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An open call for a compilation of 20-second hand washing music, and more

COVID-19 or no, washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds is always a good idea. And music can help.

It’s easy in times of crisis to feel like there’s not any purpose for those of us in music. But wait a minute – something involving a specific interval of time? A need to communicate that to other people in a memorable way? And make it satisfying so that people enjoy the experience? You realize that is literally the business of what music actually is.

Unfortunately, so far public health officials have been telling people to sing the “Happy Birthday Song,” which is either annoying and boring at best, or at worst will make you doubly aware of your own mortality while you plod out the tune horror-movie style. (Well, at least it makes it more interesting if you imagine a creepy children’s chorus singing it as you wash your hands through the plague. Ha… pp.. y Birth… day to y… oh God who is that in the urinal and why is he carrying a scythe?!) Look, I’m even a native of Louisville, Kentucky, where this tune supposedly originated with the Hill sisters and – on behalf of all composers from Louisville, let me please try to promise to do something less inane.

We need this now, especially because we need to keep washing our hands for 20 seconds at a time even when the COVID-19 outbreak is long past.

The Today Show has a list, though these could also get bleak.

Here are better suggestions for the sorts of people who read this site.

Best of all is LA-based Isaac Schankler Hyphen, music professor and maker, rhythm game developer, and more.

More on the idea:

He might extend the deadline – but hurry.

And yes, 20 seconds is the limit. It’s a great compositional and sound design challenge, too. And if it seems too short, well, some years back we did a compilation of 1-second songs for the Leap Second (a peculiarity of having to keep clocks synchronized with the actual length of Earth’s trip around the sun).

I also love the idea of using Steve Reich’s “Clapping Music” – like so:

Just remember to scrub, not clap. This… kind of only works if you’re a concert music nerd.

It’s not directly related to CDM, but the narration from the original series of Star Trek also fits – yes, even with dramatic Shatnerpauses. And it is the continuing mission of this site, too, so it fits. Start at the narration, not the opening notes, and it’s 20 seconds.

And if you’re in a really, really dark mood, just go with the Babylon 5 season four opening which unlike the interminable first season takes 20 seconds instead of a full minute, and is … really super depressing. (Yeah, “the year everything changed.” Sorry, I should have given a nerd warning on this story.)

Do go send a post to Isaac! Would love to hear 20-second music from CDMers – I have Bluetooth headphones ready to go so I can even queue you up …

Also from him:

Image credit:

“clean hands” by Arlington County is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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