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Ear worms, Glass, and Haunting

May 26, 2009


Ear worms. The songs, ditties, and jingles that get stuck in your head, burrow a hole, and refuse to leave. Thank God my current ear worm is pleasant. It’s the chorus from Bat for Lashes’s “Glass,” which is curious because I had “Moon and Moon”–another song from her album Two Suns–on continual play as I drove around town the past few days. “Glass” is the first Bat for Lashes song I heard, though, which lured me into the rest of the album and burrowed its hole in my head. 

What is it that makes something stick? They don’t fully know why ear worms happen or how to get rid of them. Usually, lyrics are what stick in my mind. In this case, however, I didn’t exactly know the lyrics until I looked them up. It was simply the ascension of her voice–note to higher note–then its sudden landing lower down on the scale, a jump with no notes in between. But it’s not just the difference between higher and lower tones. 

Hearing Natasha Khan’s voice rise so beautifully in “Glass” distilled many memories of similar types of voices and melodies sung in high school and college choirs, the most transcendent experiences of music I’ve ever had. Nothing has ever matched the collective rising of emotion and graceful precision throughout a piece, then its release in a holy, stunned silence. This is something I’ve experienced several times–even in rehearsals. Despite my forays into pop, jazz, andBroadway, my love is singing with a large group of people performing at the height of their abilities, caught up in a piece, and losing consciousness of self. What results is incandescent beauty. But I no longer sing and haven’t for years. 

I write. 

Psychoanalyst Theodor Reik calls ear worms “haunting melodies.” “Glass” haunts me. 

In a good way. 

Live performance of “Glass” by Bat for Lashes (in Philadelphia):

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    May 27, 2009 1:08 am

    Ear Worms
    HI Melissa,
    I have never heard of the term “ear worms”, but it does describe very acurately those melodies that “haunt” you at times. Like some of the commercial jingles that you continue to hum long after the commercial in finished. I have also had a song that I wake up with in the morning and continue to hear throughout the day – usually a Christian song or one with a positive message.
    I listened to the song “Glass” and it is amazing how she can go so high in perfect pitch. I wish I could have understood the words better though.
    Have a great rest of the week – Love ya, Mom

    • May 27, 2009 6:22 pm

      Re: Ear Worms
      Thanks, Mom. I’ve included a link with the words. It also has a link to the CD version of the song. Live shows recorded like this aren’t always the best-although the sound regarding her voice is better than some of the others I saw. (All the same, I still like having a live version–and a video.) Even on the CD, though, there are parts a little hard to understand initially.
      BTW–The video is missing the very beginning of the song as recorded on the CD. (I think all the videos I looked at did.) Also, in the lyrics where it says, “Stifle up the being (?)” I think it’s supposed to be “Stifle up the beam.”

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