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Pop Music

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This hour of Radiolab: pop music's pull.

Some songs have the nefarious power to stick mercilessly in our heads, and some songs have the transcendent allure to overcome cultural differences. We ask how songwriters create these songs seemingly out of the ether, listen in on the music a deaf man hears, and examine the timeless appeal of the Elvis of Afghanistan.


Michael Chorost, Diana Deutsch, Bob Dorough, Aaron Fox, Tim Griffiths, Alan Hall, Leo Rangell, Dr. Oliver Sacks and Ahmad Zahir


It has happened to you. Some song wriggles its way into your brain and won't leave. Now imagine that the distant tune in the back of your head suddenly becomes very real. A real song. Real drums. Real guitar. Volume. These are called musical hallucinations and there are some people ...

Comments [50]

Songs that Cross Borders

Music has a way of getting stuck in your head. No matter who you are, or where you are, it seems to have this effect. We turn to the man behind all those catchy songs from "School House Rock," Bob Dorough, to get some insight into what it ...

Comments [13]

Afghan Elvis

The odd power of the cover band. So one day in Afghanistan, reporter Gregory Warner started playing "Those Were the Days My Friend" on his accordion. His translator, shocked, asks, "How do you know Afghan music?" Greg scratches his head and thinks, "But this is just some folk song my mom used to sing to me!"

Comments [54]

Comments [84]

Such a wonderful episode. I really loved the Afghan segment in particular. The Johnny Cash Ring of Fire on accordion at the Afghan music festival was so hilarious and moving!

I grew up in the last, most free days of the USSR and recognize a lot of Ahmad Zahir's songs as ones I heard as a child (though in Russian). Those Were the Days My Friends, for instance, I recognize as Дорогой Длинною, and is indeed credited to some Russians (Boris Fomin, Konstantin Podrevsky). The earliest recording of that song (1925 or so) was banned by Stalin in the USSR so it's really interesting that it made its way to Afghanistan. Very tragic how Ahmad died.

Apr. 10 2016 11:01 AM
Per Fagereng from Portland, Oregon

I once heard that American country singer Jim Reeves was quite popular in Nigeria.

Mar. 19 2016 09:59 PM
Akf from Washington DC, USA

I experienced something akin to musical hallucinations when taking wellbutrin. I never had any other hallucinations in my life, fortunately. It would happen mostly in between the stages of wakefulness & sleep. I'd hear music - sometimes classical but usually with words, rhyming, complex songs. But nothing that I or anyone heard before. Essentially my brain was writing music in its off time. And sometimes I'd wake up and remember a whole song I came up with in my sleep. They were actually pretty good!

Mar. 19 2016 04:30 PM
Kitty from Brooklyn

I'm thinking you might mention Theodore Reik - wrote a ton about music and psychology. You could do a whole nother show about this, citing Reik, more about Oliver Sacks. Wow.

Mar. 19 2016 12:55 PM

I was born in 2000 and I've heard all of those school house rock song.

May. 04 2015 01:31 PM
kim D from Portland, OR

What is the song sample at the 44:20 mark? Just a simple guitar "riff" but it's catchy...

Nov. 14 2014 01:52 PM

the western/afgan song segment. "Those were the days" tune has actually originated in Romania hundreds of years ago and to the similar meaning to that of western one. local artists here have abused it as well couple decades ago. This seems to be quite universal thing, taking really old melodies and creating hits. That is because there are reasons these songs stayed alive for centuries.

May. 17 2014 08:18 AM
Inês Baptista from Coimbra, Portugal

I just wanted to say I LOVED this podcast, really, you do radio in a way others would say impossible or just plain wrong. Thecnically the only other who in my opinion is better is "Lucy". You have a way of reaching out to people and keeping their attention but still maintaning high quality radio. I wish I'm able do to the same when I finish my journalism degree. Continue doing what you do, best wishes!

