This started as a comment to the Sockdolager post on Daley Ponderings, but it turned out to be long and off-topic, so I migrated it here. The article in question is a thought-provoking one, but it had one unintended consequence.

I've been having an ongoing conversation with our rector, who insists on frequent use of simple "praise choruses" at all our services, even the most traditional, so that they will stick in our heads and we'll have them handy in times of need.  I understand the motivation:  this is why I memorize Scripture, hymns, liturgy, poetry, anthems, and other useful and helpful works.

But because I know he does not set out to torture his congregation, I know his brain processes music in a different way from mine.  By this I don't mean that he likes different music from me, although that is certainly true.  The issue is not a matter of style or taste, but of processing.

Music sticks in my brain.  I wish it were only the best music that sticks in my brain, but it's not.  The simpler and more banal it is, the more it sticks.  And it won't go away.  Round and round and round it plays like a track on eternal "repeat," until I manage to kick it out—often by substituting something else—or go crazy.  So far I've managed not to reach the latter point...quite.

This can be a useful affliction, as it does help with learning choir pieces.  But it doesn't stop after we're done with the anthem.  A little of that can be enjoyable, but even my favorite anthems can get stuck, and I have to work actively to stop the process so I don't end up loathing them.  And if I don't like a song from the beginning, you can imagine what I think of it by the 455th repetition.

The more complicated the work, the less likely it is to annoy me, which is why the simple praise choruses are more than usually troublesome.  But complex music is not exempt:  the other day I had part of Mozart's g minor symphony stuck on "repeat" and it was driving me nuts, even though I really like the piece. Fortunately, I know enough of that one that I was able, by effort of will, to kick it over into the next section.

It's not only music that does this to me, but words—though usually only if I'm writing them.  I tend to compose paragraphs while walking—often they later become letters or blog posts.  That can be an efficient way to think, but sometimes I'll get stuck going round and round with the same phrases and thoughts, and that's when I know it's time to pull out the mp3 player and let someone else's words into my brain.

Does anyone else share this blessing/affliction?

But the point of all this is what happened after I read the article, which is about Davy Crockett and the Constitution.  So far, writing this post has been the only thing able to stop my endless mental repetitions of The Ballad of Davy Crockett.  I never saw the movie, nor the television show, but as a child I had a record of Disney songs, of which that was one.  Despite 50 years or so having passed since I last heard that record, I could still sing it to you.

I won't, though.  You can watch this instead.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, April 9, 2010 at 3:35 pm | Edit
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Was it worth listening to seven minutes of hagiography for "...and knows he's right 'cause he ain't often wrong?" Hmmm.

But back on topic: I wish words and paragraphs arranged themselves in my brain the way they do in yours - I'll toss around a good phrase and, once I've found it, if I don't write it down my brain appears to find enough satisfaction in getting it "just right" to let go and forget...



Posted by Stephan on Saturday, April 10, 2010 at 3:14 am

Give it a break, Stephan—it's a kids' song, a Disney song, a folk-song-like song, a song from the days when we were allowed to have larger-than-life heroes.

I'll admit it's handy to have that memory aid—I only wish I could control it. I, too, know the frustration of having crafted the perfect formulation, only to get distracted and lose it in the ether before setting pen to paper...er, fingers to keyboard.



Posted by SursumCorda on Saturday, April 10, 2010 at 7:15 am

That's another thing I got from you, Mom. I've got phrases from that "John Williams is the Man" song stuck in my head all the last several days. The whole time I was dragging cut branches to the back of the yard, all I could think of was "Let the wookie win. Droids don't pull people's arms out of their sockets!" yikes! Since this morning it's "It's spaceships! It's monsters! It's Star Wars! We love it!" Followed by more Indiana Jones theme music... Maybe we need to put in those scripture memory songs to get "drive the Falcon through an asteroid" out of my head!!!!



Posted by joyful on Saturday, April 10, 2010 at 9:31 am

There's only one problem with larger-than-life heroes: closer examination can lead to disappointment. (For more on that, see Steve Taylor's "Hero" - with a somewhat odd video.) But you're right: I should probably get over that, because if the larger-than-life attributes (even if untrue) inspire emulation, we stand to gain a lot. (I'll resist deviating to the obvious argument against compulsive de-bunking.)

Unfortunately, the inspiration to emulation hasn't ever worked very well with me, which is why I need to work to understand it. Thanks for the reminder!



Posted by Stephan on Saturday, April 10, 2010 at 9:40 am

You cursed me as well, Mom, but it's certainly not unique to our family. I mostly get driven nuts by the music I'm working on currently (I've practiced for hours already, I don't want to have it in my head the rest of the day!) but I also get German words or phrases stuck in my head. The nice thing is that often they are words I have heard but don't know so it's a good way to build vocabulary.



Posted by Janet on Sunday, April 11, 2010 at 10:44 am
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