Are We Different?

All my life I have been more attuned to sensory experiences than my friends, family, or colleagues. I started to notice this in high school when I would go on and on about how great a particular passage sounded while playing in bands, I would rave about a meal that I ate, the smells of pleasant or unpleasant things, or a particularly good looking passage in a movie or piece of art.  

This question arose for me last week when talking to a friend and relating that I frequently get chills and goosebumps listening to music (live or in my living room). He looked at me as if he had no idea what I was talking about, and thought I was nuts. I thought that happened to everyone!! Since then I have been conducting an informal survey of folks I know about exactly that question. Again, most folks have no experience of this and think I'm bit off. So I wonder: Are we different? Is it something in our biology that lands us in the realm of audio-obsession, constantly looking for the perfect sound stage in our living rooms, and criticizing badly engineered recordings, or scoffing at the sound designers for poorly mixed live shows?

What is it that separates the music enthusiast/lover from the obsessed, ever-searching-never-satisfied, gear-heads which many of us are? 

Share your thoughts (and also do you get chills and goosebumps listening to Beethoven/Charlie Parker/The Stones?)
We are different, and I believe it’s more than two types though they would dominate the spectrum. A while ago I posted about frisson and how I react to certain sounds and music. It apparently went over a lot of heads as those that did respond felt it had to do with feeling bass notes vibrating in their bodies, which is far from it.

Frisson may be just what you’re experiencing. It turns out that even paintings, art, vistas, and other types of scenery can have the same effect.

All the best,
The audio obsession is a complex psychological thing that can, like alcoholism, gambling and other things, become very ugly when taken too far.  I've seen people so obsessed by the equipment that they cannot sit still long enough to listen to one track without getting up to figit with something and their equipment is nothing but a source of stress for them.  I think everyone here has a serious interest in gear, but like everything else, people have different levels of interest.  As you go through the board, you will see that many have simplified their systems in an attempt to have less to futz with so they can just enjoy. At one point, I went very deep into gear, but like other potentially dangerous habits I dabbled in, my common sense won out and I chalked it up to a learning experience that I don't regret.  But I do notice one thing - just like drugs, alcoholism, anorexia... no matter how obvious the symptoms, the affected person will always deny it.  Sometimes lying and sometimes just self-delusion, but always a denial.  Except for the recovered ones, who then admit their afflictions.  Enough.
@bensturgeon Great Question. Hope your thread gets the attention it deserves.

@nonoise  I'm a proponent and believer of the 'area' that the author refers to as "Openness to Experience" which is (in my opinion) on a spectrum as many aspects of personality are.
@david_ten  To think that 51 cultures have the same experiences furthers your belief that it is indeed one of many aspects of personality.
I'm just glad I can, and continue to, experience it. 😄
It's the part of listening I look forward to.

All the best,
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@nonoise  is it particular sounds as in timbres, certain instruments, frequencies?? For me its a groove, a feel, or when someone absolutely nails a lick, when a band hits an ending so tight together you would swear it was contrived, a beautiful melody. Also thanks for the term. I did a little read. I wonder is "openness to experience" akin to or correlated with  "sensory seeking".. Which I most certainly am. 

@ronrags you go to the ancient question... Nature or nurture?As an aside,  I too walk into rooms and feel those around me.. guess always been a bit empathic, made a damn career of it.. I also feel these two qualities are tied together(sensate focused/aware and empathic), possibly as they are both very right brain... Lots of dopamine released with the right gear and the right tune I must say..

@chayro I am just starting to admit(at times) that I might have a bit of problem.. I can relate with fiddling over gear instead of enjoying the tunes or dancing...I slap myself when I catch it .. 
@bensturgeon, it can be anything in the music that I can relate to while I listen. Kind of hard to pin down, actually. 
I think the two terms, "openness to experience" and "sensory seeking" are tied in the way that one can lead to the other, in some way.

All the best,

I'm glad to see more of these types of topics being started on not just this forum but many others. There's a change happening and there's really no way to stop it, nor should we want to.

Even the very opinionated HEA hobbyist is rethinking their systems and looking at them deeper than a brand name or faceplate. There was a time where the engineer type ruled the pages of forums and if you expressed yourself as an artist it was the kiss of death. It's ironic because we are listening to artist.

I live in a part of Las Vegas that is called "The Arts District". As folks come visit me, it's almost always the case where they will comment on the energy here. I call it "getting tuned".