Mar. 25 2014 08:49 PM
Eric Torres from Chicago, USA

Long ago, I rode my bicycle from NY to Florida, in the days before iPods and mp3 players. Long days on endless stretches of road, alone, with no music to make the trip easier. Whenever a car would go by with its windows open, I would hear a snatch of song, and I'd reconstruct the entire song in my head to entertain myself. But it wasn't enough, so my brain started trying to play the songs in full sound, as if the cars were still next to me and the music filling the air. My mind was able to practice this technique day after day, and became successful at actually fooling my ears into thinking there was actual music entering them. I reached a point where all I had to do was think of a song, like selecting a tune on a juke box, and it would play, nice and loud and totally real. The visual equivalent would be imagining an object and having it appear in front of you, solid and able to be picked up in your hand.

Mar. 23 2014 11:22 PM
LatAm from Washington, DC

Great program. I'd say, however, that things are more complicated than they seem. The "Elvis" tune is really a re-do of La Paloma, the most famous Habanera, which was nor written by a Cuban but rather by a Spaniard in a mode like Kipling's "Burma girl a-setting and I know she thinks of me," except that it was a "guachinanga."
And, another of the songs played sounds like the Brazilian Lambada
which in turn was originally the Bolivian "Llorando se fue"

Mar. 23 2014 01:41 PM
Saboor from Afghanistan

Hey Radiolab folks,

I am an avid listener of the show from Kabul, Afghanistan. I was pleasantly surprised by your coverage of Ahmad Zahir. Thanks for doing that. Great show. Keep it up.


Mar. 23 2014 06:58 AM
judith Ehrlich from Berkeley, CA

I tuned in a bit late, but was fascinated by the comments about country Western and its resonance worldwide. I just got back from a few months in Australia and indeed from Aboriginal public concerts to local bars- Johnny Cash and related music was the hottest thing going. From the bookstore concert to a hipster bar next door in central Brisbane, American Country Western ruled. The Irish/Australian bartender my Aussie partner knew, had an amazing tattoo of Johnny Cash on his arm. I was so surprised I took a pic on my iphone.

Mar. 22 2014 06:49 PM
tneigermc from New York City

Through many years of experience I've learned that one of the first signs I have of getting depressed is waking up with music in my head.

I was happy to hear a psychiatrist tell me, "There are people like you" and then proceed to describe his own wife's experience after a high fever when she couldn't stop hearing classical music.

So, thanks, Radiolab.

Mar. 22 2014 06:24 PM
Fukigen from San Francisco

God, i hate it when people start singing a song the second you mention its title.

Mar. 22 2014 04:38 PM
Meredith Payson from Essex jct. Vermont

Hey there I'm Meredith and I'm 14 i live in Vermont and i love your podcast they are so fun to listen to you podcast on a long car rides and I love learning about new things every podcast would you be interested in talking about how a Broadway show works i think it would be a very cool podcast to go over how it all happens!! Just a thought!!!

Jun. 02 2013 10:35 PM
Ed from washington state

I see that this is an old episode that was recently replayed on our local station. However, I must comment on the idea that the auditory system can run backwards. I can't believe the comment by Tim Griffiths about auditory efferent (from the brain) nerve fibers was not taken out of context. Given his vita, he clearly knows that "the ear" is not a bidirectional transducer that will "play" music sent down from the brain. As he well knows, music perception is happening at the cortical level, so if someone is having musical hallucinations, they will also be at that level, not at "the ear." Yes, there are lots of efferent fibers sending information down the auditory pathway at all levels of the pathway, including to the sensory cells in the cochlea (inner ear). But this information is in used in processing the ascending information coming from the inner ear, it is not "playing" music, or any other recognizable information.

