Earworms

I had not suffered an earworm for quite a while. I don’t know why this is but I have been grateful for it. Then, while browsing the web last night I stumbled across a youtube video of a couple of girls (twins, in fact) playing Stairway to Heaven on harps for some unbelievable reason. Not since disgraced Aussie entertainer Rolf Harris released his version with a bleedin’ wobble board have I been so appalled. Yes, I know they play their harps beautifully but there are some things that simply should not be done. And tampering with Led Zeppelin’s STH is one of them. Anyhow, that being said. I have now had that great rock classic buzzing around in my head all day. Thankfully, it is Jimmy Page’s ‘58 Telecaster version and not harps!

Last time this happened to me for a week or so it was to Pink Floyd’s, Shine on you Crazy Diamond. At least that time it inspired me to create some artwork based on the arpeggiated chord that became know as “Syd’s Theme.”

160227_SteelBreeze

This time, it only lasted a few hours.

So, what is an earworm?

Apparently the odd word is an Anglicization of the German “Ohrwurm” which, ironically, has nothing to do with the phenomenon and refers rather to the ancient practice of treating ear diseases by using ground up pieces of the insect we commonly call earwigs!

Very strange indeed.

The modern earworm simply refers to the phenomenon when you cannot get a tune out of your head or, more usually, a particular musical phrase. Interestingly there appears to be no definitive consensus of how or why this happens. Personally, I think it may be linked to human’s innate pattern processing that has evolved for our survival, perhaps akin, though totally unlinked, to pareidolia that I touched on in an earlier post. Most times the earworm will go away on its own, but it can also be replaced by other music or even by engaging the brain’s working memory in moderately difficult logic puzzles such as anagrams or sudoku, which seem to “wipe the biological RAM” so to speak.

In my case creating some art in GIMP did the job, and was a productive exercise too!

Now for the statistics: apparently 98% of us will experience these at some time, so be warned, and let’s hope it’s a great song at least!

~Richard

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