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Robb Kloss

Kia ora Joe,
I took the test and scored very similar to your results, dead on 96 in the reflective and complex catagory. I wonder what the results might be if the questions broke down a little further within some of those musical genres, I hate that word. For instance, I might like jazz, or love jazz, but do I prefer Chet Baker or Wynton Marsalis? Perhaps being more specific we might find what we thought we loved we like, ect. Also might eliminate, as you write, self-fulfilling prophecies a wee bit. I remember once being at the gym, and getting on the stairmaster. I had just been to the cd shop and bought a new cd by The Jayhawks, whom I think are, were, an excellent band, sort of the fore front of the alt-country style, in my opinion. Being as I was alone I thought I would put it on, and did, and was greatly enjoying until a young work out girl in her mid 20's came in the room and got on the treadmill. She listened to a half a song, if that, went over and took off my cd without any hesitation or asking, and put on the more familar gym music, i.e., Madonna or disco type stuff, then happily resumed her walking. I smiled to myself and finished my workout, wondering if had she actually listened for a minute she may have both heard something new and interesting music, not to mention probably just as easy to do her 20 minute treadmill session. I never took the Jayhawks, or any cd, back to the gym, and instead listen to the incessant thumping gym beat. Interesting as always Joe, have a great day.
Ka kite,


Hi Robb,

I'm hardly surprised, given the similarity of our musical tastes (at least during our "formative years" in college) and the form and content of many of our conversations (then and since), that we have similar scores on the test.

The gym experience you described is very similar to the irritation - er, I mean, inspiration - that drove the design, development and deployment of MusicFX. Without going into too many technical details, we included a "weighted random selection operator" to try to increase the variety of music played, but not stray too far away of the [lowest] common denominator, and instituted a control to diminish the possibility that any one person could "veto" the music. We observed many interesting experiences when music that was not among the top 3 genres would come on. Many of these were surprisingly positive, e.g., when Chinese Music (rather reflective and complex) came on the day before Christmas, a couple of women standing next to a strength training station were observed to react with surprise and then note that they "kind of like" the music ... at least in that context.

FWIW, noting the rather strong views many people have about the genre, we chose "hot country" to illustrate some of the benefits of the "democratization" of influence in our video dramatization of MusicFX (which I recently discovered is on YouTube (!)).

BTW, I'll be following your implicit (and quite likely unintentional) recommendation of the Jayhawks as I continue my re-engagement with music :-).


Robb Kloss

Kia ora Joe,
While I did not intentionally set out to "promote" the Jayhawks, I would definitely give them a thumbs up, particularly their 2003 album Rainy Day Music.
I watched the video on MusicFX. Very cool. What is happening with it? Is it being used? I think it is an excellent application of democracy in action.
Have a great day.
ka kite,


Hi Robb,

I interpreted your promotion of the Jayhawks as - at most - implicit, and am very happy to now have a more explicit recommendation for a specific album as an introduction to their music.

As for MusicFX, after it won a Nova 7 award for innovation in Fitness Management magazine, I received inquiries from Gold's Gym, Bally's Gym and a few other fitness center chains. We investigated the prospects of spinning it out into a separate business in 1999, but at that time, Accenture's (or at that time, probably Andersen Consulting's) venture organization was focusing exclusively on incubating new businesses that were more closely aligned with the company's core business (business integration systems) and/or core clients (Fortune 100 companies). Once we sold the Northbrook office where we had the fitness center in 2001, the system was shut down, and to my knowledge was never resurrected. I would not be surprised if there is still a business opportunity there.

As I noted in a comment in my post about leaving Nokia, the downside of working for a large enterprise is that the bar is very high for what constitutes a successful new business idea (and/or prototype). I believe that MyStrands offers the "right-sized" opportunity for the kinds of innovations I've been - and will be - involved in to be more fully developed and realized ... some of which will, no doubt, incorporate some of the ideas (and lessons learned) from our earlier work on MusicFX.