Dec. 10 2012 08:11 PM

First time listener to Radio-lab. Of course all NPR programs are outstanding, thank you.
This is my experience and discovery with "my brain". I had a tumor removed three years one knows how long it's been there but at that point it was the size of a large lemon. It was pressing the brain and at that point the flow of blood to some sections of the brain. Well, beside confusion and inability to connect language with the spoken word or the ability of making sounds, I had a GREAT experience.
I was watching a TV program with my wife and daughter and all of the sudden a musical popped on my brain. It was "Moulin Rouge" I've seen the movie a couple of times years back. But there it was! Half of my brain was seeing the TV program and I was interacting with my wife and daughter saying "something is going on in my brain right now, don't interrupt me because it is bizarre, but remind me if I forget this moment".
The musical was playing like if a DVD was turned on my brain. I can see the images and listen to the words and the sound of the music to what seems PERFECT reproduction. It lasted for only a few moments, but it was an unusual insight into the marvel of our brains.
What I learned? Our brains register EVERYTHING; we just can recall it at will (or at least I can't. It would drive me nuts if it would turn on and off "on it's own"...
Others comments on this subject are very informative. Thanks!

Dec. 09 2012 10:46 PM
Kris from Hollywood, CA

I have had music in my head since I can remember. However unlike the others on your show. I would feel truly sad if it went away. And unlike your cohost I hear full orchestration and I also have a mix board and can listen to single tracks or mix and match at will. Also I play a game with my songs to see how many at once I can listen to. I can hear for example one of may fav mixes is what you want by the beastie boys, playing with fire by the pixies and Maxwell hammer by the beetles ... Overlay them and mix them in key places
Boo yah! My own private mussy lab!
I can pull most songs at will in my file up....
So as in bye bye miss American pie. I think I will hear music in my head, hopefully till the day I leave this place and I am on the incorrect side of the dirt.

Dec. 09 2012 06:36 PM
Diane from Pennsylvania

Wow, this was an amazing show, I too am a song a day girl...or more if I were honest. Usually wake up with one or can't lose one for many days. I often will deliberately focus on another to leave one...Weird thing, also a therapist. Guess I need to pay better attention to what they say. My close friends, husband know this as well. Glad to know there are others out there.

Dec. 09 2012 01:53 PM

I "discovered" Bob Dorough as a teenager - he was an excellent Mose Allison-ish pianist back then. What a shock for me to find out he did School House Rock. Check out his version of Baltimore Oriole: - one of my all time favs. Yet another awesome RLab episode (is there any other kind????)

Dec. 08 2012 04:13 PM

Great show about music. You guys should know about Jimmie Rodgers in East Africa. To one group he kind of became a god, he's called Chemirocha. You can find more on the internet.

Dec. 08 2012 03:54 PM
Joel D. Reid from NYC


The Pedal Steel Guitar sample is Daniel Lanois' song "Panorama."

Gorgeous instrument.

Dec. 08 2012 02:35 PM

Mark Twain wrote a short sketch about the problem of getting a song stuck in your head, in "Punch, Brothers, Punch" where the lyrics of a popular song of the day, about bus conductors, drove him to distraction. He was ahead of his time, on so many topics.

Dec. 08 2012 02:19 PM
Mickey from NYC

When I was in the hospital having my daughter, I had the Pee Wee Herman tune Connect the Dots stuck in my head during my labour. After my daughter was born, by c-section (connect the dots???) the song changed to The Ramones I Wanna Be Sedated.

Dec. 08 2012 12:10 PM
Indra Edmonds from Strafford, NH

Music has played in my head as long as I can remember. Close friends who knew about it would ask, what's playing now? I'd always have an answer. Right now? Herb Alpert, Rise. Thank you, I thought it was just me.

Dec. 07 2012 12:26 PM
Zvi from Israel

When I heard Diana Deutsch's voice, I couldn't help myself and my head started singing "sometimes behaves so strangely, sometimes behaves so strangely, ..." and on, and on, ....

OH MY GOD guys, what have you done to my brain?????

Nov. 16 2012 04:35 AM

As someone who has always had music in his head from since I can remember, this episode was a fascinating insight into my own brain.

For as long as I can recall, there has always been a song going around in my head. What's interesting, is when my brain started to make up new songs and create things I had never heard before.

