Energy Portraits is a 25-minute work for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, and percussion based on the nine Enneagram personality types. The Enneagram system delves into underlying motivations and thought patterns of different people rather than only external behaviors, so this piece incorporates the typical overall energy of each number as a miniature portrait. The movements are not in the same order as the nine types from the Enneagram but are reordered and renamed for musical reasons. This allows the listeners who are not familiarized with the Enneagram to still understand the theme and energy of each movement.
Flourish is based on Enneagram 3. Its fast-paced and upbeat feel conveys the energetic, image-conscious, motivated, productive, and ambitious nature of Enneagram 3. “Flourish” refers to both the showy gestures and embellishments, and to the idea of pushing towards one’s highest potential. Syncopation and high rhythmic activity are the main musical elements of this movement, allowing the music to remain high-energy from beginning to end.
Vigilant is based on Enneagram 6. This movement highlights the constant pull between loyalty and skepticism, suspicion versus desire for connection and community. The musical energy is constantly alert, with flurries of “mental traffic” and questions in the undercurrent, conveyed by chaotic rhythm and non-functional harmonies. This creates an unsettled feeling for much of the movement, which it is punctuated by more assertive, secure moments, and finally transforming into a more stable “peaceful vigilance” via simpler rhythms and more consonant harmonies.
Exhale is based on Enneagram 9. This movement embodies the peace-loving nature of this personality through release of tension and avoidance of conflict. The music evades any kind of drama or “waves,” staying very stable and low-key, like a sigh of relief. The harmonic language in this movement is very consonant throughout, while sustained chords, arpeggios, and lyrical melodic lines create a peaceful sound environment that is not interrupted until the end of the movement.
Creed is based on Enneagram 1. It evokes a serious march or crusade, as Enneagram 1 individuals strive unyieldingly to improve the world around them and live up to their own very high set of standards. Moments of victory in the music are followed immediately by a return to the quest for something even better. This striving for perfection is depicted by frequent change of meter, using irregular time signatures, and attempting to convey the perfect rhythmic feeling of a march while never quite reaching the traditional 4/4 meter.
Sustain is based on Enneagram 2. It is in the form of a gentle, lullaby-waltz, conveying the caring and warm nature of this personality type. This movement has an easy-to-follow melody that is occasionally interrupted by small sections of unexpected harmonies and textures, representing the inner conflict that this personality type encounters when balancing its intrinsic desire to always care for others with its own conflicting needs, motivations, and opinions.
Unveiled is based on Enneagram 4. This personality type is introspective, sensitive, and sincere, with a wide range of quickly shifting emotions and an affinity for finding and sharing deeper meanings and beauty in life. These characteristics are shown in the rhapsodic writing of the movement, which flows through different characters, always emphasizing the emotion and beauty of all the harmonic and melodic elements in a section.
Neverland is based on Enneagram 7. This Enneagram type is playful, fun, and childlike: it is not particularly introspective and doesn’t take itself too seriously but loves adventure and variety. This is reflected in the music by the sudden interruptions of melodies that lead the music to completely different ideas. Bright sounding harmonies, very active rhythm, and emphasis on playful, light melodies are the main musical characteristics of this movement.
Delve is based on Enneagram 5. This movement is more “intellectual,” fugal music, not emotional, and depicts how Enneagram 5 individuals tend to live more intellectually and less in the emotionally. The downward motion and repeated-note pattern of the melody evokes this personality’s constant search for knowledge, like a miner digging in the earth for treasures. This melody goes back and forth between instruments of the ensemble, and it follows a very strict form and logical procedure, evoking traditions of the Baroque and Classical era.
Drive is based on Enneagram 8. This is a very powerful, sometimes abrasive personality—they say what they think and can be brash or confrontational, but also unstoppable in their goals, protective, confident, and hard-working. This movement projects all this energy by using a very rhythmical approach—just like the first movement—however, there is a much stronger percussive element to it. It is strongly inspired by the passionate, forceful feeling of the tango, and Piazzolla’s music in general.
Dr. Robert Frank
Art, Education, Music
Number of Pages
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
Solis, Luis, "Energy Portraits For Flute, Clarinet in B-Flat, Violin, Cello, Piano, And Percussion" (2022). Music Theses and Dissertations. 10.