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Malfunctioning Sphincter Blues

by Greg Crowther


Context

This song highlights a theme -- sphincters -- that appears in several physiological systems (circulatory, digestive, muscular, urinary). People can sing each verse as they encounter the corresponding system in their studies, with the common melody and chorus underscoring the general theme. Alternatively, they can sing all the verses in sequence as a more comprehensive summary.

This song was loosely inspired by The Doors' "Roadhouse Blues" and, ideally, should sound a bit like that when performed.


Lyrics

Sphincters are muscles stretched around in a ring.
Sphincters are muscles stretched around in a ring.
Controlling access and flow is just their thing.

CHORUS:
Let it flow, baby, flow!
Let it flow, baby, flow!
Let it flow, baby, flow!
Let it flow, baby, flow!
Let it flow, baby, flow!
Let it flow, flow, flow ... or don't!

[Gastrointestinal verse]
Anal, ileocecal, pyloric and esophageal.
Anal, ileocecal, pyloric and esophageal.
They control the ebb and flow of your last meal.

[Facial muscle verse]
Orbicularis oculi, orbicularis oris.
Orbicularis oculi, orbicularis oris:
They help your eyes and mouth not be so porous.

CHORUS

[Circulatory verse]
Precapillary sphincters are found in the mesentery.
Precapillary sphincters are found in the mesentery.
They control the flow of blood where it needs to vary.

[Urinary verse]
Internal, external sphincters in the urethra.
Internal, external sphincters in the urethra.
They control the stream of urine that pools beneath ya.

CHORUS

Sphincters are muscles stretched around in a ring.
Sphincters are muscles stretched around in a ring.
Controlling access and flow is just their thing.

CHORUS


Other Files

sheet music (with melody play-back)


Lesson Plan

Songs like this one can be used during class meetings and/or in homework assignments. Either way, the song will be most impactful if students DO something with it, as opposed to just listening.

An initial, simple follow-up activity could be to answer the study questions below. A more extensive interaction with the song might entail (A) learning to sing it, using the audio file and/or sheet music as a guide, or (B) designing kinesthetic movements ("dance moves") to embody it. The latter activity should begin with students identifying the most important or most challenging content of the song, and deciding how to illustrate that particular content.

Finally, since it is relatively easy to write lyrics in the 12-bar blues format, students can be asked to add an additional verse to this song, perhaps about the consequences of a malfunctioning sphincter.


Study Questions

(1) Put the listed alimentary canal sphincters in order from mouth to anus.

(2) Over which sphincter(s) listed in the songs can we exert voluntary control?

(3) Are sphincters made up of skeletal muscle or smooth muscle or both?

(Answers may be found on the answers page.)