(Hat tip to BoingBoing)
Earworms are those annoying songs that can’t get out of your head. A more technical name for this phenomenon is Involuntary Musical Imagery (INMI).
A recent paper in Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts investigates the common melodic features of earworms:
The results of the present work indicate that features of a song’s
melodic structure, as well as measures of its popularity and recency,
can be useful in predicting whether a song becomes INMI.
These findings contribute to the growing literature on the INMI
experience and serve to increase our general understanding of why
certain songs are spontaneously recalled in the mind over others.
In sum, tunes that become INMI tend to be faster in tempo than
non-INMI tunes. If the melodic contour shape of a melody is
highly congruent with established norms, then it is more likely for
the tune to become INMI. If the melodic contour does not conform
with norms, then it should have a highly unusual pattern of contour
rises and falls to become an INMI tune.
The paper includes this helpful list of the most common earworms:
(1) “Bad Romance,” Lady Gaga
(2) “Can’t Get You Out of My Head,” Kylie Minogue
(3) “Don’t Stop Believing,” Journey
(4) “Somebody That I Used to Know,” Gotye
(5) “Moves Like Jagger,” Maroon
(6) “California Gurls,” Katy Perry
(7) “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Queen
(8) “Alejandro,” Lady Gaga
(9) “Poker Face,” Lady Gaga
Today’s Google Doodle reminds me that today is the birthday of the incomparable Indian sitar master Ravi Shankar:
‘Today we celebrate Pandit Ravi Shankar, who was born 96 years ago today. Shankar evangelized the use of Indian instruments in Western music, introducing the atmospheric hum of the sitar to audiences worldwide. He performed frequently with the violinist Yehudi Menuhin, and composed a concerto with sitar for the London Symphony Orchestra. Shankar also taught George Harrison of the Beatles how to play the sitar, and widely influenced popular music in the 1960s and 70s.
Shankar’s music popularized the fundamentals of Indian music, including raga, a melodic form. Raga, as Shankar explained, has “its own peculiar ascending and descending movement consisting of either a full seven-note octave, or a series of six or five notes in a rising or falling structure.” The distinctive character of Shankar’s compositions attracted the attention of composer Philip Glass, with whom Shankar wrote the 1990 album Passages.’
Here is some amazing footage of his performance at Woodstock.
I often find books by creative people disappointing. Strangely, those who excel in their work often seem inarticulate when it comes to explaining their own genius. For me, Charlie Chaplin is the paradigmatic case. An incomparable genius on the screen, yet his autobiography gives little insight into his talent.
But this is not the case with Words Without Music by Philip Glass. His account of his development as a musician is fascinating. I only wish I knew more about music and music theory. I was particularly interested in his encounters with yoga and Indian music.