"Music is the soundtrack of your life." ~ Dick Clark
Imagine what your favorite movie would be like without the soundtrack.
The soundtrack can make or break a movie. It propels the story and sets the tone. Music can build suspense and help us form reactions to the characters. The right music can elevate a movie to mythic standards. What would Star Wars be like without the iconic music composed by John Williams? or The Lion King without Elton John's lyrics? or how about the times-defining music choices in Forrest Gump? Other songs may have worked, but they wouldn't have been as powerful. They might still be great movies, but the music adds so much dimension to our enjoyment of the films.
The same is true for theme songs. Do you remember the show Cheers? If you do, I will bet that you can hum the theme song, "Where Everybody Knows Your Name." Or how about Friends? "I'll Be There For You" is not only snappy, but it perfectly defined that show.
Now think about your life. Chances are there has been a thread of music running through it constantly. From the time you were little to just today, every person has a soundtrack to their life. Some of the music is something that you might have grown up hearing because your parents or siblings listened to it, perhaps it is the choices that you made for yourself as a teenager and were able to select music that suited your developing style, or maybe it is the music that you gravitate to in your daily life, for working out, waking up, celebrating or falling asleep. Our music choices say a lot about us.
With the advent of the technology available to us today, every person walking down the street has their own personal playlist, some walking right along with them. When I was growing up, you were defined by whatever radio station you chose to listen to, or what 45s you purchased. I eventually graduated to a Walkman that played one CD at a time but was not shared with others. Today we have iPods and MP3 players and we can share our music choices with each other fairly easily. There are satellite music stations that beam only the genre you want to hear into your car and websites that allow you to create your own channel based on your thumbs up or thumbs down on a song. In fact, it has become a sort of a game to share playlists with others, or to see if you can identify the person whose playlist is labeled anonymous. Remember when you could tell a lot about someone by their medicine cabinet? Now you can learn a lot about them from the playlist on their iPod (for the record, I don't have an iPod, but I am an avid listener of Pandora channels and have dozens of them to set the mood for whatever I am doing at the moment. And I understand that I can even create and swap Pandora channels with other people. I should try that sometime.)
What does music say about the listener?
Music is a common topic of conversation with people who are just starting a relationship. Assumptions are made about what type of person someone is based on their musical preferences. Not only is musical preference an outward expression of our inner personalities but our choices of music can be influenced by external situations as well.Musical preferences can be influenced by our personalities (extroverts may tend toward choral music; more religious people may tend toward music with messages in tune with their beliefs), our mood (someone who just had a breakup may be more inclined to somber melodies) or our upbringing (children with a parent who plays in a symphony may find themselves drawn to more classical music).
In 2008 there was a great deal of interest in the first presidential playlist ever released: the iPod playlist of George W Bush. He had country music with a smattering of 70s rock and folk thrown in. His playlist was the subject of much psychoanalysis at the time. What did his song choices say about his state of mind when the Iraq war was raging? Did the song "My Sharona" by the Knack indicate that he had had a wild affair? And during the last presidential election the release of Obama's iPod list revealed his love of jazz but also hip-hop and included African-American greats as well as Bob Dylan. Very diverse tastes that could say something about his personality... or not. Of course, these are just observations that others have made based on what was revealed and we will never know exactly what that means other than they like one song over another.
Cambridge University psychologist Jason Rentfrow did a study of the preferences that individuals have of music and what that says about their personality. If you like, you can watch this short YouTube clip showing the highlights of his study.
Rentfrow noted that everyone has stereotypes when it comes to what music genres say about other people, but that they don't believe their own music preferences say anything about themselves. I find that incredibly interesting.
Rentfrow and US researcher Sam Gosling created a questionnaire they administered to undergraduates at their respective universities to determine musical preferences and personality traits for their study. They came up with four dimensions of musical preference made up of various genres and then correlated those music dimensions with personality traits (information adapted from ScienceBlogs.com report "What Does Your Music Say About You?" and the study paper "The Do Re Mi's of Life"):
- Reflective and Complex - blues, jazz, classical, and folk
Researchers found that those who listened to Reflective and Complex music tended to be inventive with active imaginations, consider themselves to be intelligent and reject conservative ideals. They generally found them to be open to new experiences and emotionally stable.
- Intense and Rebellious - rock, alternative, and heavy metal
This type of music is more often than not associated with negative images, anti-social behavior and a combative attitude. Interestingly, this study concluded that those who like this type of music are curious about different things, enjoy taking risks, consider themselves intelligent and are physically active.
- Upbeat and Conventional - country, sound tracks, religious, and pop
People who prefer this type of music are cheerful, socially outgoing, reliable and enjoy helping people. They tend to be conventional and rate themselves as physically attractive.
- Energetic and Rhythmic - rap and hip/hop, soul and funk, electronica and dance
Those who are attracted to Energetic and Rhythmic music styles are energetic themselves, are talkative and forgiving and adopt more liberal ideals.
If you could pick one song to be your Power Anthem, what would it be?
