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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I recently read an article that suggested that our tastes in music are determined by external factors such as class, country, education and the musical activities of others. How many of your musical tastes come from external factors and how many are actually your own?!

External factors are good in accounting for the some of the differing musical tastes of other people, but what of the personal, internal reasons? How do you account for your own personal, internal musical tastes?

Personally, I think my tastes come from both external and internal factors. The nature my environment is perhaps a reason. On the flip side, my personality pulls me towards certain musics and pushes me away from others.
 

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As a musician, I really shouldn't have much of a taste, because it will affect my performance (I may play half-heartedly). Although, the life of the musician is a masquerade. I once convinced my flute teacher that I loved to play Mahler and Stravinsky orchestral excerpts, she actually commented on it in our lesson. Success! She didn't know I hated them!

As a music-lover/fan, I have a really really particular taste. Because I play the flute, ethnicity is Finnish (even white if you are to go so far), and a girl, this all affects my taste especially. I have a taste for music with contrast and character.

(will continue post tomorrow, gotta split :O )
 

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That article sounds to me like rubbish. My taste in music has nothing to do with my race, religion, or class, because if it did I'd simply not listen to classical music.

The only external factor I can think of is the various pieces I listen to because other people say I ought to, most notably my viola teacher, my dad, and the people of this forum; and I don't count this as an external influence on my taste so much as an extension of my curiosity. And if I like the piece, I like it, and if I don't, I don't. That's not the product of an external influence on my taste; that's just my taste, my own will to choose what I like and don't.
 

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Are our tastes in music determined by external factors? I don't think that's necessarily true. Some styles of music I like because of external factors - I love jazz and the saxophone because my dad played saxophone in a big band; R&B and funk because my best friend in college liked it; gospel because my church plays that style; mariachi because in Southern California their music was played live at some great parties.
However, my individual taste keeps me from appreciating music from other external influences - prog rock hasn't clicked with me, even though a good friend is an accomplished prog musician; I don't like praise & worship music, even though many of my friends love it; I don't like rock music in general, even though almost every radio station plays it.
Then there's classical. I have no external reason to like it, because I only know one other person around my parts who listens to it.
So how do I account for my tastes? I can't. I think my brain is wired a certain way, and some things heat up the wires and others don't.
 

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Here are a couple interesting quotes from Music, the Brain, and Ecstacy by Robert Jourdain:

Research shows that most people largely make their personal musical choices for reasons that are neither "personal" nor "musical." Rather, they listen to conform, taking on music as an emblem of social solidarity with their peers, each generation adopting its own conspicuously different styles. There are many exceptions, of course, but the gross statistics are damning. Most people acquire their musical taste during adolescence among friends of the same age, and they carry early preferences right through to the grave. This powerful force overrides considerations of individual neurology and personality. It is a shocking observation, or at least ought to be, given the complexities of music perception. By all rights, any group of 20 teen-agers ought to prefer 20 kinds of music. (Page 263.)

As much as we change with age, our musical taste generally remains stagnant. Most of us stick with what we know, much as we do with the sorts of food we eat and clothes we wear. Dumb habit is the main reason, of course. But habit alone does not entirely explain our listening habits. We are also made narrow by approaching music too passively. By shunting music to the background, we do not meet and overcome new perceptual challenges, and so discover nothing new. (Page 264)
 

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I have no friends nor family that listen to classical music. Yet I listen to classical music. Certainly passive listeners draw on external stimuli to determine their tastes, but let's not equate this to all listeners.
 

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Obviously we're born into a certain culture at a certain time, but within those parameters almost all of musical "taste" is about creating an image and being part of a community.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
That article sounds to me like rubbish. My taste in music has nothing to do with my race, religion, or class, because if it did I'd simply not listen to classical music.
You are talking about yourself. You may well be an anomaly within your race, religion and class which is probable given that you admit that if you let external factors influence your taste in music you wouldn't listen to classical music.

The only external factor I can think of is the various pieces I listen to because other people say I ought to, most notably my viola teacher, my dad, and the people of this forum; and I don't count this as an external influence on my taste so much as an extension of my curiosity. And if I like the piece, I like it, and if I don't, I don't. That's not the product of an external influence on my taste; that's just my taste, my own will to choose what I like and don't.
Can I ask you, are you very familiar with Harold en Italie? Could you sing most of it in your head and do you really appreciate it? I would argue that this would be due to your choice of instrument. Also, I think the musical tastes of parents greatly influence an offspring's musical tastes.
 

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I don't think it is entirely a dichotomy either. This question goes back to the old nature vs nurture discussion. I think we've pretty much determined that personality is influenced by both, and I feel it's the same way with musical taste. However I think my own tastes are more influenced by nature than by culture or environment.

