The Basic Model: The OMS Profile (Scorecard)

Table of Contents:
[0] Introduction
[1] Mathematical
[2] Philosophical
[3] Sonic
[4] Human Response (HR)
[5] Aesthetic
[6] Musical-critical
[7] Meta
[8] External
[9] WildCards

[0] Introduction

An essential part of the Basic Model is the OMS Profile. A Profile is essentially a scorecard across approximately 90 categories. For each category, the music in question is evaluated in terms of how strongly it stimulates a theoretical “receptor”. In the standard version of the Profile, the stimulation is rated 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4.

The present article outlines all of the receptors for the profile or scorecard.

Most of the material that follows will seem somewhat familiar. It has a lot in common with the vocabulary and methods of a good music critic. The entire Basic Model is a fairly good emulation of what is done by a good music critic.

The discussions below are intenentionally brief. If more detail is required, please inquire.

[1] Mathematical

The mathematical receptors are all truly mathematical in the sense that they correlate with some of the subjective experience of actual mathematicians. Of course, a mathematician can operate in a much more articulate and proficient manner than is possible than just with receptors below.

[1.1] Components

This receptor detects: Motives, phrases, melodies, harmonic structures, sections, architectural components, and so on. The more things like this, and the greater the variety, the stronger the stimulation of this receptor.


Receptor may not be able to articulate exactly what the components are; and it may also sense “components” that are not easily defined using conventional music theory.

[1.2] Formulas

This receptor detects: Augmentation, diminution, backwards, upside-down; fibonacci, fractal; combinatoric, arithmetical, numerical, and so on.


Receptor may not be able to articulate exactly what the formulas are or even where they occur; and it may sense “formulas” that elude conventional music theory or mathematical theory; it may signal “formulas” where there are none to be found.

[1.3] Structure

This receptor detects: Organization of the music – in sections, sequences, progressions, or relationships between different sections or components.

[1.4] Topological

This receptor detects: A spatial feeling of the music, with a feeling of shape. Typically the shapes feel big, soft, and flexible/evolving – this is what is meant by “topological”. When this receptor is stimulated, there is a natural inclination to wave ones hands like a conductor, or to engage in free modern-dance-like movements in response to the topological stimulus.

[1.5]  Infinite/finite

This receptor detects  that in some sense that the music occupies vast/unlimited space; or extends over vast stretches of  time (is endless or timeless). Slow symphonic music often stimulates this receptor.

[1.6] Simple/complex

This receptor detects that the music is simple (like a nursery rhyme – most of the key elements are easily grasped), or the opposite (overwhelmingly difficult to grasp/assimilate in major respects).


If a work contains both simple and complex elements, this will increase the stimulation of this receptor.

[1.7] Order/chaos

This receptor detects that the music is mostly chaotic (apparently incapable of being comprehended) or its opposite (so orderly that it appears to be comprehensible in almost every major respect).


(This receptor is almost synonymous with comprehensible/incomprehensible. But more precisely, it is a predictor or assessor of the prospects of ever comprehending the music. If the receptor strongly signals “chaos”, this is a kind of a warning signal.)

[2] Philosophical

The philosophical receptors are all truly philosophical in the sense that they correlate with subject matter of actual interest to philosophers and other “deep thinkers”. Of course, a talented philosopher can operate in a much more articulate and proficient manner than is possible with just with receptors below. I.e. these receptors are mainly rather primitive “detectors” rather than highly intelligent agents that can analyze and articulate. And they are fallible; e.g. a passage might be flagged as “personal” whereas a detailed examination might conclude otherwise.

The distinctions between several of these receptors can be subtle, vague, confusing (Free-willed/determined;  personal/impersonal; ur-elements, ontological status). This is a natural circumstance; and it does not seem to be a negative when one listens to music. One of the overall effects re the philosophical receptors is a feeling that music is “profound”, in ways that are not easily articulated; and this feeling enhances the musical experience.

