December 2014 Deanery

by Dean Kari Miller

Have you ever had an earworm?  Chances are the answer is yes. In case you are unfamiliar with the term, an earworm is a piece of music, or a fragment of a piece of music, that gets ‘stuck’ in one’s head, repeating in an endless loop. According to researchers, a whop- ping 99% of people say they have experienced earworms, with musicians, women and neurotic, tired or stressed-out people being most at risk. There is no sure-fire cure for an earworm. While the earworm will crawl out on its own eventually, some people try to drive out a persistent or undesirable earworm by either distracting the brain with anything from anagrams or mathematical problems to a juicy novel, or simply replacing it with another earworm. This last tactic is relatively safe, since the researchers also tell us that only 15% of earworms are actually described as unpleasant. More than half appear to be pleas- ant and about 30% are neutral.

The holiday season would seem to be a particularly dangerous time for contracting an earworm. Wherever one goes, one is met by cheerful, familiar, feel-good music. Like everybody else, I find this constant assault on my eardrums annoying, but I do seem to have developed immunity to many of the more blatant earworm candidates; I can listen to “Carol of the Bells,”“White Christmas,” and even “The Twelve Days of Christmas” without suffering any ill effects. “Silver Bells” leaves me untouched. But we all have our weaknesses, I suppose, and give me the slightest hint of “See, Amid the Winter’s Snow” (John Goss) and I succumb, usually for days. (Sometimes the morning weather report alone is enough to set this particular earworm singing!) That third measure, with its unexpected ascending third, immediately transports me to a magical place transfigured by a blanket of the softest, sweetest, happiest snow. The world is quiet, expectant, joyful and serene. I exaggerate only slightly; it’s the most peaceful earworm ever, and a potent demonstration of the mood-altering power of a lovely phrase. Everyone should have an earworm so pleasant!

I leave you with my very best wishes for a splendid holiday season, and this little lyric [below], which may be sung to the tune of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

I hope you enjoy it – but don’t let it get stuck in your head!

Have yourself a merry little earworm,

sing it o’er and o’er,

From now on the melody will really soar.

Have yourself a merry little earworm,

playing night and day,

From now on that blessèd tune is here to stay.

I keep trying to clear my mind, leave it all behind,

but then, Catchy phrases are seized upon, and drone on and on again.

One more time the song will be repeated, it won’t stop no how,

Sing along, don’t put a wrinkle on your brow,

And have yourself a merry little earworm now.