Dana Pavel

Hi Joe,

interesting post that hits very close to some of my reasons for getting interested in affective computing. I totally agree to situational music selection and I especially think that current emotional state drives the selection process even further. Given similar situations (e.g., walking, working, etc.), if the emotional state is different I will most probably pick a different music. In an even more complex note, given a similar emotional state, if the goal is different (e.g., get out of it vs. complement it) I will pick a different music :-)



Hi Dana,

You are quite right - there are even finer levels of granularity with respect to the context in which certain kinds of music are desirable (or even acceptable). And even at the coarser level of context in which we deployed MusicFX - working out in a fitness center - there are subcontexts in which different kinds of music may be more or less preferred (e.g., I generally prefer up-tempo music when using cardiovascular training equipment such as elliptical trainers or stationary bikes, but prefer slower, more reflective music - such as the aforementioned Chinese Music channel (on DMX) - when I'm using weight training equipment ... but I noticed I'm an outlier in weight training style, as I practice my repetitions at a very slow, somewhat meditative, pace.

I also welcome your insight into using music to trigger a new or different emotional state. Songs from Broadway musicals such as Put On a Happy Face and Cabaret come to mind ... which gets me to thinking about mappings between movies and theater - and television and books - and music ... but I'll leave that for another post.

Thanks for deepening and broadening the discussion!


Dana Pavel

Something else came to my mind now and I thought might be interesting also for this discussion thread. I recently watched one of David Attenborough's documentaries called Song of the Earth (on DVD). In it, he was exploring the relations between nature world and humans when it comes to musical sounds. What I liked a lot is that he tried to explain what is the reason for creating music/musical sounds. As expected, some of the most basic reasons are marking territory and attracting mates. However, those do not explain all the music, e.g., Bach. So, the third one he found was inducing/expressing emotions (I am wondering which comes first :-)). I think it goes very much in the direction of music and personality :-)


According to the Music and Personality test, we "reflective and complex" music lovers also tend to "enjoy documentary films, independent, classic, or foreign films". I loved David Attenborough's Planet Earth series; Song of the Earth [also] sounds fascinating (and relevant). I went to add it to my Netflix queue, but it is not listed there or on Amazon, so it looks like the only option is to buy the VHS videotape from the PBS site.

While vacationing in Hawaii last week, I was mesmerized by the visual and aural grandeur of the whales. I took lots of photos of humpback whales off Maui, and enjoyed listening to their songs while snorkeling. Interestingly, though, I hadn't made the connection between music and animality (?) until your comment, which prompted me to do a little more research about the humpback songs, leading me to yet another PBS page, on The Ocean's Elaborate Composers (a segment from the logs of the 5-year "Voyage of the Odyssey"), that includes recordings of humpbacks, and other interesting information regarding "the song of the Humpback whale ... the most grand and complex in the animal kingdom". The transcript quotes Roger Payne, who first discovered humpback whales singing in 1967, when he observed that only males sing, they sing for hours or days on end, their songs exhibit rhythm and phrasing. The transcript further notes:

"Remarkably, all male humpback whales from the same population sing the same song, while the songs of each population are quite distinct from one another. This means that the structure and content of all of the songs we recorded today are the same, yet different from a whale that may also be singing today in his mating grounds in the Pacific or Atlantic Oceans. As Roger Payne observed 'Humpback whales change their songs continually so that after about five years they are singing an entirely new song and apparently do not ever return to the original'."

Um, that's probably more information than you or anyone else (who is not also obsessed with whales) is interested in, but I find it fascinating.

Returning to the human animal, I'm only half way through David Levitin's book, "Your Brain on Music", but recently read a passage in which he talks about how composers artfully manipulate expectations and emotions through music, claiming it is the musical score in memorable movie scenes that triggers our emotions more strongly than any other component of the scene ... very much in alignment with your report on Attenborough's finding regarding music being used for the inducement and expression of emotions. I'm reminded of my oft-repeated movie watching - and listening - experience of an embarrassingly powerful emotional reaction when Zack Mayo (Richard Gere) finally comes to his senses and returns to the factory where his true love, Paula Pokrifki (Debra Winger), works, and picks her up and walks off with her in his arms at the end of An Officer and a Gentleman, accompanied by the increasingly intense reprise of the movie's Oscar-winning theme song, "Up Where We Belong". I say "embarrassingly" because my wife doesn't understand why I always have such a strong reaction (she says it's a "chick flick") ... and I'm not sure what this says about my personality. [I'm also not sure whether this film qualifies as a "classic" (part of the "reflective and complex" profile), but I have a similar reaction to the final scene in It's a Wonderful Life, which surely ranks as a classic (though I don't remember the musical score accompanying that scene).]