Many of these receptors are connected with: The inclination to talk about music.

[2.1]   Freely-willed/determined

This receptor detects that the music seems to be freely willed/created by the composer/performer; or otherwise that it seems to have a “life” or “force” of its own which determines it.


A jazz improvisation would typically be detected as freely-willed. Mechanistic passages from Bach (performed in a straightforward way) would tend to be detected as “determined”.

[2.2]   Personal/impersonal

This receptor detects the apparent presence or involvement of the composer/performer in a piece of music. The opposite would typically be described as “impersonal” or “cold”.


[2.1] and [2.2] are closely related, but they feel like separate effects to the listener. The subtlety and abstruseness of these effects actually enhances their effect; they help the experience of music to be deep, wonderful, involving mystery and the ineffable.

[2.3]   Ur-elements

This receptor detects motives, phrases or effects which seem fundamental in a way that apparently pre-dates any composer or performer.


An example of a stimulus to this receptor would be a single sound of a triangle or a bell; or the opening passages of Beethoven Symphony#9.

[2.4]   Time-aspects

This receptor detects: Alterations or enhancements to the ordinary flow of time, for example: Non-metronomic pulses (that are nonetheless perceived as being “regular”); slowing or stretching of time; time standing still; timelessness; time illusions; multiple time-scales occurring simultaneously; confusion about the passage of time.


This receptor may not be able to analyze exactly what is happening; but it is excited when effects such as the above occur.

[2.5]   Objective/subjective

This receptor is stimulated by perceived issues/conflicts/difficulties about what is “in the music” vs the listener’s subjective reaction/experience of the music.


E.g., Mahler Symphony#1, passage which evokes a brass band.: Is the band there or not?

[2.6]   Ontological status

This receptor is sensitive to “ontological issues” that are implicit in a piece of music, such as the following: “What kind of a ‘thing’ is this music that I am hearing right now? Is it a personal communication from the performer? a ‘message’ from the performer with meaning? an act or action by the performer personal communication from the composer? a ‘message’ from the composer with meaning? an act or action by the composer a timeless artifact (a score, notes, etc)” When a piece of music is rich in issues like this, then this receptor is excited.

[2.7]   Ontological aspects

Music can result in mirages, illusions, dim perceptions of the “semi-real”. A listener can sense time, fate, shadows, vague presences, topological shapes, and so on.  I describe the above as vague “objects” whose ontological status is difficult to characterize. When a piece of music is rich in these respects, then this receptor is excited.

[2.8]   Spiritual

This receptor detects the “spiritual” in music. Religious music often stimulates this receptor, but also many examples of non-religious music (e.g. many passages from keyboard works by Bach; Pachelbel Canon).

[2.9]   Religious

This receptor detects religious character or effects in music.

[2.10] Genesis-Effect

This receptor is excited by the beginning of a musical performance. The human intellect is highly aware of beginnings (and endings); this is necessary so that humans can perceive the beginning and ending of an event (very important in practical matters).


Some music uses various techniques to make “the beginning” or a work highly evident, vivid, or dramatic. (e.g. multiple beginnings that are layered together, or a highly transparent presentation of how the work develops). When these techniques are effective, sometimes a listener will describe the effect as the experience of an “act of creation” or even as a “re-experiencing of the creation of the world” (!). This is why we use the term Genesis Effect.


This receptor is quite sensitive. A great beginning can be a massive, unforgettable experience (e.g. the opening of “Also Sprach Zarathustra”). In extreme cases, an entire piece can sound like a gigantic Genesis Effect (possible example: Bach Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor for organ).

