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Musical Illusions and Phantom WordsHow Music and Speech Unlock Mysteries of the Brain$
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Diana Deutsch

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190206833

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190206833.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 08 December 2021

Catchy Music and Earworms

Catchy Music and Earworms

(p.116) 8 Catchy Music and Earworms
Musical Illusions and Phantom Words

Diana Deutsch

Oxford University Press

Chapter 8 begins with “stuck tunes” or “earworms,” a malady that strikes most people at times: A tune or other musical fragment bores deep into our heads and replays itself over and over, sometimes for hours, days, or even weeks. It is argued that the present epidemic of earworms is partly due to background music being heard everywhere, and to people listening to music fairly continuously over their radios, televisions, iPods, and other devices. This constant exposure to music could sensitize our music processing systems so strongly that they tend to fire spontaneously. Several famous musicians have publically decried the ubiquity of background music, arguing that it debases our musical experience. In the past, all music was sung or played live, and in certain venues such as churches, concert and dance halls, or at special events such as birthday and wedding celebrations. Another source of earworms may be the frequent repetition of phrases within a song, a device that is now extremely common in popular music. The popularity of a song based on sales, radio play, and online streaming increases with the amount of repetition within the song. The tendency for music to get stuck in our heads makes it ideal for radio and TV advertisements—a catchy tune can turn into an earworm, and carry the name of the product along with it.

Keywords:   catchy tune, earworm, fMRI, recording technology, looping, repetition, processing fluency, movie, advertising jingles, media

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