Two decades later I have 'artists' in my head that don't exist in the real world, that have their own collection of songs they have 'written'. There is no specific time or genre, it can range from 1930s radio jingles to 1980s reggae 'power songs' - to the more modern pop sound that I am personally familiar with today. And of course, the symphonies, a never ending collection of sounds and movements that have no start or finish; a swarming amalgamation of every 'classical' sound I have ever heard (and personally I am not even a big classical fan).

I think in the last few years I have thought up hundreds up songs and jingles that go round in my head, never worrying I will forget them, because they always come back to me - eventually.

What interested me was the idea of the songs changing tempo, I can at will hear a song in real life and recall it in my head, slowing it down and focusing on the intricate details.

While at times it can get out of my control (I once worked an 8 hour shift with one line repeating itself over and over ... and over), most of the time it is at my will. All I have to do is draw my focus to or away from it.

If anyone else out there has similar experiences with music and imagination, it would be nice to hear them.

Oct. 23 2012 10:22 AM

I think the reason why I get "downtown" stuck in my head more than any other song is actually all the reasons mentioned in this podcast. I go downtown usually because it makes break out of the dull corner of town I live in and the bright lights, active people, yadda yadda all contribute. On other occasions I find myself downtown depressed and alone and the song pops into my head as a blues tune, still comforting. The universality of it's surface meaning AND it's latent, even ironic meaning is what get's it stuck in minds across the globe... just like country music. Well done. I'm going downtown.

Mar. 31 2012 03:57 PM
Mark Harmon from Wyoming

Could you guys tell me what version of "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again" during the Leo Rangell segment.

Mar. 13 2012 04:02 PM

Hi, I remember having dreams, that I half-conciously was constructing, that were ... hollywood movies! Or tv series. Episodes, that would have cost millions of dollars to produce, just stuck in my head. Most of them were original, they rarely repeated.

I never had a decent ending tho. The story would just go on and on. I could even get up, have a drink or something, and then just go back to where I stopped it.
And the pieces were fairly good. I think that my brain have somehow managed to capture the essence of a hollywood movie, and turn it into a dream.

Jan. 20 2012 02:17 AM

I remember having songs in my head vividly from at least the 9th grade. However, I never considered them "auditory hallucinations", it was just the soundtrack of my life. Songs are usually triggered by an event or word. For example, washing my hands at my father's house with the coconut lime soap, I will immediately get the "Lime in the Coconut" song in my head. I was really depressed last year and they were gone but I did not notice until I began to feel better and my songs returned. So I see the songs as healthy, unlike the people in the first story.

Oct. 25 2011 09:35 PM
Brittany from Minnesota

I had a hard time wrapping my head around the start of this episode because I just can't relate to the concept of not hearing all the parts of a song when it's in your head. The idea that people are just hearing the melody or some semblance of the song is totally foreign to me, as when I'm thinking of a song I am basically hearing it like an mp3 but with a sort of mental "distance" on it. Like it's playing in the back of my head. The memory of a song, for me, is like a replay. I know I'm not alone in this, but it was weird to find that nobody I know personally experiences songs this way, when I had assumed we all do. I wonder what the percentage is.

Aug. 31 2011 02:24 PM

I hear music all the time. Doesn't matter what I'm doing or anything, there's always a song playing. The earliest I remember was in high school. It's okay, though -- I've played piano since I can remember.

Loved the part about the "crying" steel guitar and the Afghan Johnny Cash.

Yeah, and I've heard about "Amazing Grace" and "Gilligan's Island," too!!!!!

Jul. 25 2011 08:30 PM

I hear music all the time. Doesn't matter what I'm doing or anything, there's always a song playing. The earliest I remember was in high school. It's okay, though -- I've played piano since I can remember.

Loved the part about the "crying" steel guitar and the Afghan Johnny Cash.

Yeah, and I've heard about "Amazing Grace" and "Gilligan's Island," too!!!!!

Jul. 25 2011 08:22 PM
Zed from Estonia


Great song,
but not the one I was searching for :)

...but thanks!