For example - In spite of living in Nashville I despise country music. Why? Aside from its being whiny, and tending to celebrate illiteracy and underachieving, it's the genre of music my mother listened to the most while I was growing up. It is only natural I had to rebel against it. The same goes for jazz singing or what we used to call "easy listening." There was a much larger generation gap in the 60's and 70's when I was growing up than there is now, so this rebelling effect was probably more pronounced in the baby boomers than in subsequent generations. Still this is the nurture or environmental part of my tastes (which I admit had a kind of reverse psychology effect).

A much larger influence is my own nature. I tend to love complex subtleties, musical acrobatics, surprises, traditional structures and deviations from them. These qualities can all be found in classical music, progressive rock and jazz, but somewhat less so in other genres. I attribute this taste strictly to my introverted personality, because the majority of my world seems to just want to party and listen to the same old bump and grind -- so that can't really be environmental. In fact my closest friend admits she's more interested in the lyrics than the actual music and I am just the opposite. Clearly many of us are here because there is no one in our environment who will discuss music in depth as we do. Where I come from there is even a strange cultural notion that music is for adolescents and that one usually grows out of the passion when becoming a responsible adult. :eek:

So I vote for taste being influenced by both external and internal factors with an emphasis weighted toward internal.
 

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You are talking about yourself. You may well be an anomaly within your race, religion and class which is probable given that you admit that if you let external factors influence your taste in music you wouldn't listen to classical music.
I could well be an anomaly, given that most of the statements in the Jourdain quote above are completely off in my case (I also presently very much dislike the music I listened to at the beginning of my formative years).

Can I ask you, are you very familiar with Harold en Italie? Could you sing most of it in your head and do you really appreciate it? I would argue that this would be due to your choice of instrument. Also, I think the musical tastes of parents greatly influence an offspring's musical tastes.
I actually don't know Harold en Italie at all well, nor particularly well the Walton or Bartok concerti (better still than Harold, anyway). I definitely agree with your point about the parent; two of my dad's favorite composers are Mahler and Sibelius.

I suppose that research into this matter and attempting to come up with generalizations just seems a bit ridiculous to me. Like the idea of "objective greatness" in other works of art/music/whatever. Every person is completely different from the next; how is it possible to make a "catch-all" statement about personal psychological processes without an enormous amount of error built into it?
 

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For example - In spite of living in Nashville I despise country music. Why? Aside from its being whiny, and tending to celebrate illiteracy and underachieving, it's the genre of music my mother listened to the most while I was growing up. It is only natural I had to rebel against it.
This is interesting. People who enjoy country might attribute their liking for it to being raised with it as well. I remember an interesting twin study I once read for a psychology course--a pair of identical twins were adopted by two different families. Both twins were very neat. One said she was neat because her parents were very neat and she followed their example. The other said her neatness was a rebellion against her messy parents.

I think this demonstrates just how difficult it is for people to judge which aspects of themselves are "fundamental" and which are externally influenced. I don't think the two can really be separated, anyway--there is just so much interplay between societal and genetic factors, beginning even before a person is born, and neither would really be anything without the other.

For my part, I view my musical taste as a personal choice--I don't like classical music just because my friends do, because most of them don't--but I see how it is a choice that was made possible by various life circumstances. If I had been raised by a very poor or uneducated family, it is somewhat less likely that I would have had much exposure to classical music, and any latent potential I have for enjoying it might not have been realized.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I actually don't know Harold en Italie at all well, nor particularly well the Walton or Bartok concerti (better still than Harold, anyway). I definitely agree with your point about the parent; two of my dad's favorite composers are Mahler and Sibelius.

I suppose that research into this matter and attempting to come up with generalizations just seems a bit ridiculous to me. Like the idea of "objective greatness" in other works of art/music/whatever. Every person is completely different from the next; how is it possible to make a "catch-all" statement about personal psychological processes without an enormous amount of error built into it?
I don't want to come across as trying to formulate generalizing theories as I appreciate everyone is different. I do believe there are trends. However, there is such diversity on this forum that any trends I may believe to be true will not be revealed here.

Me personally, I'd say my own taste in music comes 50% from external factors (studying music, playing the piano, social background etc.). I just wonder if others feel the same way.

By the way, sorry for assuming your personal tastes!
 

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I don't want to come across as trying to formulate generalizing theories as I appreciate everyone is different. I do believe there are trends. However, there is such diversity on this forum that any trends I may believe to be true will not be revealed here.

Me personally, I'd say my own taste in music comes 50% from external factors (studying music, playing the piano, social background etc.). I just wonder if others feel the same way.

By the way, sorry for assuming your personal tastes!
I didn't mean to sound offended or anything, I was just being all off-the-cuff and direct again. Terrible thing to do on an internet forum...
 

