The Frontal Cortex

Emotional Music

Here’s a cool new music site. The premise of the site,, is simple: you pick a mood (somewhere between the poles of “energetic,” “dark,” “calm,” or “positive”), select a few musical genres and a favorite decade, and then the site automatically finds songs that reflect your state of mind. It’s affective reverse-engineering.

For someone like me, who habitually self-medicates with music, musicovery is a fun helper. Although I might quibble with a few of their suggestions – late Herbie Hancock isn’t very soothing – the site has certainly expanded my musical mood horizons. (My normal routine is to use music to exaggerate my mood, which means that if I’m depressed then I’ll put on “Blood on the Tracks.” That’s not recommended.) I find that musicovery actually encourages me to use music to counterbalance my moods, so if I’m sleepy I’ll set the dial to “energetic” and wake up sans caffeine to some Sonny Rollins or Feist or Jerry Lee Lewis.

As neuroscience continues to re-discover the importance of emotion for many different cognitive processes, I wonder if products like musicovery will become a new trend. After all, shouldn’t we pay more attention to our moods? Shouldn’t we learn how to cultivate our more agreeable emotions? Some people are already starting to do something similar with cookbooks, organizing recipes according to mood, instead of ingredient.

The big downside to such an endeavor is that turning our surroundings into a form of emotional medication will lead to some pretty banal surroundings. Look, for example, at retail stores, which have made a science out of muzak. The piped in sound might be soothing, but the best songs are never soothing. The best songs are always tragic love songs. Angst makes art.

Hat Tip: VSL


  1. #1 my music blog
    August 17, 2007

    musicovery has been around for sometime now. and yes, just like other music streaming sites, it gives you the kind of music that would suit your moods.

    If I may quote “The piped in sound might be soothing, but the best songs are never soothing. The best songs are always tragic love songs.” — tragic love songs are always the best for people who are on their tragic times. the emotional is so high that they can relate to every lyric of the song.

    goodluck on your first book. that would really be interesting, I believe.

  2. #2 Gabo
    August 23, 2007

    Well… i found the site quite limited in the songs it offers… but since it’s for free, nevermind.

  3. #3 wildcardjack
    August 25, 2007

    I am a mild and laid back person. I listen to really harsh music for the most part, when I listen to music (KMFDM and Electric Hellfire Club, for instance).

    But most of what I listen to is spoken word. Podcast and audio books represent about 90% of what is played on my iPod. I think this is mostly due to the fact that I am becoming cocooned as an atheist in a very baptist town.

    I really love my iPod because it gives me control over my auditory environment. I work as a book dealer and I spend a lot of time in thrift stores where they tend to play either christian music or hideous muzak.

    I have checked the site linked to, and I think the most remarkable thing is the interface. It is beautifully different and innovative. Gotta love tabbed browsing in Firefox.

  4. #4 Hız kesici, sistemleri
    March 7, 2009


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