[2.11] Termination

This receptor is excited by the way in which a piece of music ends. Some music ends in a rather businesslike way.  But in some pieces, the ending is made highly evident, vivid, dramatic. There are techniques to signal to the listener that it is “the beginning of the end”, and then it is possible to carry out the termination in an extended, multi-layered, dramaticized manner. During the termination, the listener can associate to feelings of loss, regret, wistful-memory, shock, and so on. A powerful termination can result in a “shared experience” for the audience. (In a good performance, the audience behavior at the end – artist finishes, long moment of silence, applause, curtain calls – could be considered part of the termination.)


When a piece is rich in the above respects, then this receptor is excited. This receptor is quite sensitive; and a powerful termination can be a massive, unforgettable experience. (An example of a powerful termination is in the last movement of Beethoven Symphony#9).

[3] Sonic

The “Sonic” receptors are those which are most closely related to the sound itself.

[3.1] High/low

This receptor detects: The variety or range of high and low sounds, as experienced subjectively. The subjective experience depends not only on what “actually” occurs, but also: Contrasts, organization, context, relation to other musical effects, etc.

[3.2] Loud/soft

This receptor detects: The variety or range of loud and soft sounds, as experienced subjectively. The subjective experience depends not only on what “actually” occurs, but also: Contrasts, organization, context, relation to other musical effects, etc.

[3.3] Harmonious/dissonant

This receptor detects: Harmonious effects, dissonant effects as experienced subjectively. The subjective experience depends not only on what “actually” occurs, but also: Contrasts, organization, context, relation to other musical effects, etc. For this receptor, harmonious/dissonant depends not only on harmonic structures, but also: Instrumentation, style of performance, etc.

[3.4] Pulse, beat

This receptor detects: Metronomic beats, but also non-metronomic pulses (i.e. a sequence of strong/emphasized moments that may not be timed metronomically). An example would be Rachmaninoff, “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini”, Variation 18 (the one with the big theme). The pulsation of the phrases of the melody is very clear; but as usually played (with plenty of rubato), the pulses are not metronomic.


Non-metronomic pulsation can make a powerful effect on the listener, because it can be experienced not as a mathematical deviation, but rather as an alteration of time (time stretches, compresses, etc.)

[3.5] Rhythm

This receptor detects: Varying degrees of rhythmic intensity, energy, richness.

[3.6] Melody and motive

This receptor responds to:  Melodies, melodic components (motives), melodic fragments. Intuitively some melodic materials are experienced as rich, natural, effective (moving), rich, “good” in comparison to other melodies. This receptor detects or signals the degree to which a melody/motive is rich, natural, effective, good.

[3.7] Contrapuntal

Even average listeners are able to “multi-process” music – i.e. they are able to experience many musical effects simultaneously.  For instance in a piece of pop music, it can be easy for a listener to simultaneously experience and recognize: The beat, the bass, the harmonic progressions, the lead melody, the backup singers, lyrics, story line, some musical effects, and more. With OMS we generalize on the academic concept of “contrapuntal” to denote any musical passage where there are (rich) simultaneous, coordinated materials that can be experienced/recognized as such.


This receptor signals the degree to which a piece of music is contrapuntal in the above sense. Examples of music that is highly stimulating is this way are: Many Bach fugues (contrapuntal in the classic sense); many of the best songs of James Brown, performed by James Brown (rich in simultaneous materials, and presented with vivid clarity); most classic salsa music.

[3.8] Tonality

This receptor detects: The richness, cohesiveness, effectiveness of classic harmony/tonality (if it is present)

[3.9] Richness

This receptor detects: The richness of the sound of the piece of music. Factors that contribute to richness: Orchestration, timbre, careful coordination of sounds so that they “blend” and support each other; performer’s ability to adjust sonic output to the instrument, acoustics, and audience real-time.

[3.10] Beauty of sound

Listeners are naturally sensitive to beauty in music. This receptor detects beauty as applies narrowly to the sound or sounds within a piece. Factors such as narrative, drama, emotion, meaning, etc. are excluded.

[4] Human Response (HR)

In this category receptors that respond to music in ways that are specific to human function and psychology (We are drawing only a rough distinction here – mainly for organizational purposes).