Does anybody else know the title of that guitar song, when it is about the "crying steel" (40:30)?

Apr. 13 2011 03:52 PM
gaythiest from Minnesota

What is that beautiful piece of guitar from 42:20 to 43:15? It sort of sounds like a sitar Either way the reverberation is hypnotic.

Apr. 05 2011 03:04 AM

@Zed from Estonia - I was taken by that piece of music too - it seems to be "Brethren of the free spirit". See:

Mar. 03 2011 09:56 PM
Izzy from seattle

What? How could you have a show about the insistent pop music meme w/o including Pop Muzik by M? Now it is stuck in my head!

Mar. 01 2011 01:48 AM

Check it out the video Dopamina of singer Belinda!

Feb. 04 2011 06:34 AM
Zed from Estonia

Can somebody PLEASE tell me the title of that guitar song, when it is about the "crying steel" (40:30)? The song is simply magical.

That was some great podcast by the way.

Jan. 30 2011 03:53 PM

Does anyone find it odd that you can have a song stuck in your head when you go to sleep and yet it's often right there again when you wake up, even after a full night of adventurous dreams that should have made us long forget any silly song. There really does seem to be some significant separation between the conscious and the unconscious.

Dec. 14 2010 03:12 AM
Ida Nielsen

Thank you so much for this pod cast - I always thought I was wierd for being a "jingle-person". It's not so bad for me, but I have songs popping up, like jingles to my life, emotions set it of and I've never really understood what was happening till now.. :)

Sep. 21 2009 02:53 PM
you know who_now don't ask

oh great. . . . you played ella on your show and now it's stuck in my head!!!! Ahhhg!!!!

Aug. 22 2009 02:05 PM

I have not read all of the other comments, but I have THE way to eradicate the worm. You must sing the song "Amazing Grace" to the upbeat theme tune of "Gilligan's Isle."

Good luck and clear minds.

Jun. 22 2009 07:38 PM

I've been loving all of these podcasts more than I ever thought one could love a podcast. Seriously. I'm sorry I came so late to the show, but hey, I've got 5 seasons to catch up on... a lot to look forward to!

Anyway, I cut movie previews for a living, and I end up listening to the same music over and over and over for weeks and sometimes months on end. Sometimes it's a song, sometimes it's a film score we're using, and sometimes it's library music written for movie advertising. I go home from a day of work and the music reverberates in my head. I've been dealing with this for 20+ years, so I've gotten used to it. The way I deal with it is to just let it run its course. I don't fight it, embrace, or anything. I just truly ignore it, but without vengeance. It's there, and there's little I can do. :D

Jan. 17 2009 11:34 PM

I use a technique that is a combination of the "stretch out one note" and "just embrace the song" techniques -- I rearrange the song in my head: a disco version, a Reggae version, a Broadway Hit Song version, a ridiculously cheesy Vegas version, and so forth. This thoroughly kills the original song and exercises mental musical muscles.

Sep. 25 2008 06:59 PM

On the topic of singing pop tunes on pitch, studies that have looked into this, one of the first being by Daniel Levitin:

Levitin, D. J. (1994). Absolute memory for musical pitch: Evidence from the production of learned melodies. Perception & Psychophysics. 56, 414-423.

Anyone interested can download the pdf from his website (under Research Publications). And for more recent related docs, check out the "cited by" listing in .
The abstract proclaims:

Evidence for the absolute nature of long-term auditory memory is provided by analyzing the production of familiar melodies. Additionally, a two-component theory of absolute pitch is presented, in which this rare ability is conceived as consisting of a more common ability, pitch memory, and a separate, less common ability, pitch labeling. Forty-six subjects sang two different popular songs, and their productions were compared with the actual pitches used in recordings of those songs. Forty percent of the subjects sang the correct pitch on at least one trial; 12% of the subjects hit the correct pitch on both trials, and 44% came within two semitones of the correct pitch on both trials. The results show a convergence with previous studies on the stability of auditory imagery and latent absolute pitch ability; the results further suggest that individuals might possess representations of pitch that are more stable and accurate than previously recognized.

