When I awoke on Sunday, a random fact (probably a dream remnant) claimed front seat in my thoughts:
Zez Confrey is the composer of “Kitten on the Keys”.
Remarkable that I should have known this in the first place — though I do have one spirited performance of the piece on my iTunes (by Alan Feinberg on his album Fascinatin’ Rhythm) — and even more remarkable that I retrieved the memory. Why?
Well, Zez is about as Z-heavy a name as you can get (and even more compact than Zardoz). Fact is, I notice words with a Z in them, especially names, and they get lodged in my memory.
Actually, I notice them even when I’m not reading text, and attending to it, but merely noticing the text in passing, at a glance. I don’t think I’m looking for names with Zs, but even when my attention is focused on something else, my mind takes me there. I’m implicitly attending to the letter Z.
Before I go on, a few words about Zez Confrey. From his Wikipedia entry:
Edward Elzear “Zez” Confrey (April 3, 1895 – November 22, 1971) was an American composer and performer of piano music. His most noted works were [the novelty compositions] “Kitten on the Keys,” and “Dizzy Fingers.”
Back to implicit attention. We are, all the time, negotiating an immense world of sensory experience — visual, auditory, tactual, olfactory, gustatory, proprioceptive, and more — while treating some of this as foreground (to which we’re attending) and most of it as background. Much of the background we don’t register at all, but some of it we notice without realizing it. That’s implicit attention.
You’re in a public place, and people are talking all around you. You might listen in on some conversations, but mostly it’s apparently just background noise — except that if someone says something that resonates with you personally, something like your first name or your last name, or something phonetically close to one of them, that will stand out and you’ll register it.
Same thing if you’re paging through material to find a particular page or section. You’re not reading through the material that passes by, but if something comes past that resonates with you personally for some reason, that will stand out and you’ll register it. Zs are salient for me, so I’ll notice Z words even in material that I’m not actually reading. So Zez stood out for me the first time I came across it, and it’s stuck in my memory.
(Now listening to the rest of Fascinatin’ Rhythm.)