to understand what people were saying in their normal conversation style and environments.

Challenges

Sensorineural hearing loss can be emotionally challenging, especially when it comes to trying to have conversations with others. Sometimes I felt frustrated, embarrassed, or even angry when I struggled to hear what others were saying, especially in noisy environments. These feelings could be compounded by the fear of appearing rude or dismissive, or of being misunderstood.

Today I very often need subtitles when I want to watch a film or a TV show, because otherwise I don’t understand what is being said.

In addition to these emotional challenges, sensorineural hearing loss caused physical symptoms such as fatigue, stress, and headaches. The strain of trying to hear and understand what others are saying, especially in noisy environments, was exhausting and took a toll on my overall well-being.

Finding Solutions

Despite these factors, I have found ways to overcome a big portion of those obstacles. I’ve learned to communicate more effectively with others and to find support and understanding from others by simply mentioning my hearing problem. This would usually go like this when I would be in a with people in a room:

“Sorry, can we please close the window? I have a hearing problem when there is background noise.”

It only takes that small sentence. Nobody has a problem with it, and nobody asks what your hearing problem is about. Topic closed.

Living with this can be very difficult, but it does not have to be an insurmountable obstacle. With the right strategies, resources, and support, people with this condition can learn to overcome their feelings of frustration and isolation and to live fulfilling and meaningful lives.

Over the years, I have learned to adapt to my hearing loss by avoiding noisy environments, asking people to speak more clearly (not louder, that doesn’t help) and wearing earbuds with a transparency mode that amplifies human speech as often as possible to help me hear better. I have also had to learn to communicate in different ways, and to be patient and understanding with others who may not understand the challenges that I face on a daily basis.

Phenomena

You might wonder if my hearing problem affects composing, producing or just listening to music. Oh, and mixing and mastering! Funny enough: not at all. Read on:

One of the ways the brain compensates for hearing loss is by enhancing its ability to process speech in noisy environments. This process, known as “auditory scene analysis,” allows people with hearing loss to better distinguish speech from background noise. Over time, the brain becomes more efficient at this process, allowing people with hearing loss to understand speech more easily in noisy environments.

Another way the brain works is by using visual cues to supplement auditory input. People with hearing loss may rely more on lip-reading, facial expressions, and body language to understand what others are saying. This can be especially helpful in noisy environments, where it may be difficult to hear speech clearly.

The brain can enhance its ability to process sound in the frequencies that are still audible. This process, known as “frequency compensation,” allows people to maximize their ability to hear and understand speech. I sometimes hear things that others don’t hear well or at all, as strange as that sounds.

You can also become more sensitive to sound; our brain can make even soft sounds appear louder. If I have very little or no background noise, then I mostly hear excellent. This process, known as “recruitment,” can be both a blessing and a curse, as it can make sounds more audible, but it can also make loud sounds seem uncomfortably loud.

And then there is this other problem…

I can no longer tolerate the noise of everyday life, such as street noise, a shopping mall or too many people talking. It stresses me so much that it’s affecting my mental health.

aerial photo of city buildings during nighttime
Photo by sergio souza on Pexels.com

Research has shown that exposure to too much noise can lead to a range of negative effects, including stress, anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbance. These effects can be particularly pronounced for people who are already struggling with mental health issues, like I do, or who are sensitive to environmental stimuli.

Be Careful!

I have exposed my ears to far too high sound pressure levels far too often. I had a massive hearing loss in 2013 when I didn’t hear anything for 3 months after playing a very loud gig where I couldn’t control the monitors. I should have been much more careful with my hearing throughout my life. That was my fault.

What I want to share with others is the importance of taking steps to protect your hearing, and to avoid exposing yourself to loud noises that can cause hearing damage. I know that it can be tempting to ignore the warning signs, but the consequences can be devastating, and the impact on your quality of life can be long-lasting.

So, if you are reading this, I urge you to take action to protect your hearing. Wear earplugs or other hearing protection in noisy environments, limit your exposure to loud noises, and take steps to protect your hearing from further damage. By doing so, you can help to ensure that you do not suffer the same fate as I have, and that you can continue to enjoy all of the sounds and experiences that life has to offer.

Living with sensorineural hearing loss has been a difficult journey, but it has also taught me valuable lessons about the importance of taking care of my health and well-being, alongside a few other things, but that’s a topic for another day.

I hope that my story will inspire you to take steps to protect your hearing, and to avoid exposing yourself to loud noises that can cause permanent hearing damage.