In the winter of 1900, six-year-old Nicolas Slonimsky was introduced to the world of popular Russian ditties. “Little bird, what did you do? I drank vodka, so did you,” he would warble to enchanted relatives. Isabelle Vengerova, his aunt, who was a famous teacher at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, discovered earlier that year that he possessed perfect pitch, and began giving him lessons. She believed that he was destined for musical greatness. Although Slonimsky’s career as a musical prodigy never quite materialized, his early singing days made a lasting impression: Slonimsky was one of the first composers to explicitly decipher what made certain tunes irresistible. In the twenties, Oliver Sacks writes in “Musicophilia,” Slonimsky began creating musical patterns designed to “hook the mind and force it to mimicry and repetition.” In 1947, Slonimsky’s insights were released as a book, “Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns,” which would go on to become an important musical influence for composers from John Coltrane to Frank Zappa.