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When music turns torturous

When music turns torturous

Posted By Sunny Lockwood

I woke up the other day with a song flowing its beautiful way through my mind. It’s a favorite: What Are You Doing The Rest of Your Life?

One of my favorite singers, Julius La Rosa, sings a great rendition on YouTube. (In fact, you can listen to him if you go to YouTube videos and type in Julius La Rosa 1989, and then search the thumbnails for the song title. It’s one of a medley he sings. Each song in the medley is good, but this one’s my favorite).

So the music was filling me and I lay there thinking of the sensitive lyrics:

       What are you doing the rest of your life

       North and south and east and west of your life

       I have only one request of your life

      That you spend it all with me

And I could just hear Julius La Rosa’s full, rich baritone making every sentiment vibrate with sincerity.

Later, as I ate breakfast with Sweetheart Al, the song was still playing in my head. And as we headed for the bookstore, it repeated again…. and again…and again.

And instead of being the pleasant song I love so much, it became more than irritating. I simply could not get it out of my head.

I had what’s called an "earworm," a portion of a song (or jingle or other music) that repeats compulsively within one’s mind.

It’s like a broken record that you can’t turn off. The song eventually stopped, but while it was playing over and over and over, it drove me nuts.

So I did a little research on the net to see what folks suggest for stopping earworms. The most interesting suggestions I found included listening to complex music like Mozart (to sort of de-rail the brain). If that doesn’t work, the suggestion was to sing the song all the way through or listen to it in its entirety. That will give your brain a sense of completion. The idea is that the brain likes patterns and by completing the song, the brain’s pattern need is satisfied.

I called my cousin, Sharon Stohrer, who had a career as an operatic soprano and who has long been a vocal instructor. She said when she gets an earworm, she sings the song that’s stuck in her head all the way through from beginning to end. That usually takes care of the problem. But not always. Sometimes she just has to endure until the brain itself tires of the repeating melody and stops the music.

She said, "Even Oliver Sacks, the neurologist who wrote the book Musicophilia, Tales of Music and the Brain, can’t offer a solution."

However, my brother Pete McLeod, (magician, musician and comic) said he had the perfect solution to any earworm.

"Just start singing ‘It’s a small world after all,’ and you won’t have any problem with your original earworm," he said.

So…there you have it, three suggestions for the next time you have a song in your head you can’t stop. Hope they’re helpful.


Read more of my work at sunnylockwood.com

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