For my own life, I can claim a wide variety of musical tastes from classical and jazz to Broadway musicals and country. I have a love of singer-songwriters and based on my preferences in the channel that I have built that I call "Nighttime in the Studio," Pandora has determined that I like "basic rock song structures, a subtle use of vocal harmony, repetitive melodic phrasing, mixed acoustic and electric instrumentation and major key tonality." What does that say about my personality? It might say that I am intelligent and cheerful with an active imagination. Or it could just be a fact that I need to have more melodic music when I am working that won't distract me or make my pulse race too high which I have found to negatively impact what I am trying to create.
I have certain performers that I keep coming back to, like Maroon 5 and Sting, Journey and Rascal Flatts, Brad Paisley and Jack Johnson, Billie Holiday and Sara Bareilles, Mozart and the soundtrack to Wicked. I will admit that I do have an affinity for Glee as well as a love of the American Idol process. And I also sing as a cantor, or leader of music at my church. In fact I will be leading the congregation this coming Sunday.
I like popular music that my kids have on their iPods as well as music that I grew up listening to with my parents, like the Beatles, Glenn Miller, Nat King Cole and Tony Bennett. I go through phases. I will latch onto a song and play it over and over again in my car until I get the words just right (Adele's 21 is on a loop in my car now. I almost have song #7 down). And there are songs that I will forever hold in my memory as evoking a certain time and place, like the song that my husband chose for our first married dance (Garth Brooks "If Tomorrow Never Comes") and one of the best concerts that I ever attended (Genesis "In the Air Tonight").
Are you getting inspired yet? Ready to take the Challenge?
What song do you connect to so personally that every time it comes on the radio the beat moves you, the lyrics speak to your soul, and the harmonies make your heart sing? If you love music, this is the challenge for you! For the Challenge of Music, we will choose a song that speaks to each of us personally and translate that song into an accessory. Here is how it will work:
1::Go to the tab above that says 'take the challenge' and sign up. Participation is limited to the first 100 who sign up between February 1st-February 4th.
2::Start thinking about a song. (Don't worry, you don't have to know right away what song, just start thinking!) Go to your playlist or CD collection or Pandora or Slacker music apps and just listen. Select a song that you love. It can be one that speaks to your soul, moves your feet, brings back a memory or never fails to put a smile on your face. It can be in any genre, from any time period. Consider songs from your past: the song you danced to at your wedding, the music that defined that special summer, the song that brings back memories of your first crush, etc. You get the idea. And no, it doesn't have to be music with words. If you love classical or instrumental music, that is fine, too.
OR challenge yourself to try a new music genre (it is called a challenge after all...)If you like country, try classical... if you prefer hip-hop try jazz... if heavy metal is your thing, try blues. Not sure what songs are out there? Go to Pandora.com and select one of their general music stations in a genre and spend some time listening to it before settling on a song you connect with. You might be surprised to find something new that you really like!
Just for fun, want to find the Playlist of Your Life? Try this exercise from WikiHow.
3::Mark your calendar: Blog Hop on Wednesday, February 29th. Yes, you must have a blog to participate in a blog hop. You are encouraged to blog about your song selection (be sure to tell us the complete song title, artist), your inspiration, your creative process. Be sure to tell us of your connection to this song, why you chose it. Please find a way to share the music on your blog: add a clip from YouTube, link to the artist's website, share what you learned about the artist's inspiration, supply part of the lyrics, etc. It doesn't have to be all of these, but some way that we can enjoy the song will be helpful in making the connection with your accessory.
Hopefully we will have as many different songs as we have participants. And if we have our overseas friends join us, we might even have a real world beat! You won't reveal your song until the blog hop, so don't worry about claiming a song. I don't care if you all pick the same song (that is highly unlikely). But even if we all did the same exact song we would still have so many different interpretations. This is an exercise in how to take an intangible inspiration and interpret it in your own way. I hope that this Challenge of Music hop will be a great way to expand your horizons to new music, find a way to make the intangible tangible, and show off your unique and lovely personality!
I will compile all the entries into the database and email all of the participants by Tuesday, February 7th with more information to help you enjoy the hop. The most important thing is to HAVE FUN!
Your turn... and completely for fun if you want to answer it...What is the most surprising song or artist on your playlist or CD in your collection? In other words, what song or artist is the one that people would be surprised to know that you listen to?
Okay, I'll start... I will admit that I love Weird Al Yankovich. Does anyone remember a radio syndication called Dr. Demento? Apparently, the Dr. is still going strong. Back in the 80s I used to listen to this show on Sunday nights. Songs like "Fish Heads" and "Pencil Neck Geek" and "They're Coming To Take Me Away" were all the rage. And that is where I was first introduced to Weird Al. When my son started coming home and telling me he found these really funny songs like "Eat It," "My Bologna" and "Like A Surgeon," I was delighted. I had no idea that Weird Al was still recording and still funny after all these years ("White and Nerdy" - new classic!). Of course, my son thought that he had discovered Weird Al, but this allowed me to introduce him to some of the best songs of my 80s generation so that he could fully appreciate the parodies. Because you can't understand the Weird Al tune "Fat" without seeing the King of Pop gyrating, popping and locking in an abandoned subway station to fully appreciate the genius that is Weird Al.
P.S. I know that some people were excited and thought that this would be another Challenge of Color. I intend to do the Challenge of Color in November each year for as long as anyone wants to play along. But each quarter I have committed to a different challenge to keep things interesting.
Hope to care to join me in the Challenge of Music!