The other day I had a snippet of song stuck in my head. I couldn’t remember where it came from, and I couldn’t sing it well enough to have my husband help me. Much later, I remembered it was from a movie preview we had seen the night before. Those snippets of music are called ear worms. They can make you
crazy or inspire you. Because music is not something I understand well, I’m turning this post over to my husband, a personal chef and a great lover of music. He has experienced the joy and annoyance of ear worms. Here’s his take on that music scrap that sticks in your brain:
“…Someone saved my life tonight, sugabearrrrrrrr…”
Ear worms. I get them, often. Daily sometimes. They can drive me and those around me nuts. Or, on a day when I can roll down the car windows, turn the volume up to an absurdly high level, and let loose with the worm du jour, phrasing the lyrics just so and bending that note in the middle exactly the way it should be bent, provide me with intense satisfaction.
“…I knowwwwwwwwww we’ll love aggggainnnnnnnnnn….maybe tomorrrrrrrow, maybe tomorrrrrrrrrrrrrrroowwwwwwwww…”
It’s not noise, it’s sound. It stands up as a whole. Four short, perfect notes from a lap steel, the break in “Something in the Way She Moves”, or the sound of change in a vending machine in Joni Mitchell’s “Empty, Try Another”, having no other reason to be in my head except for the unique staying power of each.
“…You’d better commmmme in my kitchen, cuz it’s boun’ to be rainin’ outsiiiiiiiiiiiiide…”
My love my ear worms. I own ‘em. I’ll wake and sit on the side of my bed trying to focus, to find the voice of a Gwen Stefani or a Ry Cooder in my head, already up and raring to go. Or, the opening to “Cracked Actor” on David Bowie’s “Live at the Tower”, the one with David Sanborn on sax and Earl Slick on lead, doing its damnedest to get me to go vocal, even in a crowded room. Dwayne Allman’s classic opening to “Statesboro Blues” makes me whistle every time. Literally. Including in the elevator and grocery market. Location doesn’t matter, only the sound matters. (Ok, if I’m in say, a stairwell or a men’s room with tiled walls, both of which offer perfect acoustics, I’m letting it fly for certain). It’s in and it’s coming out.
“…Fair Mexican maidens play gitarrres and sing, songs about Billy, their boyyyyy-bandit king…”
Anything could be the source. My folks are Sinatra and big band fans, so it’s the music of my childhood. “Fly Me To The Moon” is just as likely to make an appearance as “I Wanna Be Sedated”. The soundtrack to the TV show “ER” has been known to stay with me for days. Background noise, rhythms, squawks, clanks – seemingly, if it has a beat, it’s there. Or can be.
If I’m lucky, those around me will be kind or at least tolerant, amused even. I’m no fun to be around on an afternoon drive when I’m in the clutches of a worm, I admit that. Still, I have to think that someone listening might wonder what the connection from one worm to the next might be, and where it came from; that I can’t be the only one enjoying the affliction.
“…I’m gonn dooo bad thaaangs with yoooooooooooooooouuuu…”
—Quinn McDonald is a writer and life- and creativity coach. She owns QuinnCreative, a company that offers training seminars and workshops in journal writing.