An American professor gained some recognition recently for coining the term "brain itch" for phenomenon of getting a song stuck in your head. (The Germans (who else?) call this Ohrwurm, or 'ear worm'.) It is fantastic that we have two terms for something that has needed at least one name for a long time. Brain itch comes from some research that suggests that a tune can affect our brain in the same way a latent tactile stimulus can affect our skin. If true, it's one more affirmation that the components of music might be somehow hardwired into us.
But this got me thinking about the components of popular music. It's been reasonably demonstrated that there is a behavioral response to major chords versus minor chords. Sure, makes sense, everybody likes it. I'm now wondering, what is our fascination with The Bridge? I don't get it. I love bridges. Everyone loves bridges. Music that bucks the Verse-Chorus-Verse convention has bridges. Even anti-popular music people like bridges. What's the deal? When I tried looking at it as an outsider, it began to look completely insane. What is it about an instrumental interlude that deviates from the rest of the song (but not the beat or key) and more or less closely precedes the end of a song that is so vital to the construct? Bridges have been in music for a long long time but I've never read about anyone even questioning their existance. There's got to be something compelling that makes us kneel to the bridge's power.
Well that was a very good post, almost well thought out. But I'd like to attach a rider to this post - one that treads on more well-worn ground but is equally, or even more, incredulous. Its contention is with that of the use of the word irony to describe wholly mundane events. The debate over what can be described as ironic has been raging since, oh, around 1994, so this horse has been dead for a long time. But it's bugged me more than other miscarriages of diction and i've been at a loss to understand that. Today a sportscaster (the worst breed of transgressors of irony) said that, after a trade between the NY Knicks and TTO Raptors that "...ironically, they played tonight..." Then it hit me, for the longest time the problem i've had with irony's misuse is that there hasn't been a consensus on what the hell they meant to say. Coincidence, interest, eerieness - it all meant irony to them and they just like pronouncing that word better apparently. But i think i figured out what they meant all along - 'trivially'. In the context of sports journalism this especially fits. The next time you hear someone claim something with 'ironically' just rephrase the sentance with 'trivially' and i'm almost certain that it will fit 97% of the time. Few people, and certainly not a self-respecting journalist, would admit that anything they deemed important enough to say should be described as being trivial. But it's not like you hear regular journalists say stuff like "The British and French PMs agreed today on an accord regarding the safety of the British Canal. Ironically, their first discussion of this pact occurred on a freighter over that very same body of water." At least, i would hope we wouldn't hear that. Anyway, if someone could at the very minimum admit that 'ironically' is shifting to mean 'trivially', i will consider an amnesty towards them. Much the same as i am willing to grant amnesty towards people who use 'literally' as a measure of emphasis instead of its, ahem, literal meaning. Just draw the line somewhere and we can talk.
Tags: euterpe, the essayist