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This is interesting. People who enjoy country might attribute their liking for it to being raised with it as well. I remember an interesting twin study I once read for a psychology course--a pair of identical twins were adopted by two different families. Both twins were very neat. One said she was neat because her parents were very neat and she followed their example. The other said her neatness was a rebellion against her messy parents.
Wow! Just wow! Makes we wonder if we really have any choices at all. :tiphat:
 

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I attribute my love for classical music to my love of intellectual stimulation. My parents actually hated classical music and my father spoke of it derogatorily as "long hair" music. This is kind of amusing because this is the 1960s and long hair was becoming the style. However, I was exposed to music early on. My mother loved musicals and easy listening types like Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. As a teenager I loathed her music but as an adult I have grown fond of much of it simply because of my love for classic films of Hollywood (pre-1960). It is still not my primary preference but at least I no longer loath it. Maybe I have matured?

My personal choice as a teen was rock music. I listened to the likes of The Beatles, Dave Clark Five, The Turtles, The Bee Gees, Tommy James and the Shondells, etc. but as I explored rock music and I matured so did my taste and desire for things more intellectual. I started listening to Bob Dylan, The Grateful Dead, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Cat Stevens, Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins. Then I discovered Chicago, Blood Sweat and Tears, The Flock, Ides of March, Chase, which all led me to explore Jazz. My thirst for musical ideas and sounds kept me listening to ever new and challenging music. I then discovered groups like Yes, Genesis, Gentle Giant, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Camel, Van Der Graff Generator and many others, and that led me to classical music. One other hugely influential factor in my love of classical music was hearing Beethoven's 7th symphony used as the main theme in a sci-fi film called Zardoz. Sci-fi has also been a huge passion of mine since about 5 years old and at 16 when I heard that theme used I had to stay for the credits to find out who wrote the music. Was I shocked when I saw Beethoven's name scroll by on the screen! I immediately went out and bought a copy that day. I remember it well because it was the first classical record I ever bought and it was a recording with Toscanini and the RCA Orchestra. That one record resulted in me buying hundreds of classical recordings. At first my explorations were of the standard repertoire but as I grew in my knowledge and understanding of the music I kept looking for more and more interesting things. Today I buy music by many composers who are mostly unknowns but who have written extraordinary pieces that are fun and interesting.

So where did my love of classical music come from? I can only conclude that it comes from my own innate desire to "explore" the possibilities of human existence. Whether that be in music, literature, politics, religion or life in general. I love discovering new things and thinking about things beyond my own capacity to understand because doing so has led me to understand more than I could have without this sense of exploration and discovery. I am on a journey to grow and I know that if I stop growing it will be the end of me. I must push on and expand my horizons but not at the expense of knowing which way I have come to get here. The pathway has not always been easy. It has been fraught with much conflict, misunderstanding and isolationism, and yet I move on. To this day I still do not have one close personal friend who enjoys the same things that I do. In order to have friends I often have to keep my enjoyments and pleasures to myself. Sad but true and I'm sure it's probably true of many on this forum reading these words. I cannot believe that I am alone.

Anyway, that is in brief my journey thus far. So was it external or internal factors? Only God really knows!

Kevin
 

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As a music-lover/fan, I have a really really particular taste. Because I play the flute, ethnicity is Finnish (even white if you are to go so far), and a girl, this all affects my taste especially. I have a taste for music with contrast and character.

(will continue post tomorrow, gotta split :O )
Continuing now,

Internal factors probably affect me more than anything. External factors (As I named) depend on my background, and what I've learned through others. But I listen to music completely different from those around me right now, although they aren't opposed to it (I brought my mom to 3 different Prokofiev Concerts in the last 6 months, and she really liked all of them. It was all new to her, but well known to me). My extreme optimist/positive attitude about everything has definitely affected my taste. Thus, I love extremely optimistic music (Prokofiev and the Russian bunch) and dislike most depressing music, although I don't mind music that gets near despair because it's a genuine feeling.
 

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Continuing now,

Internal factors probably affect me more than anything. External factors (As I named) depend on my background, and what I've learned through others. But I listen to music completely different from those around me right now, although they aren't opposed to it (I brought my mom to 3 different Prokofiev Concerts in the last 6 months, and she really liked all of them. It was all new to her, but well known to me). My extreme optimist/positive attitude about everything has definitely affected my taste. Thus, I love extremely optimistic music (Prokofiev and the Russian bunch) and dislike most depressing music, although I don't mind music that gets near despair because it's a genuine feeling.
Sorry what? Russians, extremely optimistic music? I think you might be missing something here... have you heard any Rachmaninov, or Tchaikovsky, or Mussorgsky for that matter? As far as I am aware, the Russians are generally known for their extreme pessimism.
 

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Sorry what? Russians, extremely optimistic music? I think you might be missing something here... have you heard any Rachmaninov, or Tchaikovsky, or Mussorgsky for that matter? As far as I am aware, the Russians are generally known for their extreme pessimism.
What? I think Tchai 6th is the most optimistic symphony I've ever heard ;) and dont let me start about Shostakovich, the master of joy and happiness.
 
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