You Are What You Hear: What Your Favorite Music Says About You
Think back over the soundtrack to your life. Those songs you heard in grade school and church, on first dates and at dances, in college dorms and convertibles, at weddings and graduations — it’s all part of your musical makeup.
And today, the mysterious power of music seems to be even more personal and pervasive. With help from iPods, downloads, clouds and smartphones, we can literally “soundtrack” our lives any time, anywhere.
But why do we like what we like? What makes us choose Kanye over Coltrane, Mahler over Madonna, or Youssou N’Dour over Yeasayer? And what does it say about us, personally?
These and other questions about why music matters to just about everyone, in every culture, are posed in a recent article in the Guardian by musicologist Eric Clarke. And along with the Oxford professor’s theories, which range from scientific to social, the British publication has launched “Six Songs of Me,” a project to map as many personal playlists as possible. They’ve set up a special site (fueled by Spotify) where you can pick your most meaningful songs in six categories. They’re hoping to gather enough data, Clarke says, to “help us think more fruitfully about the ‘big questions’ that lie behind the sounds of our lives.”
The categories, in the form of questions, are:
- What was the first song you ever bought?
- What song always gets you dancing?
- What song takes you back to your childhood?
- What is your perfect love song?
- What song would you want at your funeral?
- Time for an encore. One last song that makes you, you.
I’m particularly intrigued by that last category. Is it possible to pick a single song and say, “This is me?” Our very favorite music, the sounds we connect with most profoundly, can be a very personal thing not easily shared. Still, sometimes we wear our favorites proudly — like our choice of clothing — in a form of self-expression.