In defence of the earworm

That strain again… it’s the morning after the concert and one tune is still there, playing in the head upon waking, running around and around on an unbreakable loop over breakfast. I’ve never liked the term ‘earworm’. It suggests an alien parasite, an aural violation, when in fact some part of the musical brain is clearly in love with this scrap of melody, and getting a microgram of a dopamine hit every time it presses ‘repeat’. It’s consensual, even pleasurable. Why fight it? There’s an Arthur C. Clarke story about a scientist obsessed by the finale of Sibelius’s Second Symphony. He invents an algorithm for musical catchiness and promptly starves