[4.1] Actual emotion

This receptor reports: Actual emotional stimulation. Examples of actual emotional stimulation that can occur with music: Elation; disappointment, mild sadness; mild joy; fear (rare); anger (rare).

[4.2] Mu-motion

This receptor reports: Emotion-like effects which do not qualify as full-fledged emotional responses from a psychological point of view. For instance, romantic-style music such as Rachmaninoff or Chopin, stimulates a stream of mild and subtle “feelings” in many listeners; these feelings are rich, subtle, and evanescent – but they lack the “weight” and persistence of emotional reactions in daily life. To contrast with real e-motions, we call such reactions “mu-motions”. This is not to say that mu-motions are less important than e-motions (some people feel exactly the opposite), it is just to classify them differently. For more discussion, see  [[]]

[4.3] Musical memory

This receptor signals that the music being listened to seems to evoke memories of music that the listener has previously heard (which may or may not actually be the case). E.g., for me personally, in the song “White Christmas”, almost every phrase seems familiar (Haven’t I heard descending chimes like that before?), although I cannot literally cite any of my specific memories. Musical memory is subject to extreme distortion; but this factor contribute to the potency of this receptor. The Musical Memory receptor allows for experience which is vague, remote, tantalizing – and that kind of experience can heighten the overall experience of the music. (Consider the legendary song by Arthur Sullivan “The Lost Chord”, and read the lyrics)

[4.4] Historical references

This receptor signals connections with musical materials from the past. E.g. if a piece sounds like a waltz, sounds like a mazurka, sounds like a march, sounds like a national anthem, sounds like “Happy Birthday To You”, then this receptor is stimulated. In the “Theme from Star Wars”, John Williams refers to classic orchestral fanfares. In the James Bond Theme, there are references to nineteenth century orchestral music. Beatles “Eleanor Rigby” refers to eighteenth century string quartet music.

[4.5] Linguistic

This receptor signals that the music has a speech-like quality (lyrics not required). Factors in speech-like effects include: The detailed structure of a melody, the length and rhythmic structure of the small details; the way that music is organized as phrases, groups of phrases, etc. ; the “declamation” of the music via accents, emphases, management of loud/soft high/low.

[4.6] Narrative

This receptor reports that the music feels like a story or narrative in some sense.


In our view, music rarely tells a story or is a story in the literal sense (Exception – there may be lyrics which truly are narrative). However it can “feel” story-like. Additionally, many pieces of music are capable of being narrated (There is a famous PDQ Bach clip in which the first movement of Beethoven’s Symphony#5 is narrated as if it were a baseball game). So in that sense, much music has a narrative aspect.


In classic harmonic theory, there is a view that almost all tonal music is somewhat narrative because of natural movement toward harmonic tension followed by movement to harmonic resolution (Schenker).

[4.7] Dramatic/theatrical

This receptor reports the degree of dramatic effect in a piece of music. The dramatic stimulation could be actual or suggested/imitated.

[4.8] Programmatic/imitative

This receptor responds to effects such as: Overt imitations of birds, storms, the sea, the wind, people arguing, automobile traffic; subtle suggestions of the preceding or of ticking clocks, breathing, a storm developing, raindrops, and so on. This receptor could be thought of as an alert mechanism, and sometimes it may give false or questionable responses (e.g., I listen to a Bach fugue and say “It sounds to me like mice chasing each other”). The receptor can be stimulated by effects that are ambiguous as to their programmatic content – e.g. a march for brass band could be regarded as just a piece of music, or also a programmatic imitation of “a march”.

[4.9] Physical

When this receptor is stimulated, it triggers a desire or tendency to move physically, e.g: Tap foot, nod head, wave arms, clap hands, and so on.

[4.10] Dance

When this receptor is stimulated, it triggers a desire or tendency to dance.

