Music personality app is fun--but wrong

Signal Patterns says its new tool is able to determine a person's music personality based on their reaction to a couple dozen 10-second audio clips.

Personality tests are fun nonsense, in line with horoscopes and fortune tellers. I've taken a bunch of them over the years, both online and offline, and never learned anything consistent or surprising about myself.

The results are always in vague, yet flattering, language that's impossible to dispute: Hmm, I guess I do like being with people, and I enjoy parties. And yet, I also enjoy quiet time to myself, as well as contemplating the nature of the universe. Oh, and I love taking personality tests!

Signal Patterns offers a twist on the "know yourself" personality test site. In addition to the typical personality survey--which apparently shows that I'm aesthetic, intelligent, and organized (why, thank you!)--it has added a test (available Wednesday) that claims to determine one's "musical personality" based on 40 music samples, each lasting just 10 seconds.

The samples in my test were all by obscure artists, so, in theory, you'll judge them without prejudice. (Although, through a weird coincidence, I used to play with a drummer who also played with one of these artists, Anna Coogan and North 19. I rated the sample a 3 out of 5.)

I don't hate all relaxing music--just the 10-second New Age samples that were played.

The trouble is, you can't tell anything about a song from 10 seconds. I might hate a cheesy synthesized introduction, if the rest of the song is a standard R&B ballad, but I might like it, if it's Beck or Funkadelic, which border on parody. I might hate a rockabilly tune with hiccupy vocals, but love a good Reverend Horton Heat tune or Speedy West instrumental.

Case in point: my Music Patterns result said my most preferred trait is complexity, followed closely by instrumental (rather than vocal) songs. True--I've got a bit of a prog-rock fetish, and love instrumental freak-outs like Battles . But it also said I detest relaxing music--tell that to my totally scratched Bill Evans and Kind of Blue LPs--and don't like sad music, which wouldn't predict that I own every single Pink Floyd recording ever released, mostly on vinyl. (Although I've never personally seen Zabriskie Point on wax, and don't buy used LPs sight-unseen, I've still got the cassette.)

Some of the app's choices for me look reasonable, though--Ornette Coleman and Anton Shoenberg showed up in the top tier.

At any rate, it's fun to go through the process, and there are some clever links with social-networking services--for instance, it will let you post results to compare with your Facebook friends, and it will create an embeddable playlist of songs it imagines for Imeem.

 

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