Tuesday, 4 September 2012

So before getting this off my chest, I'd like to clarify that I LOVE the music I sing.  We're paid, on the whole, FAR too little for it to be worth doing what we do without having an unquenchable passion for the music we live through.  Just sometimes, however, it drives you totally bonkers.

The thing is, in order to learn music, it has to be repeated.  Again and again.  And sometimes that repetition gets stuck in the brain...  and a constant soundtrack of one particular piece, however wonderful it started off, can quickly become maddening.  In German they call it an Ohrwurm.  Quite literally, an ear-worm.  Something that has wriggled itself into your brain and can't be got rid of... In this particular case it is a spectacularly beautiful Monteverdi duet (Pur ti miro, from L'incoronazione de Poppea).  Doesn't help that there are repeats in the music itself.  The effect is a gorgeous but unending loop.  I've been living with this for several weeks and it's driving me crazy!  

I've been through this a lot, of course, but (like hauntings, perhaps, if you believe in ghosts), some are more persistent than others. Since starting to memorise this duet, the simple repetition of the melody means that it sets in as soon as sung, and lasts at least the rest of the day.  Which, given that I am practising the repertoire for my next concert pretty much every day, means virtually continuous haunting by this particular earworm.

There's really no cure for this.  You can drive it away temporarily by your concentration being grabbed by something else (a conversation, another piece of music, a great glass of wine), but as soon as you remember it again, it's back.  This effect can last for years; every time I am haunted by an earworm, I remember a holiday in France over a decade ago, when a supermarket visit in the pouring rain instilled the advert for Géant Vert, a French sweetcorn concern, which has remained with me stubbornly ever since... and the ad invariably starts playing in one ear, over and over again.

Worse, it would appear that it is possible to be haunted by two earworms at once.  This is mind-blowing (in my experience they are never in the slightest bit compatible) and even many musicians don't understand why your eyes have crossed and you are incapable of rational thought...

Ah well.  This is simply part of the price we pay to learn.  I am very glad of a couple of concerts coming up for which I have had to learn music new to me, don't get me wrong; it's just that the wriggling of these earworms has been driving me insane - any friends who have found me inattentive during the past few weeks might be reassured by the explanation!!

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