Sorry for the long post, but I research this stuff and was happy to hear the issue come up on the show.

Jun. 29 2008 11:20 AM

Oh my gosh... my earworm neutralizer is ALSO "Sex Machine"! Quelle coincidence!

Jun. 21 2008 10:14 AM

My friend told me his friend used Xanadu, and it actually works for me too! I just start singing when I have my own earworms to remove. I don't know why, it' s cheezy and crappy and it won't get stuck either. weird!!

Jun. 20 2008 12:03 AM

I loved this episode. Thanks Jad, and the RadioLab team!

Friends of mine have suggested "Build Me Up Buttercup" by the Foundations to be a superb earworm killer, or at least a fine song to sing instead of whatever is stuck in there (today it was "Hopelessly Devoted from Grease... And I HATE Grease)


Jun. 19 2008 09:48 PM
Bryan J Busch

1) I'm sorry I missed calling into the voicemail. I also use the replacement method, and my reliable standby is Franz Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2. ( It was used in the dueling pianos scene with Daffy and Donald Duck in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit". Works every time.

2) Do you guys not realize that you are responsible for distributing one of the worst earworms of all time? You "sometimes behave so strangely."

P.S. It was so great to hear part of the "Akira" soundtrack on something other than my iPod!

Jun. 19 2008 04:36 PM
Marc Davenport

I've successfully used the technique of long division to work a song out of my head. I randomly write a sufficiently large number, like 769283785729045920 and then divide 7 into it by hand. Once I'm several digits deep, then the song seems to be gone. Plus, it justifies learning long division.

btw: 109897683675577988 and change

Jun. 19 2008 03:41 PM
Jim Norman

One "earworms" aspect not mentioned so far is the "stickability" of ad jingles. (Occasionally, I'm still haunted by the old Winston jingle and others!) And at Cannes this week, a radio ad campaign from Malaysia won an award using the "tunes stuck in your head" as a clever premise. You can hear it at

Jun. 19 2008 01:26 PM

I loved hearing about other people's stories about the songs and how they got stuck. As little in-betweens for the big programmes, these shorts are great... And considering the length of time between me being getting a call about it and the podcast being published, i'd (baselessly) suspect this is just bonus material from the main show about earworms, rather than something being flogged as a full installment.

Jun. 19 2008 10:16 AM

Actually, most people, including people that do not have perfect pitch, will sing a song in the key that they heard it in originally. For a popular song with a singular source, like "Don't
Stop Believing", this is likely the same key for almost all of us. For a folk song with many sources, like a Christmas carol, we're more likely to sing it in varying keys. It was neat how well your broadcast showed this. (And, of course, there's the uncommon person that simply can't carry a tune at all and is unable to do this.)

This ability is somewhat novel to us English speakers, to the extent we don't even realize we have it. If you speak a more tonal language, however, this is a very important skill. Information is not contained in just relative pitch differences; it is contained in absolute pitches as well. (Albeit these absolute pitches change by location, often, like accents.)

So, while I suppose it's a self-selecting sample you got on earworms, it's more than only that which resulted in everyone singing in key.

(I'm sorry, but I haven't been able to find any sources about this. If I can find some, I'll send them your way.)

Jun. 18 2008 11:08 PM

For me, the most Earwormy song by Journey is that one that goes "Anyway you want it, that's the way you need it; Anyways you wa-hant-hant it..."

I would have left a message, but can't carry a tune, thus the correlation between people with songs stuck in their head that can't carry a tune that won't try singing on an answering machine.

Jun. 18 2008 01:56 PM

Jad, I think I speak for many of us when I say that we'll bare with you any time you like.

Jun. 18 2008 12:30 PM
Russ Woods

The wait between episodes is torturous. Gimme gimme gimme. I need some more.

