Personality types by the music they like

If you’re like many people, you’re searching to figure out who you are at your core, your essence. It might help a bit to identify a piece of music that’s quintessentially you. An example might elucidate. The following 16 pieces of music reflect my essence. Few of you will want to adopt one of those as your theme music but perhaps listening to them might encourage you to find your own. At minimum, they should provide a bit of respite from your packed day.

These are excellent performances of each piece, all with video. It’s wonderful that we can, with a click of a mouse, experience them, let alone for free.

. You’ll notice Glenn Gould’s occasionally humming along. For me, that reflects his willingness to defy convention, even jar some listeners, in the service of the music.

As a child of Holocaust survivors, this has particular resonance for me but even if I wasn’t one, I think I’d want this playing when I’m on my deathbed.

Mitsuku Uchida’s profound rendering seems reflective of her face, that of a person who has lived and felt deeply.

. This is Daniel Barenboim’s sensitive interpretation of one of music’s most sensitive five minutes.

.This was the first recording that introduced me to the violin. I was about ten years old and made my mother buy it for me. The clerk said to me, “Why would you want that?” I answered, “Because I’m curious.” I was lucky that I happened to pick Isaac Stern’s recording of it because it’s still arguably the finest rendition ever. That’s the version that is attached here.

Notice how the pianist, Helene Grimaud, often comes in just after the beat, which adds emotion to an already supremely emotional piece.

. Grimaud again, this time performing the first piece I played on the piano that required emotional depth. It helped me grow up. It’s misleadingly nicknamed The Raindrop Prelude because of its repeated notes. That belies its complexity.

This is one of the pieces I recall my junior high school music teacher playing for the class. Such is the stuff of which K-12 education should mainly be made, moreso than, for example, quadratic equations, deciphering Shakespearian language, and the Peloponnesian Wars’ battles. My teacher’s having played such music for us established in me a love of music that has enhanced my life almost daily for a lifetime.

I played this as a child but only now can realize its embodiment of the impressionist period of art as well as music.

. This reminds me that religion has inspired some of the loftiest music. As you listen, picture yourself drifting amid heaven’s clouds.

. This is said to be the saddest piece of music ever written. I can’t think of a sadder one, yet I enjoy listening to it—at least for a few of its eight minutes.

. Unusual in slow music, this offers a lovely balance of sadness and happiness. And although the theme repeats a lot in its seven minutes, I rarely find myself wanting to click “stop” before it ends.

Does not the harp add surreality?

.  Grimaud one more time, playing the last piece Beethoven played in public before he died. I can see why he chose that.

Spiegel Im Spiegel. While, at first listening, I dismissed this as simplistic New Age pap, I find that its simplicity, more than any of these 16 pieces, slows me down and puts me at peace.

In recent years I’ve developed a hand condition. The doctors said I’d never play piano again. My essence is to keep trying. I hope that listening to this might encourage you to. This rendition isn’t technically demanding…until the 2:05 mark.

You’ll note that none of the 16 pieces are cheery. Many psychologists and philosophers argue that our goal should be happiness. I’m not sure. Might other goals be equally legitimate, for example, contribution, quietude, or merely self-acceptance that you’re not chirpy?

In any event, having perhaps now listened to one or more of these pieces, can you think of a musical piece of any genre that defines youressence, that assists you in the search for figuring out who you are?

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Named the San Francisco Bay Area's "Best Career Coach," Marty Nemko has been career and personal coach to 4,500 clients and enjoys a 96% client-satisfaction rate. The author of seven books (250,000 copies sold) including How to Do Life: What They Didn’t Teach You in School plus over 2,000(!) published articles, including on where he also writes, Marty Nemko is in his 26th year as host of Work with Marty Nemko on KALW-FM (NPR-San Francisco.) He was the one man in a one-man PBS-TV Pledge Drive Special. Marty Nemko holds a Ph.D. in educational psychology from the University of California, Berkeley and subsequently taught there. He is married to Barbara Nemko, the Napa County Superintendent of Schools. They have one daughter and one doggie: Einstein, whose name is false advertising: He's dumb as dirt but sweet as they come. The archive of Marty Nemko's writings and radio show plus an active blog and Twitter stream are at