Monday, February 19, 2007

earworms

A couple of weeks ago, while driving to Amy's house for book club, I heard a fascinating show on NPR about music. The thing that jumped out at me the most was the term "earworms". Gross name, I know, but a very interesting topic.

Apparently earworm is the official name for a song that gets stuck in your head. More accurately, it's a portion of a song that gets stuck in your head -- the expert on the show said that it is most often a short segment of a song that usually has a very simple tune and/or is repetitive. I'm guessing that creating an earworm is the pinnacle of an advertising firm's career!

Marc happened to catch the same show, and when we were discussing it, the boys overheard and joined in the conversation. It was fun to compare notes on our individual earworms. Lucas's most persistent one is a song from the most recent Willy Wonka movie.

Here are just a few of mine:

theme song from The Wonder Pets
several little ditties from Sesame Street
theme song from Blue's Clues
theme song from Dora
theme song from Go, Diego, Go!
several songs from Wii games
(gee, can you tell what my musical influences are these days?)

A couple of other interesting points that I caught: the guest was talking about the special camaraderie that forms when you play music with other people -- so true! It's like the best kind of teamwork or collaboration. He compared it to being on a sports team, only without the competition. I had never thought of it in those terms before. No wonder I love making music!

He also mentioned that often people have what he called a "personal tempo". This would dictate your walking pace, your affinity to certain styles of music, possibly even which earworms wiggle their way into your brain!

Oh, and another thing! He said that any Sting song is a good earworm antidote because they are so catchy. (Of course, then they might turn into earworms...)

So I'm curious: what are your earworms? Other thoughts?

21 comments:

amanda said...

That term sounds gross. But, I understand!!! My husband thinks it is funny to get songs started and stuck in my head! Thankfully nothing is there right now (but air, ha ha)

Liz said...

This is such an interesting topic! Thank you for posting about it. I always have little bits and pieces of songs floating through my mind. Right now, it is usually music that I have been working on for musical numbers. The term earworm is kind of a gross one though!

melanie said...

Jane did a post on this awhile back, maybe she heard the same talk. I have a serious problem with earworms. Almost any song can get stuck in my head, church, radio, tv, I don't discriminate. Right now it happens to be Rascal Flatts 'Life is a Highway' from the movie Cars. Nathan sings it all the time! I guess it could be my own fault since I bought the songs off iTunes.

When my kids were into Wonder Pets it would stay in my head all day! It got quite annoying.

Amy said...

Oh, the theme from the Wonder Pets! Yeah, I can relate. A few others of mine are the song "Secret Agents" from Backyardigans, the song fromPinky Dinky Doo (Noggin), the theme song from "Make Way for Noddy (PBS Kids Sprout), and "Untitled" by The Wailin' Jennys--all of which are Kaitlin's current favorites. I don't get to listen to enough of my own music to get anything stuck in my head. I think our musical influences are pretty similar.

TX Girl said...

I have WONDER PETS in my mind all the time. I find myself singing it while I'm doing chores.

Thank you Amy H- Backyardigans. My new friends. I love the race around the world song.

I also find myself humming the songs Lulu learns at school, which is entertaining, since she goes to a Presbyterian school.

I'm also regularly singing Snow Patrol- Chasing Cars. Boy do I wish I could get that song out of my head. Only because I think about poor dead Denny from Grey's Anatomy and Izzie crying in her beautiful prom dress.

Kelly said...

Oh, I love this post. I get songs stuck in my head all the time, but I've never heard the term earworms. We often have family conversations about what song is in our heads.

I am with you on the "Wonder Pets". I get that in my head a lot along with some song from Dora about chocolate, and "I Love Being a Princess" from the Backyardigans. And, lately I have Bach's Minuet in G on repeat in my head because my daughter is preparing for a Baroque piano festival -- that one is more enjoyable than the Nick Jr. assortment. I rejoice when I get a song I actually like stuck in there. It's rare!

amy m said...

I get songs stuck in my head all the time, but they are pretty random. I do hear backyardigans and wonder pets a lot. Drives me crazy, at least it could be something good. So interesting that it's called earworms. BTW i love npr

Kristi Brooke said...

hot dog, hot dog, hot diggity dog, hot dog, hot dog, hot diggity dog... every single day!

michelle you are such a great writer.. loved this post. i am just laughing at the wonderpets... how do i get that song out of my head!

Elisa said...

I heard this show too, Darin and I talked about it for hours. I laughed when the guy said that if you get an ear worm you can listen to anything by Sting and that will replace it instead.

I love it that you and your husband have such interesting conversations and your kids can join it. I hope my little family can be like that someday.
Lets see, my ear worms would be anything from Laurie Barkner. Her children's songs are great but I tend to get silly phrases like "B-O-O-T-S, black boots!" blaring in my mind forever.

Kristi Brooke said...

oh ya, and sometime i should post about what jeff has found in people's ears and in their nose, it would really sick you out.

Elisa said...

Oh I just read Kristi's quote...YES the hotdog song! My nephew thinks its my favorite song because I sing it all the time.

Alison said...

I just saw Music and Lyrics (the new Hugh Grant/ Drew Barrymore movie) and that whole movie is an earworm! "I've been living with a shadow overhead..." I also get parts of the musical "Spring Awakening" stuck in my head (specifically the "I Don't Do Sadness" song.)

Susan said...

I wrote a post on this also, way back in August. I have so many ear worms, all of them cartoon diddies. If you would like to read it the address is http://unclutteringapyle.typepad.com/pyles_of_clutter/2006/08/thirteen_thursd.html

Tasha said...

That Wonder Pets song FOR SURE! The theme music to Charlie and Lola as of late, it isn't even a song, just music. Dave said he was humming it in the OR and someone asked him what he was singing. He matter-of-factly stated "Charlie& Lola" like they were Syd and Nancy or something, and not a Playhouse Disney cartoon!

jenn said...

Well, my personal tempo is fast! And I do like music I can dance to...

I can't wait to ask Kelly if he heard this- he knows the most random stuff and is a big fan of NPR...

I have no idea what Wonder Pets is. If the theme is that big an ear worm, I think I'm glad...

I can't name any common ones right now. When I do, I'll have to write them down for a scrap book page...

Another great reason to be a Sting fan!

Claudissima said...

oh my how interesting...I can totally relate to the Wonder Pets...and Pinky Dinky Doo and that song that TAsha from the backyardigans sings...when she is the egyptian queen...I want.....something....it is always stuck in my head! among MANY OTHERS>>>>

Jill said...

I think the word earworm is heinous, but I guess it's nice to have a name for this phenomenon. Of course, I'm drawing a total blank right now, but it seems like most of my days are filled with songs I can't get out of my head. One interesting thing for me is that whatever music I listen to first in the morning always plays in my head during the night. Bizarre.

lelly said...

the hampster dance (which is super annoying, because there are no words!), and today (thank you!) it's now "willie wonka! willie wonka!"

(as i walk through fields of gold...)

rebecca said...

Earworms? Reminds me of the babblefish from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Whatever song I finish my run to I sing while in the shower, and it stays in my head until I turn on the music in my kitchen. Then I shift off to new tunes.
So interesting, fun to think about!

Amie said...

Interesting, I was a little creeped out by the title but interesting post. I wonder if at different times we are more "susceptible" - I can't think of any recent earworms but other times it seems like I can't get them out of my head for days at a time.

Crystalyn said...

interesting! i totally agree that each of us has a personal tempo. and i am drawn to music because of how it makes me feel. i am sometimes disappointed when i learn all of the lyrics. i have had times when i have listened to a song and then wake up the next morning with a line running its way through my head over and over and over again. earworms indeed!

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