Hi, I'm Clara. I'm a music critic, and on Sunday 12th June, I tore my eardrum.

On Tuesday night, I rang my Dad. I've lived away from home for five years, but I'm still on the family virgin mobile package so I needed to ask him for the collective account passcode so I could log in and retrieve a picture message that had been impounded there. Apparently, the image was made up of 'peculiar dimensions' so couldn't be opened on my phone screen. I was excited, imagining a picture that would blow the glass of my phone screen into some manner of glimmering geodesic dome. When I made it into the Heathcock family impounded images file, it turned out just to be a flat picture of a dog that my friend had texted me because "it has the same hairdo as you!!." Digging revealed that the only thing that was 'peculiar' about it was its beefy megabyte count. Since when were image sizing issues referred to as having 'peculiar dimensions'? Virgin must have a new, bored, copywriter. I'm enjoying their work.

While we were talking, my Dad stopped to ask me how my ear was doing. I feel safe to be dramatic with my parents in a way I never am with my friends, so I treated him to a bracing description of how I had forgotten to take my painkillers into work with me and thus had spent the day feeling like my cheekbones were made of thin sheet metal that had been placed on top of a rippling pool. In a moment of self-awareness, I decided to counterbalance by also dropping in the perforated eardrum positive that I have started to write this column.

He was quiet, then replied, "but do you like music though?". After my stilted, "Well.. yes?" answer, he was quick to clarify, likely fearing he'd put himself in the doghouse: "yeah, yeah, no no, I know you like music obviously, you were always having me download things for you on your player when you were in the sixth form, I'm just saying that when I listened to them they always seemed like they were about the words."

I was horrified. In the past few years, I have gradually found myself able to talk about music in a way that feels authentic to me. In sixth form, I was painfully shy about what I listened to. I recall how I agonised about what to have as my profile song in the days of MySpace. Music then was a way to categorise; goth or punk or funny-sexy-normal. I didn't feel like anything. The thought of tentative-about-joining-in-with-the-world at all 16-year-old me having the songs I had to have my Dad download as I didn't have a PayPal account listened to would've distressed me then, and still gives me a sympathy pang for past-me now. He did it because he wanted to know me, and that's sweet, but I didn't then want to be known, so it's also painful.

Having allowed time to digest the image of my Dad sat in a swivel chair reading the note I'd left on a scrap of paper underneath two pound coins by the family computer saying that I would like him to fetch me 'In Too Deep' by Sum 41, then actually listening to 'In Too Deep' by Sum 41, I started to think about what he'd said. Was it true that I only enjoy music for words? I've long had a fear that I have some kind of inherent lack when it comes to musicality. I can't read music, I'm a tuneless singer. I've never studied it academically at all so I don't know a lot of sound's traditional language. I once had a conversation with a boy at school who was incredulous that I couldn't pass his pop quiz about whether a note in a song was higher or lower than the note before: "for gods sake just imagine a balloon while you listen, think, is it inflating or deflating." I was moved to tears with self-frustration that my balloon stayed static.

Of course, it's wonderful to enjoy words – I'm gladdened that I've always been able to. That doesn't change my distress at the idea that there's an additional space that I can't access. The one that's there for people who can appreciate what my Dad calls "music", not just regular "music".

I thought about the music I listened to as an adolescent. There was a lot of lo-fi Kimya Dawson-esque anti-folk in there. The Mountain Goats and Watsky and early Bright Eyes. Then I remembered Elliott Smith. For my 18th birthday, I asked for all 6 of his albums as my main present, and my Dad bought me them wrapped in a purple ribbon. Where to start. Elliott Smith. Elliott Smith is exquisite. To listen, to be listening to Elliott Smith now. Can you imagine? I want it so bad. This BLOODY ear.

As has probably come across by this point, I was not an especially happy or well-adjusted teenager. It is hard to summon up again the strength of the feeling I had the first time I heard noise that felt consonant with me, when I so often felt myself dissonant with my surroundings. Elliott Smith songs are high-pitched and strange, especially those from my favourite album of his, From a Basement On A Hill. Oh my God, the craft in the swoopy dissonance on 'Kings Crossing' that almost teeters into discomfort then doesn't. I think of Elliott in the studio he built himself so as to control the sound quality, making all those sweet little dissonant trills, and of me taking long walks through Birmingham with my headphones on, listening and feeling like there was something crystalline on the inside of my ear that was just now starting to crack open like an egg.

Before I found Elliott Smith, maybe I was just listening to songs and paying attention to poems. After – that additional space my Dad spoke of - I know that it was mine.