I have been thinking about musical memory. What makes you remember a particular song? Of course, if I really knew the answer I would be very rich, as being memorable is a key factor in a successful pop song. This subject came into my mind when I was listening to a couple of new CDs.

I wrote before about going to see Katie Melua. She did an excellent job of selecting material for her set. She played a good number of familiar songs, but also some new ones. I guess her main reason for being there was to promote the new CD [even if I have suggested that this is really back to front]. It was quite a while before I got the CD and was very surprised at how familiar some of the songs were, even though I had only heard them once before. I guess that is why she has had quite a few hits.

More recently, we went to see a performance by the Webb Sisters. They were fine, but their support was particularly interesting. At the beginning of the concert, this young Welsh guy [Al Lewis] gets on to the stage and tells us that his job is to warm us up for the main act. We were initially disappointed, as we had not come to see him. However, he turned out to be very good, with an honest, engaging style. I bought his CD and, again, I was surprised at how familiar some of the songs were when I listened to it later. Maybe a star in the making?

This all reminded me of a TV program from the 1970s …

During my teens, I used to watch a late night TV program, which featured mainly up and coming musicians. It was called The Old Grey Whistle Test and had a very simple format: the presenter [Bob Harris] would interview the performer(s) and then they would play a set in a very bare studio, with no audience [except Bob]. The origin of the show’s name is interesting. Many years ago, at some recording studio, when they got the first pressing of a record. they would play it to “the old greys” [doormen in grey suits]. The ones they could remember and could whistle having heard it just once or twice had passed “the old greys whistle test”. A nice story, I think, and, clearly, a valid test for a potential hit.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at https://blogs.sw.siemens.com/embedded-software/2011/06/16/ogwt/