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Random thoughts, settings, characters, situations, perhaps leading somewhere

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Earworms

I have been recording earworms, the songs that get stuck in your head, for quite some time now. I used to do this under the @EdwardSemblance twitter handle, but have since decided to start a new handle, @FreshEarworms, for the purpose.

Soon I will be publishing a comprehensive list of all the earworms that have appeared under @EdwardSemblance. At present, I only have a list up to Summer of 2016. It is available as a PDF here: Earworms 2012-2016.  The introduction to this PDF is reproduced below.

WELCOME TO THE EARWORM DIARIES

These diaries are not complete nor comprehensive. There is no physical way to record every snatch of song that pops into one’s head, at least not while actually attempting to live a normal life, as far as an artist’s life goes. However, one would probably not label every snatch of song that pops into one head as an earworm, anyway. An earworm is a persistent snatch, a little piece of melody that starts up and then doesn’t stop for a good about of time. One of the filtering mechanisms that helps with this project is duration: does the song stay resident until such time as I can record its presence? If it does, then it probably deserves the label earworm.

SOME NOTES ABOUT THE EXPERIENCE OF KEEPING SUCH A DIARY

Smartphones make this possible. Not just as a useful recording device: I could do that just as easily with a pad and pencil. But more often than not, the earworm does not present at the beginning of the song, or at a convenient chorus, or anywhere that might be helpful in identifying it. It’s simply a familiar song, one I’ve heard before, but what is its name?

Google — and all those lyrics database clickwhore sites — is very helpful in serving up possible answers to snatches of lyrics. Sometimes I was able to put a name to a song that I’d heard decades ago as a child and never knew what it was called. The sites that can identify songs from snatches of sung melody — particularly and by far most especially midori.com — were also indispensible for identifying classical songs that don’t have any lyrics to search for.

Another specific reason for the importance of the song ID is the song authorship. There might be multiple songs by the same name, so singling out the proper one is important. But just as important is identifying the songwriter responsible for crafting the lyric or the melody that qualified as an earworm in the first place. And sometimes the person who wrote it or performed it was not the person you had assumed all along.

One thing to note: an earworm is not an endorsement. These are not a “favorites” set-list. This is a sonic call-and-response from my subconscious, my auditory processing areas, and my language centers. Many of these songs would warrant an immediate change in station if one came on the radio. One of the reasons I started coding the earworms was because I was surprised to find that most earworms seemed to be coming from contextual suggestions or descriptive phrases in my immediate environment, not through actual hearing or musical similarity to an earlier earworm. I also wanted some way of flagging to (any) followers of this feed that good Lord, no, I don’t actually like that song!