Anyhow, I may add "An Officer and a Gentleman" to my Netflix queue ... to experiment with whether I get [as] teary-eyed watching the scene with the sound off ... or listening to the soundtrack without watching the screen ... all in the name of science, of course (not [just] because I'm an incurable romantic).

Dana Pavel

If interested to buy, you can find the documentary (and some other really good ones) on the DVD called "Attenborough in Paradise and Other Personal Voyages" on Amazon.



Thanks for your email regarding tearing up at An Officer and a Gentleman and It's a Wonderful Life (two of my favorite films, as well). I'm an easy cryer, too -- ten minutes of crying at conclusion of A Beautiful Mind is my record, heightened for sure by Charlotte Church's beautiful rendition of a song about angels called "All Love Can Be." I think of moments where music "induces" emotions in film as usually driven by the story, not just the music. The music serves primarily to amplify and deepen the effects of what is happening. So, indeed, watching Officer without the sound on could affect your feelings -- I know it would mine. I guess we all have our own triggers and there probably could be a typology of people based on the movie moments when they choke up. That A Beautiful Mind had such a powerful effect on me perhaps means I'm truly a crazy person! But I think it's just a little deeper -- that even a crazy person (like me) can be healed by love, by being loved, as reinforced by the story, and by Church's song.

So there I was, for example, watching American Idol last night as the cameras panned to David Archuleta as Alexandrea Lushington sang a song at her own elimination. Suddenly I'm right into the tears of loss because I imagine David actually cares for Alexandrea and its that same moment of love for someone on a social edge! And I cry, too! And who would that someone be? Guess!

Films and the music in them allow us to project our own stories about the wounds we have received and their potential healing. I like Officer because both characters tell us lots about their social edges related to class, upbringing, and personality and again touch love in that moving final scene. What's archetypically "right" falls into place for the two protagonists. The music about "up where we belong" reinforces the experience of being loved even though the edges could have sabotaged what appears to be their birthright. The substory of the lateral male character who commits suicide reinforces how powerful the edges are and how capable of destroying the person. The substory presents the risks.

A similar birthright moment occurs at the end of A Wonderful Life, where the good man is pulled back from his edges by community into the love that he deserves. There is music there, too, but the most powerful sound is of a bell heralding that "another angel got wings." The sound amplifies, deepens, and symbolizes our constant underlying hope to be fully seen and loved for who we are, as it's been played out in the script. Money, of course, also is symbolic in the film of this same action. Put money, angels, family, friends, and that bell sound in the same place and whammo! we can't help but experience our own deeply felt birthright and wounding.

I find it fascinating how angels show up in both A Beautiful Mind and A Wonderful Life. But that would have to do with our projections onto angels (and are they really projections?) as being able to help us experience that birthright and process of healing in our conscious lives.

Well, at least this is my theory of how it works!

Best to you, Joe


Dan: thanks for your insights into emotional reactions to media. I appreciate your keen observations about birthrights, projections and angels - and especially about wounds and healing. I had a particularly warm emotional reaction while reading the following sentence:

Films and the music in them allow us to project our own stories about the wounds we have received and their potential healing.

Bingo! I am grateful for the revelation, and yet, somewhat frustrated because I feel like I should know this, myself, by now (!). At least I'm smart enough to know that you would know this (hence my email).

Your comment brings to mind a corollary to George Orwell's observation that "The best books are those that tell you what you already know":

The best friends are those who remind you - as often as necessary - of what you already know

Thanks, my friend!

Guitar FX

Excellent insights. I tried the music and personality test, and by my own assessment, it was spot-on. It's interesting how we identify so strongly with music, and even tend to base our self image around our musical preferences.

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