Waking Songs: 2 years of data

On 21 June 2015 I started logging the songs that were stuck in my head as I awoke.  245 songs in 731 days, summarized below!


Data limitations and resolutions

There are several difficulties that arise with this project.

  • I may be too tired to remember to log.
  • The information may disappear by the time I am conscious enough to write it down.
  • I may not know the name of the song or be able to research it with what little is stuck in my head.
  • The song may be a fiction created by my sleeping brain.
  • I record whether I believe I heard the song recently, but this is fallible and the “recent” window may shift, as I am not good at pinpointing that sort of thing in time.

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 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 are 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”.


And now for pretty numbers and pictures!

Basic stats at the 2-year mark:

  • In 731 days, I logged 245 songs.
  • I own 37% of my waking songs.
  • I have heard 21% of my waking songs recently.
  • I wake up with a song in my head at least every third day.
  • The longest I have gone without a song in my head (assuming I didn’t miss any) is 11 days.

I was not surprised to learn that I own less than half of the songs that lodge themselves in my brain, or that only about 1/5 of the songs were something I’ve heard recently.  I had no idea what to expect regarding frequency, so I just nod and smile at those numbers.

I had the impression that these waking songs had a strong bias toward songs I heard earlier in life, so released in the 80s or earlier, whereas the music that gets stuck in my head during the day tends to be from the 90s and later.  Turns out there’s only a weak bias toward songs from the 80s and earlier.  If you remove the 11 exceptional songs mentioned in the “Data limitations” section above, only 57% of the songs come from the 80s and earlier.  Music from the 80s and earlier was 8% less likely to have been heard recently than music from the 90s or later, which is a noticeable but still fairly small bias.

The histogram tool I used doesn’t add 0-data bars to the x-axis, so there are a few not-so-obvious gaps below, especially in the “Year of release” data.


Two years of release date data. Note that the two data points without release dates were unidentifiable songs, and that 9 songs with “release dates” in the last two years were created by my unconscious brain.


Future work

Moving forward, I’ve created a rudimentary project page with semi-up-to-date data (monthly-ish) for anyone who wants to track the project.  This currently includes a link to a Spotify playlist, which unfortunately covers less than 90% of the songs.  I’ll be improving the page over time, as I’ve had a surprising amount of interest in this project.

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