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What purpose does an earworm serve?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 22 Oct 2012, 21:53

Today BBC Radio 4 treated us to some insights on the 'earworm'


Fig. 1 Shaun Keaveny on earworms - today, BBC Radio 4

'Earworm' is a loan translation of the German Ohrwurm - it is a portion of a song or other music that repeats compulsively within one's mind, put colloquially as "music being stuck in one's head." Wikipedia

Getting stuff to stick in your head for learning is useful. Use the idea in revision. Hum the tune in your head during an exam.

There are dozens of songs that I will forever associate with a person, place or mood.

Where the ear worm isn't lodged I have tracks that I know will evoke the time and place, just as a time or place will set the music off.

Various examples are given of that tune you can't get out of your head, triggered like all memories by a siteor smell, thought or mood - then stuck. Not just a tune that is getting airplay, but obscure soundscapes from your past. A lecture in psychology from Goldsmith's London shares ideas gleaned from three studies. Powerful stuff.

In relation to learning I'd suggest using an ident and a sting.

Have an opening theme that is repeated - library music serves its purpose though professionally composed music is pretty good too and far less expensive if you know who to ask such as new comers to the industry with unrecognised talent.

Associations are changed - for me Ian Dury was me and Carolyn B and 'Storm's' house when I was fifteen, now it is Peter Cook outside Dingwall's Camden, some thirty years later.

I heard Johnny Cash performing 'Hurt' exactly two years ago (Johnny Vegas on Desert Island Discs) and now have the tune lodged in my head. And the sheet music downloaded so that I can sing it.

With a piece of video you can set the tempo with a 'click track' against which you then cut. Either a composer comes up with music against this tempo or you find something that fits.

As a director the choice is what you consider professionally to fit - but how about in a learning context you encourage students to lay in their own track of music? Synchronised with the click-track might it be more powerfully remembered as a result?

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'Hurt' is an 'ear-worm' or 'ohrwurm'

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 2 Nov 2014, 17:31

This has nothing to do with a personal desire to self-harm, being a reformed alcoholic or druggie, nor even being maudlin, but I heard Johnny Cash performing 'Hurt' a few days ago (Johnny Vegas on Desert Island Discs) and now have the tune lodged in my head. I think, from the German, this is an 'ear-worm.'

(Earworm, a loan translation of the German Ohrwurm,[1] is a portion of a song or other music that repeats compulsively within one's mind, put colloquially as "music being stuck in one's head." ) Wikipedia.


A few moving YouTube clips, then I'm off to MusicNotes to download the sheet music. This tool is magic, it plays the tune karoake style and allows you to transpose the song at a click of a button. As a result after six months not touching the thing my guitar is having an outing and the pads of my fingers on my left hand are burning. (Metal stringed acoustic guitar). Finger-nails on my right hand suitably long and ready for action. Its a three-chord song. To get it exactly right another website runs through the precise order to pluck the strings. It'll take a little while to crack, as I'm rusty, but I'll do it. I love to relax this way.

Are the pads of my finger-tips getting fatter? I've never had such a problem keeping them on one string before. I may have to turn to a cat-gut strung classical guitar with a wider bridge.

Ho hum. Hum.

Alternatively I can ditch the guitar and get a friend who used to be a professional musician to play his. Team work. Theme of the week.



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