Dear Musician – Involuntary Musical Imagery
By Dendy Jarrett | (edited)
It seems this happens to everyone from time to time...you know...when that song gets stuck in your head…sometimes for days at a time!
You try to shake it by introducing a distraction to your routine, but it doesn’t seem to help most of the time. This can be especially frustrating if you are a musician—honestly, enough to drive you almost insane.
There are terms for this phenomenon: brainworm, sticky music, stuck song syndrome, earworm, or the scientific term – Involuntary Musical Imagery (IMI).
Believe it or not, this is a widely studied occurrence. There are true areas of science (mostly centered around music psychology) that focus on this. Biomusicology, cognitive musicology, cognitive neuroscience of music, evolutionary musicology and psychoacoustics are just a few of these.
As much as this can drive the normal person (and especially a musician) crazy, there are people experiencing this who have real disorders like auditory arrhythmia, musical hallucinations, musician’s dystonia, and others.
By and large, however, this is just one of those situations in which you may hear a catchy melody or lyric line and it crawls in your head and just likes to live there. It can even be so severe that you go to sleep hearing the song and then wake hoping it is gone; yet, there it plays again – over and over in your head.
As for me, I try to turn it into a positive. I walk with the cadence of the song, or use it to pace a project, or I’ll pick up my instrument and start focusing on something else to take the tune away from the forefront of my mind.
The good news is that, for many, it helps you ingrain a song in your head. If you are a musician and play regularly, this may be a good thing if you are adding a song to your repertoire.
As fellow musicians, I’m certain you can relate. Take it as an opportunity to go make better music. We realize, however, that the insanity can be real. Involuntary Musical Imagery can leave you saying, “I can’t get that song out of my head!” -HC-
Dendy Jarrett is the Publisher and Executive Director of Harmony Central. He has been heavily involved at the executive level in many aspects of the drum and percussion industry for over 25 years and has been a professional player since he was 16. His articles and product reviews have been featured in InTune Monthly, Gig Magazine, DRUM! and Modern Drummer Magazines.
Edited by Dendy Jarrett