I sometimes feel as though my entire brain is an iPod on shuffle. Random songs pop into my head at odd times. It’s been like this for years, even before I got an iPod, although it has been a bit more. . . pronounced, shall we say, since I bought that first one many years ago.
There’s two perennial staples on my mental playlist, songs that generally come up when I’m doing some kind of mundane task. The first is what I call my Filing Song.
While I enjoy Frank Sinatra, this particular song has never actually been a favorite. But when I spend more than five minutes filing (like I used to have to do at the community college I used to work at), “Strangers in the Night” just appears like the proverbial bad penny. I don’t sing the lyrics; I don’t even know most of the lyrics. I just hum, and occasionally “do be do be do” to the tune. It’s a satisfying enough way to occupy my brain, although I’d prefer to alphabetize to “All of Me.” (If I’ve been filing too long, I get a little lost in the middle, and have to sing the ABC song to remind myself if K comes before or after M, but that’s a different story altogether.)
The other song that randomly, and rather aggressively, injects itself into my consciousness is a Disney classic.
I don’t think I’ve seen this version of the Three Little Pigs since I was in single digits, but “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” has been on rotation ever since. Just as I mysteriously associate “Strangers in the Night” with filing, this song is mostly a kitchen tune. Cooking brings it to the forefront of my brain and I find myself singing the chorus (the only words I remember) over and over in a high-pitched, kiddie-style voice. Why? How the hell should I know?
What these two songs seem to best illustrate to me is that some melodies are so ubiquitous either to the culture or our personal experience that they become woven into the fabric of our lives. Also, that I have virtually zero control over what pops into my head for which reason. The human brain is a weird and wonderful place, but I wouldn’t want to get lost in mine.