Michael Green

I don’t know if the "openness" to music, art and other stimuli is the same for listeners/viewers as it is for musicians that actually create music, but I have always wondered where music creativity comes from. Some of the most creative music artists come from families where there is no music background eliminating the idea that it is somehow gene based. I can’t help but believe that music listeners and musicians share at least an ear for music. Some of us may not be talented enough to play yet we still appreciate what others create, just as we appreciate art without being painters. Good musicians can create music that somehow touches something within us and that feeling is at least somewhat universal. How do they do that and why do we enjoy it so much? Sometimes I hear certain music and wonder, how in the world did anyone come up with that musical idea? Some musicians say it’s just what’s in their head. Not sure we understand it fully but it is pretty cool.
@falconquest .. For myself playing music started as a mathematical puzzle to be conquered.. Only with muscle memory and thousands of of hours of listening did it start to become "creative"... but, when a moment of creativity does show its head, its as if I become only a vehicle for an idea already extant.. For me I guess it started in the left brain and became a whole brain experience only with practice.. no talent here...  
Interesting.  I know that a certain passage in the last movement of Sibelius's 5th can give me a distinct frisson, but it's not automatic.  Likewise the Adagietto from Mahler's 5th.  Got to be in the right mood, got to be listening to the music and not the system, system has to be performing well, can also depend on the particular performance, etc. etc.
Well, I get bleeding defocation when consuming coffee. Bleeding would stop once coffee not used. Medics say that it maybe caused by medical condition that needs to be examined, but I say, perhaps I’m different and prefer to keep things as-is.

I think as audiophiles and music lovers we are different.  The thing is identifying the origin of the difference varies widely from person to person.

The audiophile part of me was, in some ways baked in to my nature, as my sense of hearing has always been more acute than my other senses.
I am both a non smeller and non taster (lots of hot sauce).

The music lover part of me is curious as I think most of us would agree that the emotional connection we have to the music we enjoy is a right brain phenomenon.  I have completed several hemisphericity inventories and always score as a VERY left brain processor.  But maybe that's it.  Maybe music is the catalyst to activate my right brain.  One more thought, I do enjoy analyzing the "structure" of music as I listen to it.  Big for us left brainers!🧠
I had a friend (R.I.P.) who possessed the highest intelligence of anyone I've ever known. And like myself and, I'm going to assume, everyone else here, music was of the utmost importance to him. It was in fact sacred to him (especially that of J.S. Bach), and he hated to see it trivialized. He couldn't bear to have music playing while people were speaking, even in a car. If music was playing, he felt one's full attention should be given to it---no "background" music for him. In fact, he couldn't NOT focus on music when it was playing, so had to insist that any car or room he was in not have music playing while people were conversing. Geez, Kent, lighten up!
The purpose of the gear and the system is to get me as close to that emotive state as the music is able to conjure. I don’t want to listen to my system. I want it to immerse me in the temporal pool of a musical event, which is sometimes the perfect time machine to past memories, or ahead to future possibilities. J.S. Bach was everything and more, past, present and future. Beethoven too. But I was also just listening to some Pink Floyd, ELP, Joni, Coltrane and Miles Davis and they also convey the same chill up the spine at certain moments. I’m still fascinated how the chord progression of the minor 6, major 5, major 4 and back again has prevailed throughout musical history as being one of the most emotive. How is it that our brains register those structures as familiar and yet powerfully evocative? And yet we never seem to get tired of hearing them. Ravel’s Pavane of the Sleeping Beauty from Mother Goose Suite scared the heck out of me as a little kid of three and it still has the same eerie effect whenever I hear it. Joe Walsh must have felt that way too. He played a synthesizer version of it on his 1974 album, So What? 
This may sound crazy, but when I hear certain chord progressions, they move me. Unfortunately, I have become caught up in the equipment game, always seeking a way to make those chords sound even better. Lately, aside from room tuning, which is just another "piece" of equipment, I'm trying hard to just listen. 
We are different and yet in some respects we are the same.  Music for instance affects the brain.  Music has an effect on animals as well.

As long as I can remember, I have been drawn to music and art. 

There were no professional musicians in our immediate family but there were musicians in the family:  Cousin Eldee Young payed with the Ramsey Lewis Trio;  Singer, Domita Jo Deblanc was a distant cousin.
My second cousin, a trumpeter taught music at DuSable H.S. in Chicago.

There were other musically talented family members.

As a child growing up, I would sit for hours in front of my brother Charles' Grundig console, listening to '78's, 45's and the radio.  At the elementary school I attended, we had a study period that was held in the school library.  The librarian would play classical music during that study period.
I still remember how I felt during study period, listening to whatever she was playing.  I also sang in a Boy's Choir and played drums in our drum & bugle corp band.  The elementary school I attended in Chicago would have field trips to the Chicago Symphony and Ballet.  I really, really enjoyed those field trips.  In addition to singing in a choir and playing the drums, I taught myself how to play flute, classical guitar and french horn.

But I never learned to read music until I was well into my 30's.    

Whatever instrument I happened to play as a child or young adult, I played by ear, even into adulthood when I initially began taking cello and piano lessons.  I remember once during a piano lesson I was supposed to have practiced a composition by Mozart for my upcoming lesson. 
After I stopped playing the piece, my piano teacher remarked: 
"That was very beautiful but you played it in the wrong key."

My musical tastes gravitate around Jazz, R&B, Baroque, Classical, Romantic and 20th Century classical composers and compositions.

Yeah, I like Rock too!  I'm a child of the Sixties.

I guess you could say, when I listen to music, I listen as a musician, even though I'm not a professional musician.  I listen to phrasing, articulation, rhythm and tempo.  I listen for musicianship. I listen with my heart.
I know what the cello and piano should sound like but I know what other instruments should sound like as well.

All I know is that when I listen to music, or when I was playing an instrument, music has a profound affect on me.