Anthropology or “What you Readin’ For?”

In this week’s Economist I read a piece on the discovery of a cluster of 9th century, super organised (and now defunct) cities embedded deep in a part of the Amazon rainforest that was previously thought of as uninhabited by humans (read Amazon Garden City). I was especially intrigued by the fact that these “cities” had plazas: open places for gatherings, political or as a marketplace, a cemetery, a place for commmunity. Like the greek agora and other european models.

So the idea of assembly, the hard-wired human need to congregate and exchange ideas and wares, is so basic that the way these instinctive characteristics materialise themselves in modern times is indeed revealing.

I am constantly trying to understand human nature, to explain our existence in a meaningful, spiritual way (yet non-religious): to prove that there are greater forces at play, instinctual tendencies that inform us.

I immediately coupled this commuanal tendencay with another study: one that found our personalities can be described by the kind of music we listen to. Findings are as follows:

PEOPLE INTO MUSIC

Blues: High self-esteem, creative, outgoing, gentle and at ease.
Jazz: High self-esteem, creative, outgoing and at ease.
Classical: High self-esteem, creative, introvert and at ease.
Rap: High self-esteem, outgoing.
Opera: High self-esteem, creative, gentle.
Country & Western: Hardworking, outgoing.
Reggae: High self-esteem, creative, not hardworking, outgoing, gentle and at
ease.
Dance: Creative, outgoing, not gentle.
Indie: Low self-esteem, creative, not hard working, not gentle.
Bollywood: Creative, outgoing.
Rock/Heavy Metal: Low self-esteem, creative, not hard-working, not outgoing,
gentle, at ease.
Chart pop: High self-esteem, not creative, hardworking, outgoing, gentle,
not at ease.
Soul: High self-esteem, creative, outgoing, gentle, at ease.

I mean its kind of silly to suppose for a moment that music and personality are not connected: music and art are such a bottom-line part of culture, and the bits of culture we choose to like or identify with define who we are. So in some ways I find the “study” a little on the redundant side, but with a certain beat-you-over-the-head validity.

Can we take these two ingrained traits together, and further? If gathering together is a primal instinct, then how do the musical tastes defined as “introverted” differ from those that are “outgoing”? Culturally, identifying with music and congregating at a concert to share in an experience attests to this idea: that even a genre that boasts fans with low self-esteem, introversion and laziness still compells its audience towards community?

It explains a lot – physically and digitally – of the hipster indie rock culture: of the Stilleposts, Pitchforks, Brooklyn Vegans, SXSWs and CMJs, Pop Montreals and Pop Explosions, and the kinds of euphoric/frustrating experiences they beget.

Even xenophobic misanthropes can’t deny their need to be among other people, belonging to some kind of self-affirming culture.

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4 thoughts on “Anthropology or “What you Readin’ For?”

  1. The study seems to imply a black and white focus or point of view, with little regard to shades of grey. I myself listen to all kinds of music, metal, jazz, blues, soft rock, alternative…what does that say about me? Aren`t there more important life issues to be researched and studied?

  2. so what are you if you listen to all of those different types of music? are you some kind of unclassifiable weirdo that doesn’t belong anywhere? lol

    Geoffrey, maybe we need to be shun from society. Anthropologist might conclude we have underlying sociopathic personnalities.

    I enjoy listening to shuffle on my iPod that mixes in Chopin and Radiohead with some Bob Marley, throw in a little Juliana Theory, Killers or some obscure local indie band that no one knows. All that together… that might be very very dangerous….

    I agree with you again, Geoffrey… wouldn’t it more important to try and explain humanity’s constant uncontrollable urge to dominate and discriminate?

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