Opinion

My neighbours listen to good songs whether they like them or not

By Sandy Lloyd

SANDY LLOYD IS FACING THE MUSIC

Why do we like a certain song and hate another?

Why does one tune have us singing our lungs out in the car, and another makes us change the station with lightning speed?

Why is one person’s Celine Dion another person’s Poison (music pun intended)?

Why do I love The Cat Empire and loathe John Farnham, while a friend — who I see eye-to-eye with on most other things — feels exactly the opposite?

Two things got me thinking about this subject.

The first was a study by university researchers who were attempting to define an aesthetic experience of music.

And the second? My much-less-scientific Spotify wrap-up for 2019.

I love ‘unwrapping’ my Spotify year when the email hits my inbox.

The wonderful algorithm-crunching the clever Spotify computers do to reveal what you listened to over the past 12 months and how long you listened to it for. And the bonus for 2019 — Spotify also wrapped up the decade.

But the words on the Spotify email that caught my attention most were: “Dig into the music that made your year. Because no-one listened quite like you.”

Which is what the academics were trying to understand when they surveyed 172 participants for their study.

The mix of music and non-music students were asked to nominate their favourite and least liked pieces of music, as well as ones they thought were great. Ditto for artists.

The results showed disliked music evoked negative feelings such as frustration, anger, irritation and annoyance.

Liked music, on the other hand, evoked feelings of calm, happiness, love, hope, joy, nostalgia, power and sadness.

“From this study we have defined an aesthetic experience of music as the contemplation of objects or situations expressing (usually) beauty, which also motivates you to listen to music, inducing pleasure and giving the listener a buzz or high,” Professor Emery Schubert from UNSW’s Empirical Musicology Laboratory said. (What the heck is an empirical musicology laboratory?)

In non-academic speak, it means the music you like makes you feel good — while the music you don’t like, doesn’t.

Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen received the highest number of nominations in the study for great pieces of music.

Other nominated great pieces of music included Claude Debussy’s Clair de Lune and My Heart Will Go On by Celine Dion.

Friday by Rebecca Black received the highest number of nominations for disliked piece of music, followed by Happy by Pharrell Williams, Gangnam Style by Psy and Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson.

But Gangnam Style, Happy and Uptown Funk were sometimes loved, with the Mark Ronson song even considered a great classic song by some.

The artists considered the greatest were Queen, followed by the Beatles, then Beethoven and Coldplay.

The researchers were surprised to find artists like ABBA, Queen, Coldplay and Whitney Houston have been added to the list of great masters of music.

Professor Schubert said the findings showed that the undisputed champions of music — Bach, Beethoven and Mozart — were never disliked by the participants.

But some of the new contenders, Queen and Coldplay, were sometimes disliked.

“It seems that undisputed greatness just takes a long time to establish,” Professor Schubert said.

For the record (sorry for another music pun), here are my Spotify stats for 2019:

*I spent 17 097 minutes (that’s 284 hours or nearly 12 days) listening to Spotify — which just shows how much time I spend in a car or enjoy lazy Sundays at home. And that I listen to Spotify more than CDs and the radio now.

*I was “genre-fluid and refused to let one sound define me". I suppose that’s what happens when you listen to Queens of the Stone Age one minute and Peter, Paul and Mary the next.

*I listened to artists from 27 countries, and ‘discovered’ 282 new artists (well, new to my Spotify playlists — most of them I’d listened to somewhere else before).

*The artist I spent the most time (seven hours) listening to in 2019 was Muse, followed by The Black Keys, New Order, Joy Division and The Cat Empire.

*And my ‘artist of the decade’ was Joy Division.

Unsurprisingly, the artists NOT on my Spotify statistics were also the ones the study respondents gave the most thumbs down to.

Nicki Minaj received the most nominations for disliked artist, followed by Psy, Justin Bieber, Rebecca Black and Taylor Swift.

Just one name missing from that list — John Farnham. But I’m guessing that’s just me.

I AM WATCHING...

The latest screen adaptation of the classic novel by Louisa May Alcott, Little Women. What a wonderful adaptation it is — and I’ve seen a few. I fell in love with the story when I read it as a child — I think mainly because I wanted to be Jo March and be a wild and free writer. This is the first version of the story I’ve seen that isn’t told chronologically. Writer and director Greta Gerwig cleverly jumps between past and present to tell us about the four March sisters and their journey from children to adults. Great directing, great writing and great performances — don’t miss it.

I AM LISTENING...

To the rainfall figures local ABC radio listeners text or phone-in after it rains. There haven’t been many rainfall reports for far too long thanks to the drought, but we more than made up for it after the downpours during this past week. What a flurry of calls and texts Shepparton ABC breakfast host Matt Dowling wrangled after those storms. I love that we live in a world that hasn’t yet got too big and too ugly that we can’t listen to David from Myrrhee share with us how much rain is in his farm gauge. Such a simple thing, but such a wonderful community connection.

I AM SO HAPPY...

Big tennis tournaments are back in Australia and on my TV screen. I loved the new ATP Cup format in the lead-up to the Australian Open, especially how well the Aussies (including a seemingly reformed Nick Kyrgios) played. Now the down under grand slam is here, and although the big match-ups haven’t hit the courts yet, there is still plenty to watch and enjoy. Fingers crossed ‘our’ Ash Barty can withstand the pressure and go all the way, and I’m salivating at the prospect of a possible fourth round meeting between superstar Rafael Nadal and a (hopefully) well-behaved Kyrgios.

I AM GRIEVING...

The loss of comedy genius Terry Jones, the Monty Python member who died this week, aged 77. Now there are only four Pythons left, whose off-beat antics I grew up with and still influence my comedy tastes today. Jones often played a woman in Monty Python Flying Circus sketches and Python movies, most famously as Brian’s mother in Life of Brian — “He’s not the Messiah. He’s a very naughty boy!” He also directed that film, as well as The Meaning of Life and co-directed The Holy Grail. An extraordinarily talented man. I can feel a Monty Python marathon coming on.