Jun. 18 2008 09:21 AM

I just think its cool that Jad responded. I was going to leave a poopy comment about the short podcasts that have been coming out lately. Then I saw that Jad replied on here and for some reason my agitation went away. he probably could have said "what ev's you take the 8 mins and you like it, you like it and you say thank you!" still would have had the same effect. I guess i forget that the voices leaking into my eardrums late night at work actually belong to a real person... and that person reads the show comments. (this is where the little jingle from the "The more you know" PSA's gets played) "duh duh dah daaahhhhh"

Jun. 18 2008 07:53 AM

Julie, you're absolutely right. Sorry for the mis-speak! And R Rosson, you're right too. The Twain story is spot on. We thought about including mention of it (in fact, I have a psychologist on tape singing the song), but we chose not to and now I can't remember why.

And lastly...eqd, yes, we're in between seasons but are working very hard on Season 5. Please bear with us!

These 8 minuters are the best we can do at the moment.

Jun. 17 2008 08:09 PM

In this earworms episode, Jad mentions that many callers sang their earworm songs with perfect pitch, and so there must be a link between earworms and perfect pitch. Well, there's a flaw in that logic... The more likely link is between people who know they sing pretty well and also have a song stuck in their head.

Jun. 17 2008 06:12 PM

I totally agree with both the comment about Journey being the stickiest AND about the evils of passing along an earworm.... Journey is completely stuck in my own head, dramatic symbols and all!

Jun. 17 2008 01:57 PM
R Rosson

In your Earworm podcast you mention a solution which consists of teaching the song to someone else. There is a wonderful Mark Twain story "Punch, Brothers, Punch" about a poem which the narrator can't get out of his head. The eventual solution is to teach it to a class of students. "The result is to sad to tell" You can read this story at

Jun. 17 2008 01:53 PM

Meb - agh! Really? If so, i totally apologize for my grumpiness (and if not, i maintain my vigorous grumpiness).

Is there a real schedule posted somewhere?
The only thing i can find is the verbiage "ABOUT RADIOLAB. Radio Lab comes out in seasons of 5 shows..." which really doesn't seem to be true since their are more than 20 real-length episodes. (Like "The Ring and I" is not listed in any of the seasons in the main page's "Season Archive" tab-view)

Jun. 17 2008 11:37 AM

I thought this was one of the best RadioLabs we've ever had. The great mixing and interesting listener audio commentary made for a unique experience.

Jun. 17 2008 11:04 AM

eqd - I believe we're currently between seasons. What's posted these days is bonus, not actual shows.

Jun. 17 2008 08:43 AM

How did we get to the point where a 'show' is eight and a half minutes including advertisements?

How did we go from
. philosophical ruminations and historical retrospectives on existence facets common to us as a species
. "How 'bout all-y'all-listeners give us the material for the show and i'll spend my lunch break editing it together for a podcast"


Jun. 17 2008 05:47 AM

What is the name of the Don Williams song that is played during the piece on country music (something in the words about "closing time")?

May. 19 2008 12:09 PM

can you please tell me more about pop music.

May. 15 2008 11:22 AM

Great show, as usual!

I did have one. . . complaint?--more philosophical disagreement, maybe, with Jad's comment that the brain scans of folks hallucinating music means that their hallucinations are more serious than normal song-in-the-head and also means they're not faking it. There are two problems with this:

1. The study, as described, does not demonstrate that someone looking at brain scans can reliably tell the difference between "hallucinated" music and "song-in-the-head" music. There may be other studies that demonstrate that difference, but those weren't presented. All *this* study demonstrates is that one cannot reliably distinguish between "hallucinated" and "listening-to" music on the basis of a brain scan in this study.

2. Do we really want to suggest that if hallucinations fail to produce *exactly* the same brain activation patterns as real stimuli that this means hallucinations are (a) not real or (b) being made up?

Take studies of schizophrenia in which hallucinated voices are found to show similar activations to real voices. Say the studies *hadn't* turned out that way. Or, say, future studies find that there are subtle differences between hearing something and hallucinating it (which I would bet good money on). Would that mean people who are hallucinating are just making things up?

