Megan Thorsen

Waking Songs

Project Summary

I often wake with a song lingering in my head. These songs are not consciously chosen or triggered, and I rarely remember any dream context that might have been related to them. There is some overlap, but a large portion of them are not songs I ever get stuck in my head during the day. I decided to log all the songs playing in my head when I awoke, to the best of my ability.

Show me the data/insights!

Not sure why you would, but if you want to make use of this personal data that I'm sharing with you, please contact me about it first. If you just want to mimic the project style, go right ahead! Would love it if you let me know. I'd love a glimpse into what happens in others' brains.

Method: data limitations and resolutions

Cognitive limitations

There are some obvious limits to my ability to log this data consistently.

The first two difficulties sadly can’t be avoided, and there’s no way to know how much they cause under-logging, or whether there is a bias in the missing data.

Similarly the last item is unavoidable unless I cloister myself away from external music sources, and only use a music service that tracks exactly what I played when. And always remember to turn it off when I leave. None of those things are gonna happen.

If I can’t identify the song, I do my best to write down as much as I remember about the lyrics and style, and if I couldn’t make out any lyrics I ask SoundHound. If that doesn't work, I do my best to reproduce the melody line in a recording and ask someone who I believe is familiar with the music style. Usually I eventually manage to identify the song, but not always. There have been two where the artist and release date remain blank to this day, though I am still confident they were real songs.

Amazingly, so far I have always been sure whether the song was a real one or one that my unconscious mind constructed. For constructed songs I just record the current year as the “release” year, and “My Brain” as the author. There have been 9 of these made up “songs”, if you count the one that was a metal cover of “La Isla Bonita”.

Logistical sources of error

I write the data into Evernote shortly after I identify it sufficiently. The data in Evernote usually includes the artist, title, and whether I've heard the song recently. However, sometimes it contains only the title, or only a lyric that I believe will suffice to identify the song later. Once every month or three I go through my Evernote list and transfer all entries to a Google spreadsheet. I fill in the missing data based on Google searches. Unless otherwise noted, I fill in missing artists as the original or the one that comes to my mind by default when I think of the song. I listen to a recording to confirm whenever possible. I fill in the date based on the Google quick answer, or on Wikipedia or Amazon if there is no quick answer. Once every few iterations, I also add new data to the Spotify and YouTube lists.

I noted above the cognitive issues that can occur in the process of trying to make the original note. There are also some errors that can occur between that note and the data analysis.

Future work

I intend to automate and improve the process, the data, and the visualization more and more over time. The initial process of writing down the song isn't improvable without some kind of scifi neural link, but when I get some time I can reduce the extra work I have to do to label, analyze (all automated, but can always be augmented!), and share the data.