Personality and Music… and I try not to climb an artistic high horse

I’m usually quite skeptical of this kind of thing, but Chris Green’s article in the Independent caught my attention. He writes:

“Rather than mere narrow- minded stereotyping, these are the results of an extensive psychological survey of more than 36,000 music lovers, which confirms, once and for all, that our musical tastes really do reflect our personality. But the study’s most remarkable discovery is that refined lovers of classical music share a high number of personality traits with those who prefer rocking out to heavy metal.”

First of all, I’m nothing even close to a psychologist, so forgive me for even digging deeper here.

But what is a personality trait anyway? This study asked participants to first define their own personality and then list their favorite music genres. But is that REALLY about your personality then. Isn’t it actually comparing how we DEFINE our personality against our favorite music? Or is how we define ourselves actually what our personality is. Or is it based on behavior? Or is our behavior driven by our personality which is defined by how we define ourselves?

I doubt there is an answer to this, but I’m sure there are plenty of well-rounded opinions out there that make this kind of questioning look foolish.

From the article again:

“According to Professor [Adrian] North, both heavy metal and classical fans are united by a shared “love of the grandiose”, which means that a Metallica fan is far more likely to listen to Mahler than an indie kid is to give reggae a try.”

I guess I kind of buy it, but I have to stand up for classical music here and object to clumping classical music fans together in one category. [It actually reminds me of how much of a disservice the term “classical music” is.]

So.I love Mahler. (I actually really do.) Mahler is grandiose. Heavy metal is grandiose. Therefore I should like heavy metal.

Except it’s not true. I don’t really like heavy metal. I love Mahler for some very specific reasons. Mahler being grandiose is part of that but not the only part. I assume the same sort of complexity is true for heavy metal.

The point I’m trying to make is just that it seems like a futile cause to try and scientifically link two things as incredibly complex as music and personality. BUT at the same time that futility is exactly what drives musicians to create music in the first place. And to be banal: that’s pretty damn cool.

So forget all the surveys and studies and whatever else… instead let’s try to answer the same question by creating the art.

Hm. Now I’m wondering about complexity verses simplicity in art and music. Maybe more on that later.

Oh. And another story.


~ by ohactually on September 5, 2008.

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