#Hookedplaylist: musical memories that last a life time

he gave me a mixtape, i gave him my heart.

Since February I’ve been doing residency at MOSI (Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester), working with the Manchester Science Festival team to bring a new mass experiment to life. ‘Hooked’ is all about musical memory and unlocking the secret science of song. In a nutshell – we want to know what makes music catchy & will be looking at thousands of musical hooks in songs.

Back in May I went to the University of Amsterdam to meet with music cognition scientists, Dr John Ashley Burgoyne and Professor Henkjan Honing who have devised this fantastic experiment that needs your help. What’s fab is that Marieke Navin, the current Science Festival director had to pitch a new citizen science experiment in her interview for the job and she pitched one on music, which led us, via Martin Coath to Henkjan and Ashley. Henkjan has blogged here about the experiment.

Ashley and Henkjan are interested in musical memory – songs that we remember and can recall to mind just by thinking about them. The way they want to explore that is by looking at musical ‘hooks’ and what it is musically that makes some tunes stick in our minds more than others? Why do some musical memories last a life time. Ashley and his colleagues have designed a game that we’ll be launching in 2014 for people to play and share, finding the catchiest tunes in the Hooked playlist.


I’m already hearing lots of wonderful stories about music, chatting to taxi drivers and DJs and anyone who wants to talk about music, including my mum! You can imagine everything from the songs our parents gave us to this years top ten wedding songs to the songs that changed the world. Indeed much of human history is shared through songs.

Why does it matter?

“The past which is not recoverable in any other way is embedded, as if in amber, in the music, and people can regain a sense of identity. . .” — Neurologist, Oliver Sacks 

One of the things that I found quite astonishing is how personalised playlists of music are used in some care homes to help improve the quality of life of people with fading memories, including dementia. This phenomenon, where people are literally awakened from a stupor, and begin to dance and sing, has to be seen to be believed. So, whilst the experiment is going to be a lot of fun, it might also provide insights into long term memory and even failing memory, which could contribute to future Alzheimer’s disease research.

My most memorable songs

So I’ve been casting my mind back to memorable songs and i think these are just a few of the the ones I’ll remember… [whole playlist here]

Get involved

Taking part is easy, just complete this simple survey to crowdsource the playlist for the game and kickstart a debate on what makes music catchy. And feel free to blog your catchiest tunes!

Join me for the festival launch of #Hooked to debate what makes music catchy, from hooks, to earworms and hit songs with Ashley Burgoyne, Lauren Stewart and Daniel Mullensiefen. Then dance to your catchiest tunes at our silent disco.

MOSI’s presenters, James and Darren, will also feature in Captain #Hooked, a daily festival show and featuring CBeebies Rastamouse to get the kids dancing on the 30th of October.

Get in touch!

kylie tweetWhat i am really excited about is how people will respond to this project… i can’t wait to be inspired, surprised and quite literally moved. There has been lots of publicity, including in Manchester Confidential, the Guardian, Telegraph and on the radio, which is fab, and  i also want to hear from anyone with a related project that would like to collaborate (thanks to everyone who has been in touch so far!).

Do get in touch and lets make 2014 an amazing year of music and memory – it will, after all, be the European Year of the Brain.


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