My Empathic iPod

March 31st, 2005

While driving the other day (actually, this happened about 4 months ago), my thoughts weighed heavily and I found myself depressed. In general, I felt rather down about my life and various other things. The 2004 election hit me hard, as the realization that you are surrounded by idiots so often does, so that could have been a major contributing factor. Luckily for me, I kept some very scientific research about that day, specifically that drive and the role my iPod played in my emotional state. After analyzing the data closely, I’ve come to a startling realization, that I will share with you shortly. Just to preface this study, I have submitted this article for publication in the journal Science; keep your fingers crossed!

Steering on down the highway on a bright and sunny Saturday, conditions under which I would ordinarily be very pleased, I switched on my iPod for a change from the radio (probably NPR or KGO). Music tends to lift my spirits and intellectual talk shows typically bring me down since reality is a harsh mistress. The music floated around my car, my personal sound chamber, filling my head with emotions and visions, creating my own little isolated world despite the others that shared the road with me (don’t worry, I’m very attentive to others while driving and I use my turn signal regularly). Ironically, the depression became deeper. After the second song (the iPod was set to pick songs at random from my music library), I literally said out loud, “Aw, man! I don’t want to feel like this!” My thoughts fogged up even more and I slipped deeper into my own problems for a moment. I distinctly remember uttering that phrase outloud because it was at that moment that the music coming from my iPod changed tone. I had a vague realization that something significant had just happened and, when I arrived at my destination, I quickly wrote down the playlist for my trip there. That’s how I realized, due to scientific evidence, that my iPod is empathic. Judge for yourself; here’s the list:

How To Disappear Completely
Radiohead
Kid A
Ugh. Yes, I want to disappear… This isn’t helping my cause at all.
Drop
Red House Painters
Ocean Beach
This band rarely makes me feel happier than when I turned them on. Here’s where I uttered the phrase.
Capitalism Stole My Virginity
The (International) Noise Conspiracy
A new Morning
Ok. Ok. A bit more energized now. Notice the change in tone?
Spiderman: The Chase
David Gillis
David Gillis Debut
The Spiderman theme song rendered on acoustic guitar…for some reason, that’s just funny. Perfect to lift me out of my “funk,” as the kids would say.
The Sunshine Underground
The Chemical Brothers
Surrender
Uh. Yeah. My head bops up and down the whole time and I smack the steering wheel for emphasis on the breakbeats.
Do The Evolution
Pearl Jam
Yield
What depression, dude!? “There’s my church, I sing in the choir!”
Absolute Reality
The Alarm
Standards
Unfortunately, The Alarm failed to hold up over the years, but this is a pretty high energy song, perfect to end my drive.

Figure 1.1: Empathic Playlist

So, as you can see, my iPod responded to my plea of “Aw, man! I don’t want to feel like this!” by delivering high energy, occassionally pounding, always satisfying songs that lifted my spirits up toward a more positive attitude toward the day. Clearly, my hypothesis (my iPod is empathic) is accurate and a quick glance back at my data (Figure 1.1) will prove that.

3 comments on “My Empathic iPod”

  1. tom Says:

    Music can really carry a person through some difficult times. After the election, when I was tired of thinking and mulling over the situation in my head, one song really put the moment into perspective for me. The song was Anthem by Leonard Cohen. Somehow after listening to this song I felt alright. Leonard Cohen is often labeled as producing depressing music, but I find his message uplifting when I am feeling down.

  2. Todd Says:

    I find massage uplifting when I am feeling down.

    Music plays a very large role in my life and has an enormous impact on how I feel at any particular moment. I bet that’s true for most people if they pay attention to it. The song “Drop” by Red House Painters came on again today (why does my empathic iPod insist on torturing me?) and I’ve been turning the words over and over in my head tonight. Funny how cheery music so often seems fake and uninspired, as if I keep myself down simply by the music I listen to. Then again, how great it would be to shape my world solely by the music I listen to (short story idea!). So do we choose to listen to somber music to keep us in a low spot or is it the other way around? Which came first…?

    I’ll have to listen to “Anthem,” because I still don’t feel alright about the election!

  3. David Gillis Says:

    I’m glad the instrumental guitar version of Spiderman helped lift you out of your slump. Glad you didn’t hear my other tunes at that low point. Most of my songs are depressing like A Mouse’s Crumb written two weeks before Oil was invaded, did I say Oil? – I meant IRAQ. Did I say invaded? – I meant liberated.
    But all positive things are things are intended – I really mean that. Cheers, DG

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