I can’t explain the first song I crooned to my sleeping granddaughter, just hours old and bundled like a burrito in a hospital blanket and striped cap. Not Brahms, which would have been classy. Not a Yiddish folk tune, though I’d claimed the name Bubbe, Yiddish for grandmother.
No, it was a ballad I probably hadn’t deliberately listened to or thought much about in decades: “Surfer Girl,” by the Beach Boys. Maybe it welled up because of the lyrics (“made my heart come all undone”).
Some folks planned what to sing, but for many of us this music simply emerged, unbidden and unexpected. It made me wonder whether barely remembered refrains get stored in some compartment of our brains, waiting years for emotional moments to release them.
Researchers study such things, the neurocognitive aspects of music, so I tried out my hypothesis on a couple of leading scientists. They gently disabused me. No, there is no nook in the hippocampus where we stash old ditties; music engages many parts of our brains.
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