Wednesday, June 13, 2018

"I Won't Go, Go, Go"

At the moment, the song "Rehab" by Amy Winehouse is stuck in my head, not the whole song, but just the chorus. It's not there all the time. For instance, it goes away when I'm speaking or right now as I'm typing these words, but the moment I stop using my brain, there it is: "They tried to make me go to rehab/I said no, no, no . . ."

I reckon at one time or another everyone is plagued by one of these "sticky" songs or "earworms," but I sometimes wonder if maybe those of us in early childhood are more prone. I'm traveling right now and haven't been around the kids for a couple weeks, but during the school year, more often than not, the song that's going around and around in my head is one from the classroom. 

Researchers have studied the phenomenon and it's real. It seems that our auditory cortex tends to keep singing certain songs after their finished, resulting in what some refer to as an "auditory itch" and the only way scratch it is to keep singing it over and over. There are many theories about why this happens, including obsessive-compulsive tendencies or stress or tiredness. Some have found that musically-incline people are more prone to earworms, while others link it to the songs themselves, some of which appear to be more parasitic than others. Maybe it's just a way to keep our brains busy during down moments. No one knows for sure, but some 99 percent of us have experienced it and it can be maddening.

I sometimes wonder about the evolutionary purpose of this phenomenon. I mean, it could just be a side-effect or the vestige of something human's no longer need, like our little toes which I've read are getting smaller with each passing generation or our appendix which is useless except for filling up emergency rooms when they swell and burst. I wonder if other animals experience a similar thing: do birds, for instance, get their songs stuck in their heads or is it unique to us? We could blame the modern world and the fact that recorded music somehow causes it, but then how do you explain similar stories about Schumann and Mozart, classic music composures who lived long before the advent of recorded music? 

I often think that it must somehow be connected to how our brains learn. That is certainly something we see around the classroom. Most children learn their A-B-C's through a song, for instance, but that example has more to do with memorization than actual learning. That said, I have learned things from songs, but then again, that usually has more to do with the lyrics than the melody, rhythm, or harmony. 

I figured that by the time I got to this point in the post, I'd have a working theory, but I don't. The reason that humans do this remains a mystery, but that's hardly the point. The point isn't always to answer our questions, but rather to wonder, because if there is an answer that's the only way we have ever found it. Nevertheless, I thank you for reading because writing this has occupied my brain, taking up the space that was previously full of Amy Winehouse.,

And now I'm at the end and there she is again, singing that she won't "go, go, go."

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