Moved by groove

Last week, my hairdresser's calm demeanour acquired more spikiness than a waxed Mohawk. He told me sotto voce that he felt ill after a day of the salon's blaring hip-hop, music chosen for their typical, much younger clientele.

From Top 40 oldies (department stores), to novelty nostalgia (vintage shops); from instrumental jazz (cafés) to hip-hop (boutiques and restaurant-bars), the playlist pampers the intended customer; a misstep means an exit.

I heard classical music in an establishment once in the last three years, in the background of a posh hotel's dining room—at breakfast time.

Music is more than ambience. Regular beat and syncopation—the sweet spot of 'groove'—makes diners eat faster, assembly-line workers speed up, and shoppers trudge through more aisles. Harmony is another factor; rhythmic music with pleasant harmonies makes people feel more optimistic and energetic. I once saw so many women swaying to Ed Sheeran's "Perfect Symphony" while in line at a supermarket that I thought we were at a concert.

Every parent or babysitter knows the power of a lullaby, but music affects our functions through life. A recent study published on the site Scientific Reports describes how rhythmic music is being used to help Parkinson's patients improve their motor functions. Some hospitals and hospices play music in patient rooms or clinics to allay pain and anxiety. A friend who had a heart attack told me her hospital offers free ballroom dance classes as part of the rehab program.

When you encounter a groove, it lodges in your brain; thirty seconds' exposure to the opening credits of "Frankie and Grace" and "Stuck in the Middle With You" is on a loop in your head for a week. The technical term for that effect is "earworm"; perhaps "echo chamber" is more appealing. You don't even need to like the song; for days, I was welded to the chorus of  "Last Kiss", a song I loathe.

You can be captured by anything from Prokofiev to Nina Simone, but for me it's that soulful sledgehammer of pleasure, funk, that embeds instantaneously.

What are your echo chamber songs?

I once had a sweet groove moment in a large record store. This song came on, and within thirty seconds, every person in that crowded store, from suits to skater kids to me was singing along with KC: "Shake shake shake."

I can't post the video here, but if you have two minutes for a supreme example of disco-funk, smokin' Soul Train choreography, and some truly fabulous jumpsuits, it's here.

If willing to obey KC's playfut imperative, you can shake your booty, too.


LauraH said…
I wonder if our brains make a stronger connection to music in our teens and twenties, maybe thirties. Seems like the songs I listened to then are the ones that stuck with me even if I haven't heard them in decades. Or is it just that I stopped listening to the radio and didn't keep up with new stuff?
royleen said…
Ah, sweet memories!
And where are all those jumpsuits now?
Susan B said…
Oh, I love funk too. If Isley Brothers are playing, you can't get me to leave.

Here's another one: dentists' offices almost always have oldies on. When I was a kid that meant big band music. Today it's 80's pop.
Duchesse said…
Royleen: I hope in Rock Heaven! KC now performs in Hawaiian shirts.

Susan B: My dentist is so young he had never heard of Sly Stone!

LauraH: We definitely imprint music from times of emotional growth or stress. So, adolescence, but also the music of other deeply-felt times.
Adele said…
At work, but naturally I had to check out these songs to work to music. Found this lovely, lovely video of "Perfect Symphony". Be still my heart (Andrea, not Ed):
Jane in London said…
Word Up by Cameo gets me every time! I recently spent a month with the insanely catchy Fragments of Time by Daft Punk stuck firmly in my brain after hearing it in a shop.

Then there was the time I couldn't shift Sinead O'Connor's version of Nothing Compares 2 U out of my brain...

I seem to be particularly susceptible to ear worms and they can drive me nuts at times!


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