[4.11] Poetic

When this receptor is stimulated, it triggers a desire or tendency to describe the music as “poetic” (related language includes: “subtle”, “highly imaginative”, “passionate”, “sensitive”, “rhapsodic”)

[4.12] Spatial

When this receptor is stimulated, it triggers a desire or tendency to describe the music as occupying or moving around spatially. This receptor is related to the Topological receptor, but is more concerned with space rather than mass.

[4.13] Visual/colors

When this receptor is stimulated, it triggers a desire or tendency to describe the music as having coloristic or other intense visual effects. Typical language: “Color; tone-color; landscape; portrait; delineation; etch; fireworks; explosion; multi-hued; vivid; bright; dark; white-hot”.

[4.14] Synaesthetic-other

When this receptor is stimulated, it triggers associations with odors, tastes, physical sensations. Typical language: “sulphurous; perfumed; foul; sour; sweet; delicious; caress; painful”

[4.15] Lyrics

This receptor responds to: the presence of lyrics in a piece of music, especially the intensity/effectiveness of the lyrics and their integration with the music.

[4.16] Sonic effects

This receptor responds to sonic effects such as: Bells, echoes, whistles, glissandi, extremely sudden contrasts, sounds that are on the verge of inaudible, extremely high or low sounds, unusually-voiced chords, etc., imitations among sections of an orchestra.

[4.17] Funny sounds

This receptor responds to weird or funny sounds, such as: Strange instrument (theremin in Beach Boys “Good Vibrations”), animalistic grunts (“Louie Louie”), absurd falsetto (some doo-wop music), extreme instrumental sounds (lowest notes in a base clarinet). Funny sounds (also Sonic Effects and Oddity) are important in music, because they trigger “alert mechanisms” in the listener; the effect is to stimulate the listener’s attention, to provide organizational signposts, and to deliver pleasure (these effects are mainly pleasurable, even if at times a mildly naughty pleasure).

[4.18] Oddity

This receptor responds to the odd or unusual in a piece, e.g.: The onset of the Turkish March in Beethoven Symphony#9 Mvt4 (initially seems like a non-sequitur after the white-hot climax that immediately precedes it); the brief oboe solo in Beethoven Symphony#5 Mvt1 (a strange interlude to what precedes and follows it – seems “appropriate” but also is puzzlingly brief and sparse, …); the classical-style string quartet accompaniment in Beatles “Eleanor Rigby”; sad songs with happy melodies; the first movement of Moonlight Sonata arranged as a foxtrot (yes, it was done).

[4.19] Ethnic/exotic

This receptor reports: Apparent ethnic content in music. Sometimes ethnic content is rather overt (Germanic march, Viennese Waltz, American Ragtime). Sometimes the ethnic content is subtle (a waltz rhythm with a certain lilt, and schmaltzy melody that is suggestive of Tchaikovsky/Russian, a rhythmic turn that is suggestive of a European folk dance, “blues-y” harmonic/melodic materials).

[4.20] DelMo1

“DelMo”stands for “Delicious Moment”. Main characteristic of a DelMo: Pleasurable; grabs most of a listener’s attention; “memorable”, relatively easy for a listener to recall (in at least a vague or distorted fashion). A DelMo does not have to be pretty (a shocking moment in music can still be a pleasurable shock). Examples of DelMo’s: Opening of Strauss “Also Sprach Zarathustra”; Theme from Elvira Madigan (Mozart Piano Concerto No. 21); theremin in Beach Boys “Good Vibrations”;  Beatles “Eleanor Rigby” (almost an uninterrupted sequence of DelMo’s); the big theme from Tchaikovsky Pathetique Symphony Mvt1.

“DelMo” is roughly the same as the concept of a “hook” in pop music.

DelMo’s are so potent experientially that for some listeners they amount to an aesthetic standard (The good-ness of a piece of music is roughly proportional to the amount of DelMo material in the music.)

