You are driving home from work, scanning the radio for any station not blabbering on about traffic or Bieber. You rest your finger when you hear music, finally. At first, you hardly even notice the song that’s playing. But slowly, it sucks you in—the words, the tempo, the feel. Your heart begins synching its beat to the slow rhythm. The happy mood you were in while getting into the car just two minutes ago shifts as you pay more mind to the tone and melody of the song. Suddenly you’re sad. The music evoking melancholy memories of your past. Then the song ends, snapping you out of your somber trance.
Or maybe you are driving, a song comes on, and now you are rolling down the windows, screaming out the lyrics, hands beating on the steering wheel like it’s a snare drum, hair blowing in the wind—and then the song ends as you sheepishly look around to make sure no one was filming your spastic outburst.
In these instances, the music creates the mood. Like a friend sharing a sad or happy story, you empathize with them, similarly to how you respond to the songs on the radio.
Other times you may take more control over the song selection. ”I am in a fantastic, carefree mood; I am putting on some Bob Marley.” Or “I can’t believe we broke up…where is the country radio station…” In these scenarios, you directly seek out music that matches your mood to find comfort. Reversing the role of the empathetic friend from you to the music.
Sometimes it’s nice when the music evokes an emotional response you previously weren’t feeling. And sometimes when you are relaxing by the pool, all you want to hear is Bob’s Three Little Birds.
But what happens when music and mood are blended into one. The chicken is now the egg—the egg, the chicken. Spotify is currently working on this new “chicken egg” technology that will create playlists and song selections directly tailored to your mood—at least what their algorithm thinks your mood is. With a motion sensor and heart monitor keeping tabs on you, the music streaming service collects personal data about you. The more data it collects about your exercise routines, sleep patterns, etc. perhaps the more accurate the program can be in generating a soundtrack to your life.
If music is played to match how you feel at all times without your direct input, will we miss the random sad song that comes on that causes us to pause and think about our first pet dog? Or the unexpected adrenaline boost “black betty” gives us on the ride home? Will someone sad be stuck listening to minor chords all day? With technology trending towards hyper-personalization, where everything is or can be tailored into little individualized cocktails for us, will the breadth of experience, variety, and diversity fade from our daily lives?