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.”

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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

The Day the Music Died – National Signing Day

I was in the gym this morning and thinking about what I could use a subject for today’s blog entry when one of the wall screens showed a conference taking place with the banner “National Signing Day” in the background. Being a non-sporting type of guy I was intrigued so, after my workout, I toddled off to the trusty old interweb and “ran a search” as we used to say, in the pre-googly days of dial up.

Now I don’t really have much to say about National Signing Day, or football in general, but I thought it would be great to turn this into a pun about National Singing Day, perhaps (see what I did there?). A quick bit of research showed that, along with all the sad misspellings commemorating today’s “big event” on twitter, there is some limited consensus that a National Singing Day exists (or rather A Sing Up Day) today too!

However, and much more poignantly, I also uncovered that today, February 3rd, is also noted as “The Day the Music Died” since it memorializes the dreadful plane crash in 1959 that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, and their pilot, Roger Peterson near Clear Lake, Iowa.

For my younger readers (!), the phrase comes from Don McLeans’s classic song American Pie, first released in 1971, but it has now become part of American musical folklore.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that Holly, Valens and “Big Bopper” were early players in a youth culture shift that shaped the attitudes of the western world forever. They moved the focus of the old, staid world towards a more upbeat, positive, freer society that, in turn, paved the way for myriad positive societal changes throughout the US and beyond. Through the medium of music, and showmanship they showed the youth of the era that change could happen from the ground up.

Now, nearly 60 years later, I wonder if some of that spark has been lost as we have succumbed totally to the material nature of the modern world. It seems to me that the youth of today are more obsessed with plastic celebrity than raw talent; being force fed conformity through technology and the fear of making mistakes I wonder if they (and we) have lost something.

Perhaps it is time for those free spirits to be re-kindled and for me to bring up my homage to the simple instruction kit that was used in the 1977 Sniffin’ Glue fanzine some 18 years after The Day the Music Died to inspire the birth of the “punk” movement, and encourage the then disenfranchised kids to pick up a guitar and form a band.

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Rock on, kids!

~Richard

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