[4.21] DelMo2

If a piece is sufficiently packed with DelMo’s, this excites the DelMo2 receptor, which signals that this piece is dominated with DelMo’s. Examples of pieces with a strong DelMo2 stimulation: Beatles, “Eleanor Rigby”; Slow movement from Elvira Madigan piano concerto (Mozart Piano Concerto No. 21); the James Bond Theme. There are large sections of Beethoven Grosse Fugue Op. 133 that are DelMo2; these sections are not pretty, but they probably do qualify as packed with DelMo’s (the “pleasure” is in the nature of strong stimulation, elation, excitement, rather than “pretty”)

[4.22] Degrees of perception

Most (actually probably all) music involves various degrees of perception ranging from clear-and-distinct to vague/indistinct to barely-perceptible; also different kinds of perception are subject to varying degrees of inaccuracy (e.g. what is perceived/remembered as a rising melody is actually a falling line). In some pieces, these features are more evident than in others.


This receptor reports an evident (highly-evident) variation in degrees of perception.

[4.23] Tension/relaxation

This receptor responds to tension, relaxation and contrast between the two in a piece of music.

[4.24] Communication

This receptor signals the degree to which it feels like composer/performer is communicating to the listener. Typical language: “communication; personal; impersonal”.

[4.25] Symbolism

This receptor signals the degree to which a piece of music seems to have symbolic content. Examples of symbols which have been associated with various music: God, the devil, angels, male, female, life, death, birth, creation, chaos, conflict, love, …

[4.26] “Play, creativity, imagination”

This receptor signals the degree to which the music seems to involve the creative (, play, imagination).


Examples of music that would stimulate strongly in this regard: Top-quality jazz or other improvised music; virtuoso performances where the performer seems “free” and spontaneous (the performer is living “in the moment”); Beethoven Diabelli Variations, Bach Goldberg Variations; John Cage aleatoric music.

[4.27] Virtuosity

This receptor is stimulated by displays of extreme skill by performer, especially in the face of difficulties. The skill can be mechanical/physical, but could also be skill of communication or clarity, or the ability to unravel some difficult problem (e.g. to perform a 5-part fugue in a compelling manner). Performer-virtuosity involves elements of athleticism and also risk/danger. When the pianist Glenn Gould complained of public performances as being a “blood sport”, it appears that he had in mind something like the Virtuosity receptor.


The Virtuosity receptor can be stimulated by not only the performer but also by the music or the composer. I would say that the Beethoven Diabelli Variations are virtuosic in this sense (the composer shows off tremendous skill in dealing with some challenging materials).

[4.28] Challenge and adventure

This receptor signals the degree of challenge/adventure experienced by the listener with a piece of music. Challenge/adventure can be stimulated by: New effects; new techniques; difficulties experienced by composer, performer, listener. Examples of music which stimulates many listeners in this regard: Late Beethoven string quartets or piano sonatas; early 12-tone music; most music by Charles Ives; most music by John Adams; best work by Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk; improvisations by Keith Jarrett; Xenakis; “experimental music”.


Listeners who like avant-garde music typically value the stimulation of this receptor.

[4.29] Uncertainty

This receptor signals the degree of certainty, uncertainty and contrast thereof experienced in a piece of music. One factor in the experience of certainty/uncertainty is the listener’s belief that he/she can roughly anticipate/expect how a piece develops, along with the degree of surprises that occur along the way. Another factor is where and how often the listener finds the music “difficult to grasp”.

[4.30] Passion

This receptor signals the degree of passion experienced by the listener in the piece. The passion may be attributed to the performer, the composer, or “the music itself”.

[4.31] Dionysian

This receptor signals the degree of joyful/celebratory material experienced in the music. For more information, see .

[4.32] Apollonian

This receptor signals the degree of material experienced in the music characterized by order, proportion, beauty, clarity.  For more information, see .

