Bookworm: Do you buy vinyl? Read liner notes? ‘Sounds’ Like is for you!

Terri Schlichenmeyer

“This is What It Sounds Like: What the Music You Love Says about You”

  • By Susan Rogers and Ogi Ogas
  • c. 2022, W.W. Norton
  • $28.95, 274 pages

Turn it up, would you? Man, that song. It reminds you of falling in love, first dates, riding around in a car, best friends. You can imagine the performance of it, the bassist’s passion, the audience cheers. You know every word of that song, so read “This is What It Sounds Like” by Susan Rogers and Ogi Oga and turn it up.

“This is What It Sounds Like: What the Music You Love Says about You” by Susan Rogers and Ogi Ogas.

Many years ago, when Miles Davis was working with Susan Roger’s boss, Prince, Davis seized an opportunity to shoot questions at Rogers like a machine gun. Where was she from? What did she do? Was she a musician?

She was not, but as a cognitive neuroscientist and a professor at Berklee College of Music, Rogers knows music. And she knows why we love it: seven “influential dimensions of music listening” give us our own personal “maximum gratification.”

It helps to know your individual “listener profile.”

“The music you respond to most powerfully can reveal those parts of yourself that are the most ‘you’,” says Rogers. The music that hits your “sweet spot” is what should fill your play list.

Authenticity gives you a sense that the emotions a song brings aren’t forced or faked. Realism is the scratch of a guitar or the long pause that no one else seems to notice; if you’re hearing the song live, it’s the movement of the singer. Novelty is tricky; it must be in the “Goldilocks zone for novelty: not too strange, not too boring.”

As for the other four dimensions, they go together like a puzzle.

“This is What It Sounds Like: What the Music You Love Says about You” author Susan Rogers.

Says Rogers, “We might say that melody serves as a record’s heart... In contrast... lyrics serve as a record’s head. Rhythm becomes a record’s hips.... Timbre is the raw quality of a musical sound... the sharp buzz of a saxophone... or the drone of a didgeridoo. That’s why timbre serves as a record’s face.”

These things have “the potential to bewitch you – and help you pinpoint where your own sweet spots lie.”

So, what if you just like a song because you just like it and you don’t care why? Go ahead, listen to it, wear the grooves off a vinyl copy, turn it up loud, and forget about “This is What It Sounds Like,” because this won’t sound like your kind of thing.

No, this book is much more for the listener for whom music is not just a hobby but a necessity, like breathing. It’s for the person who shushes the crowd at concerts, so they can hear that one note. Authors Susan Rogers and Ogi Ogas explain why you feel strongly about loving one genre of music and not another, how certain songs mean everything, how music is like conversation, and why one certain song makes you feel like high school again.

“This is What It Sounds Like” is absolutely for the person who buys vinyl and obsessively reads liner notes. If you’re someone who can pick one chord out of a song and you wait for it, find this book. You won’t turn it down.

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The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books. Read past columns at