Friday Timesuck: “I Can Name That Song in One Second or Less”

A couple of years ago, I gave a presentation called “I Can Identify That Song in One Second or Less.”  The purpose of the exercise was to show how language memory and musical memory occupy two different parts of the brain. The songs I used were “Stairway to Heaven,” “American Woman” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

People found that they were able to recognize the song (i.e. access their musical memory) in a tiny fraction of a second upon hearing that first note.  But then they had to grasp for the song’s title and and the name of the artist (their language memory), something that took a couple of seconds or longer.

Slate has just posted something similar, although this test requires a third element:  motor skills.  In this quiz, you have to recognize the song, affix a title to it and then type that title into Wheel of Fortune-like boxes.  It’s fun brain-training.

Click on the image to get started.  You may be here for a while.

Name the song


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38427 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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