[4.33] Serenity

This receptor reports the degree of serenity, calm, repose experienced by the listener with a piece of music.

[4.34] Group experience

This receptor reports the degree which the listener experiences the piece not only as some music listened to individually, but also as a group experience. This receptor is most likely to be stimulated strongly in a live concert with a good performer and a good audience. In an ideal situation,  the members of the audience feel bound together or connected in a shared experience.

[4.35] Political

This receptor reports the degree to which the music interacts with various political norms. Examples of music which has been viewed as highly political: Atonal music by Schoenberg (collided with prior orthodox views about the nature, role, aesthetics of music); music by John Adams (collides with some views of Schoenberg and his followers); Eminem (collides with common views about aesthetics, craftsmanship, taste, content); Yanni (popular music with a serious “sound” that collides with many views of the serious musical establishment).

[4.36] Puzzle-solving

Music often gives listeners things to think about if they are inclined. If a piece is rich in puzzles or difficulties to think about, the Puzzle-Solving receptor is strongly stimulated. Examples of music which stimulate this receptor fairly strongly: Beatles “Strawberry Fields Forever” (Is there a message about “Paul is dead? What is going on in the last minute? Is this song some avant-garde acid rock music, or is it nostalgia, or is it nonsense? …); Bach “Art of the Fugue” (endless intricacies and puzzles to think about); Satie “3 Gymnopedies” (three pieces that seem subtle variations of each other; how do they relate, and what’s going on here?)

[4.37] Extraordinary stimulation

Great composers and composers sometimes find ways to stimulate receptors that are rarely stimulated by music. For instance, disco music (and minimalist music with disco-like beats) seems to stimulate some natural part of our neurology which has rarely if ever been stimulated previously to a strong degree. In Ustvolskaya Piano Sonata#6, the piece induces a specific kind of panic-mixed-with-elation which seems to be unique to this piece.  The Extraordinary-Stimulation receptor signals that receptors are being stimulated which are rarely stimulated significantly by other music.

[5] Aesthetic

The Aesthetic receptors are all associated with traditional aesthetic categories. These receptors are not so primitive as some other categories of receptors. These receptors have to do with appreciation and connoisseurship.

[5.1] Beauty

This receptor responds to: Beauty in the conventional sense.

[5.2 ] Sublime

This receptor responds to: The “sublime” in the conventional sense. It is possible for music to be sublime without being pretty or beautiful in the conventional sense.

[5.3] Proportion

This receptor responds to: Proportion in the relationship of phrases and sections, in the relationship between loud and soft, in the relationship of high and low, and so on.

[5.4] Individuality

This receptor responds to: The presence of qualities that mark this piece as being unique or nearly unique. The Pachelbel Canon strikes many listeners as having this kind of individuality . Other strong examples: Beethoven Symphony#5, Mvt1; Beethoven Symphony#9, Mvt4; Ravel “Bolero”; Beatles, “Strawberry Fields”; The Kingsmen, “Louie Louie”; Beach Boys, “Good Vibrations”. If the individuality is especially striking, it is sometimes said that the work/performance has a “persona”.

[5.5] Personal individuality

This receptor responds to: Individuality that is attributed to the performer or composer (a “personal signature”). Glenn Gould is generally considered to exhibit strong individuality as a performer; Charles Ives as a composer; Thelonious Monk as a jazz composer/performer.

[5.6] Transparency

This receptor responds to: Clarity in structure, detail, organization in a piece of music. A Bach fugue, well-played, is considered an outstanding example of transparency. When a listener can be moved in a deep visceral way by a work that is also highly transparent, it is a thrilling experience.

[5.7] Universality

This receptor responds to the presence of a wide range of stimulus and integrated materials in a piece of music. Beethoven Symphony#9 is often cited as a strong exemplar of universality.

[5.8] Integration

This receptor responds to the impression that the piece has a significant range of materials that are tightly integrated (e.g. Beethoven Piano Sonata Op. 110). With jazz, there are many examples of performances that are not tightly integrated – a factor that is almost unavoidable, given that the performances are constructed real-time.

