The Music in Our Heads

Richard Citrin Ph.D., MBA
Richard Citrin Ph.D., MBA

Do Re Me Fa So La Ti Do”
Julie Andrews

I heard Julie Andrews (and those delightful Von Trapp children) charming rendition of Do Re Me on the radio the other day and now I can’t get that song out of my head.

Hearing music in our head is something we all experience and the awful term that is used to describe it is known as “earworms.”  Scientists who have studied the phenomenon report that the music usually lasts 15-30 seconds, can focus on positive songs which might be happy (Pharrell Williams) or downer songs that bring out anger or sadness (Joni Mitchell) and that 98% of us experience it and may report being bothered or irritated by them.

Researchers suggest that the cures for earworms include chewing gum, working on thinking tasks like a Sudoku puzzle, or maybe singing a counter song like “Happy Birthday “or “God Save the Queen”. Perhaps here in the US, we should try the Star-Spangled Banner but be careful if you watch Whitney Houston’s electrifying performance at Super Bowl XXV which will definitely get into your head and stay there.

I’ve always been with the crowd that has usually been bothered by earworms, thinking that they are a distraction from my more important activities, but I’ve changed my thinking on this phenomenon.

I am now seeing this music as a way to take a natural little break in my day, a distraction that brings an emotional response that usually recharges my brain and brings a bit of soothing to me.   I’m going to go ahead and embrace these musical interludes  and I invite you to consider giving yourself over to it and see if it starts to bring some fun moments to your day.

Maybe we can even go a little further and organize an “earworm play list?” for just the little boost you might need to carry you through the day

  • Need some inspiration upon awakening, let’s look for the sun. (The Beatles)
  • Feeling a little lonely; remember someone is always there for you (James Taylor)
  • Want to light up the world? (Katy Perry)
  • Maybe just need to have some classical time, try out Six Pieces (Lang Lang)
  • And if you want a little earworm to help you reflect on your day (Louis Armstrong)

Of course, if you need a resilience boost, check out what might be the official Resilience Ballard (Kelly Clarkson).

And let’s see if we can get someone to change the name of this lovely musical interlude, we experience so we don’t think of those moments as “earworms.”  What would you call it?


The Leadership Café

I was very excited to have my longtime friend, Ed McCallister  join us in the Café. With more than 30 years in technology and information services, Ed is the Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer at UPMC. 

As a leader of a team of more than 2,000 IT professionals; he is responsible for the technology strategy and infrastructure that supports UPMC’s world-class clinical care, insurance services, international operations, and research. 

In this episode, Ed talks about the early days of UPMC Health Plan, and the startup environment it had. Showcasing how the Health Plan skyrocketed to developing 20 new hospitals in a span of seven years.

McCallister also discusses the decision to focus on UPMC’s core network when handling the pandemic and remote workers. Allowing the company to maintain 78,000 plus remote workers.

© Richard Citrin 2021

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