I really enjoy the use of neuroscience on this show, but I thought I detected a little bit of "if it's in a brainscan, it's even more real!" sort of tone there (cf. a previous blog entry on this site regarding people's tendency to more easily believe a theory if brain scans are attached).

Anyway, I hope it's nice to know that the show is thought-provoking to this degree. :)

Apr. 29 2008 11:47 AM
Gregory Warner

Philip, the title of that Elvis song is "No More."

fyi, for the curious on youtube someone has posted a mashup of Zahir (singing in English) and Elvis Presley.

Apr. 27 2008 10:14 PM

Here you go Ron:

Apr. 26 2008 03:39 AM
Andrew Kelly

This is far and away the most moving piece of radio I have ever heard. I was moved to tears, amazing work! I guess I picked a good first episode. Thank you for your time and effort, again, a beautiful piece of work as well as being fascinating.

Apr. 25 2008 08:57 PM

As usual, another great show.

Where's the promised video of Greg Warner doing J0hnny C@sh in Afghanistan?

(Original performer's name intentionally obfuscated)

Apr. 24 2008 09:59 PM

Just listened to the pop music episode yesterday (sigh...that means the last new one for a long time) and what did I have stuck in my head all last night? Why, "Downtown" of course! Thanks a lot, Radiolab. No, really. Thanks a lot. *wink

we'll be looking forward to more radiolabs soon! Thanks for a fabulous show.

Apr. 24 2008 02:55 PM

Ha! one of our panel told me about this podcast, it's great - and by a really strange coincidence, I'm the guy who remixed the Toms Diner track you were humming. Spooky!

Apr. 24 2008 04:57 AM
Devon Clarke Geyer

I am currently listening to this podcast and I am struck with regards to the similarities in my life.
I've been playing music since I was four years old, and as far back as I can remember I've had auditory hallucinations. But not of songs, not completely. I did hallucinate pop songs and the like, but most of my hallucinations were improvised. Random music would come to me and effortlessly I would sit back and hear a piece of music being created in my mind.
As I would lay down to go to sleep, the fleeting thoughts of music would intensify and some nights I would fall asleep with a new symphony, created by my subconscious, to entertain me for some reason.
I found it topical, thought I'd share. Keep up the amazing work WNYC!

-Devon Geyer

Apr. 24 2008 02:44 AM

I think this is the first episode that made me cry. What a wonderful first podcast.

Apr. 23 2008 02:04 AM

This show has some of the most fresh innovative use of sound-editing techniques I've ever heard! I predict it will start new trends for attracting younger listeners and eventually set the pace for radio shows of later generations.

I have a question though. I was looking on iTunes for the Elvis song synced up with Ahmad Zahir. Does anyone know the title to that song?

Apr. 22 2008 10:53 PM

One comment on the interview with Bob Dorough; after playing the clips from Schoolhouse Rock! Robert suggested that all the songs played were written by Bob, but I'm Just A Bill was actually written by Dave Frishberg. Credit where credit is due!

Love the show, so glad this episode is up. You make my work day tolerable.

Apr. 22 2008 04:55 PM
Gregory Mortenson

Is it just me or did this podcast cut out short for anyone else? The one I was streaming was 12:54 in length... What a shame, this is a fantastic episode!!

Apr. 22 2008 02:56 PM

Charlie Parker would plug nickels into a jukebox and listen to Hank Williams songs. When asked why, he replied "Have you ever listened to the words?"

'bout sums it up for me. I dig country and bluegrass as much as jazz. It's all about the story.

Apr. 22 2008 01:46 PM

Your topics are always fascinating and relevant, but this one was even more personal for me. For several years, when I was doing mindless tasks or completely absorbed in what I was doing, I would unconsciously begin humming "Camptown Races." Never could figure out why. :) Thanks, Radiolab, for another great program.

Apr. 22 2008 12:50 PM

Yay! It's finally up! So what guest was offended about what again? LOL

Apr. 22 2008 10:55 AM

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