[6] Musical-critical  

Musical-critical receptors respond to the display of musical skill  by the performer and composer. Most music is “transparent” in a number of ways; the accomplishments of the performer and composer are naturally exposed (“on display”), and it is natural for the listener to notice and appreciate these accomplishments (and at times to be “wowed”).

[6.1] Compositional technique

This receptor responds to the presence of “textbook” technical skill on the part of the composer.

[6.2] Form

This receptor responds to the skillful use of classic forms, or the invention of good “new” forms.

[6.3] Architecture

This receptor responds to skillful construction on a macro level.

[6.4] Deep structure

This receptor responds to the composer’s (or performer’s) ability to find “deep” principles to unify the music. Possible principles might be: a large-scale harmonic plan; the use of a small number of compelling motives to unify a large work; skillful use of large-scale pulsations; use of some philosophical idea to organize/unify the music.

[6.5] Organization

This receptor responds to general organizational skill on the part of the composer or performer. When a piece is superbly organized throughout, it can be perceived as a living biological entity.

[7] Meta

This category includes effects  that  are somewhat  beyond  mere stimulation of the usual receptors.

[7.1] Reflection

Reflection occurs when music’s stimulation allows the listener to learn something about the himself/herself. Example1: Suppose an “average”  listener hears a performance of a Bach fugue and experiences it as comprehensible and transparent; this experience shows the listener that he/she has (in at least this circumstance) a certain kind of intelligence, namely the intelligence to comprehend a complex multi-layered work.  Example2: For some listeners, a grim piece such as Gorecki Symphony#3 enables the listener to realize that it is possible to experience a kind of elation even while experiencing something that is sorrowful or grim.


Reflection is often flattering to the listener.

[7.2] Creative

Sometimes a great work will actually create new ways of perceiving – it will literally create new receptors! Some people experience Gershwin “Rhapsody In Blue” in this way.

[7.3] Life-Changing

Sometimes music will literally change a persons life, in at least some small ways. An example that is sometimes cited is Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto#2 – it becomes a part of ones life and lends a poetic sense or backdrop to ones existence. People sometimes cite  some  piece of rock and roll music as  somewhat life-changing.

[7.4] Reorg/Prophetic

Sometimes music seems to portend the future or even play a role in how the future develops. Boulez’ greatest works might be examples – they point to a future where a much greater degree complexity is experienced and managed in music and in life. Composers who have claimed Reorg/Prophetic effects for some of their music: Busoni; Scriabin; Schoenberg.

[8] External

This category includes receptors that detect effects that are not actually part of the music but which can be part of the complete experience of listening to the music, e.g.: Popularity, familiarity

[8.1] Popularity

If the listener knows that the piece is popular, this contributes to the effect of listening to it.

[8.2] Familiarity

If the listener perceives the work as “familiar” (apparently similar to other music that the listener has heard), this contributes to the effect of listening to it.

[8.3] Anti-factor

If the listener perceives the work as being contrary (or even offensive) to one’s prior base of musical experience, this contributes to the effect of listening to it. This effect will depend somewhat on the listener. Examples: Schoenberg atonal works; New Age music (offensive to many listeners who view mainstream classical and popular music as the norm); rap (strikes some listeners as an intentional offense against their base of experience).

[9] WildCards

The WildCards category is for receptors that are not in the basic list, but which seem important for a specific musical work or performance under consideration.

Examples of WildCards: Humor (music rarely imparts humor, but it does happen, and of course there is PDQ Bach); Fear (rare, but it does happen); Mechanism (“sounds like a machine”); Repetition (disco, classic minimalism, …);  “Magic” (deeply satisfying effect which listener finds very difficult to verbalize or explain); DeepRelaxation; FineDetail; Loose/Tight; Organic