earworms, and the cure

Two weeks ago, it was John Coltrane’s birthday.  I had a profound intention to celebrate, culminating in a great posting to this website.  It didn’t happen. I did play great benefit with my friend Nathan Hanson ( soprano saxophone) at the Black Dog , for the Joyce bi-lingual preschool. We did play “ central park west” and a version of “ my favorite things.

And life rolls on.  I have some ideas about Mr. Coltrane which will have to come out, hopefully before Thelonius Monk’s birthday ( October 10) but probably I will miss that too.

And last week… after my watch died ( does anybody really know what time it is?)

I finally went to a store to buy one.  The songs in these stores are mostly inane. One came on… “ love me, love me say that you love me” . It was silly beyond silly, familiar. I had to find out what it was. So I searched on the you tube.

You tube is a great place- I have watched performances of Minugs, ‘ Trane, Eric Dolphy, the Art ensemble, Don Cherry, Milton Nascimento, and… more.

Instead, I used this tool foolishly, identified this sound as “ lovefool” by the Cardigans. Like Ulysses being tempted by the sirens, I listened to it. It got stuck in my head, the worst kind of ear worm.

To compound this, we were in a “mouse crises” at home. My dear wife went out of town one night for a conference: I got 20$ of various traps, and set them around the house, thinking I was solving the problem, and I could go trout fishing the last day of the stream season. Wrong.

My wife came back, ready to share the great experiences she had. I was doing the dishes, and heard a blood-curdling scream… a mouse had jumped off the freaking bed.  This was severe. She slept on the  futon chair folded out on the mainfloor, I slept in the basement with Victor the dog, who could hear the mice, and kept waking up to get them.  That damned song  kept repeating in my mind,

a torture chamber of inane,foolish repetition. I cursed all things Swedish, all popular music, all clever musical craftsmen. I cursed the earworms.

I tried to imagine Pharoah Sanders taking long solos over the top, Jason Moran somehow bending and twisting the form. It did not work.

I woke up after a mostly sleepless night to intense cleaning and discarding.  My mind kept going back to  this song, looping and looping. What finally saved me was  Gary Bartz and his version of “ I’ve known rivers”. I had to listen about 10 times, and then Pharoah Sanders “Heart is a melody”.

I called a local exterminator person who set professional traps, plugged holes, and participated in various alchemy. The mice sounds have stopped.  I am still married.  And next time, I will talk about Gary Bartz.  Paul told me to listen to the Cardigan’s version of “ Iron Man”. Defying the odds, last night, I did. At low volume.  I  may try it again. But not without some Don Cherry around as an anecdote.

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  1. I’ve heard that the cure for an earworm is to hear, in your mind, “Byyyyyy Mennen!”
    Your case seems too severe for this cure, however.


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