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Have you ever had a song stuck in your head that you can't get rid of?
Think sitcom theme songs like the Cheers tune “where everyone knows your name”.
Well, it’s called an “earworm,” and it occurs after listening to a catchy piece of music until the tune is stuck in your head.
Albeit annoying at times, these are not all bad. Studies show that the more often a tune plays in a person’s head, the more accurate the memory is for the tune, and a person can remember more details about the experience or situation associated with the song.
So what causes a particular passage of music to stick in one’s mind almost obsessively?
According to research by Kelly Jakubowski from Durham University, there are four primary triggers for earworms:
Emotions. You are more likely to get sad songs stuck in your head when you feel sad. But also happy songs when you are happy.
Memories. You may associate a particular place or action (such as brushing your teeth) with a song, causing it to return as an earworm when you next perform that action or visit it.
Recency. You are more likely to get a song stuck in your head when you have just heard it.
Low cognitive load. People are more likely to get earworms when their minds aren't occupied doing anything else.
Opera singers are often plagued with earworms of the music they learn or perform.
I don’t want to ruin your day, but here is a handful of mine:
“Mi par d’esser con la testa”, Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia
🎧 Listening Example: (5 minute listen): “Mi par d’esser con la testa” from Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, Ferruccio Furlanetto, Maria Ewing, John Rawnsley, Claudio Desderi, and Catherine McCorde, Glyndebourne Festival Opera, 1981
“Flower Duet”, Léo Delibes Lakmé
🎧 Listening Example: (4 minute listen): Soprano Sabine Devieilhe and Mezzo-soprano Marianne Crebassa singing the “Flower Duet” from Act I of Léo Delibes’ Lakmé, 2017. It is sung by the characters Lakmé and Mallika as they go to gather flowers by a river.
“La donna è mobile”, Verdi’s Rigoletto
🎧 Listening Example: (3 minute listen): Tenor Luciano Pavarotti singing “La donna è mobile”, Verdi’s Rigoletto, 1964
“Là ci darem la mano”, Mozart’s Don Giovanni
🎧 Listening Example: (3 minute listen): Tenor Rodney Gilfry and Soprano Liliana Nikiteanu singing “Là ci darem la mano”, Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Royal Alcazar Palace, Sevilla
Do you have an operatic earworm you’d like to share?
Leave it in the comments!
Thank you for reading (and listening),
PS. If you missed last week’s selection, we featured the man who brought opera to 80 million living rooms and also chatted mid-week about why opera isn’t as popular as it used to be (I would love your take if you haven’t weighed in yet)
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