Monday, December 12, 2011

Accounting for Musical Tastes

My book titles have been from song titles and the books have been full of musical references. When I couldn't find a song title that I felt worked well enough for a book, I made one up, Swap, but I credited it to the band Smiley's People -- a band I was in during the mid-80's.

Finally, with Tumblin' Dice music is front and center as the main characters are in a band, The High, that has regrouped and is playing the casino circuit. And there are crimes. And cops. But mostly there's music.

And it's pretty much all 70's music.

Do I have terrible taste in music? Maybe. For a while there I was embarrassed by my musical taste and my lack of, oh, let's say adventurousness. My tastes are pretty mainstream and stuck mostly in the past.

According to Daniel Levitin, (Associate Professor, McGill University Department of Psychology and the McGill Program in Behavioural Neuroscience, who holds the Bell Chair in the Psychology of Electronic Communication) it turns out, "Our musical tastes begin to form in the womb. By 12 weeks, the fetus has a completely functioning auditory system and is able to hear music through the amniotic fluid (it sounds something like listening under water). One-year olds show clear preferences for music that they heard in utero. Until roughly the age of eight, children absorb whatever music they hear, during the time when the brain is working hard to make billions of new connections."

And he goes on to explain that it's pretty common to stick with the music we heard when we were young:

"Just as there are "critical periods" for language acquisition, there appear to be critical periods for the acquisition of music listening. As children hear music, they develop neural systems -— schemas — to capture the structural and tonal regularities of that music. Beginning around age 10, as the brain's mission shifts toward pruning out unused neural connections, musical tastes focus around the music we're used to. At about age 12, music begins to serve a social bonding function and we use music to distinguish our social group from others: this is the kind of music people like us listen to, that music is for them. As young teens, our musical tastes are further refined by what our friends are listening to. Most of us base our adult musical tastes on what we liked when we were 12 to 16. In some cases, through effort, we can expand our musical tastes as adults. But if we had relatively narrow tastes in our developing years, this is more difficult to do because we lack the appropriate schemas, or templates, with which to process and ultimately to understand new musical forms."

Prof. Levitin has written a very interesting book, This Is Your Brain On Music: The Science of a Human Obsession, although I got these quotes from a website.

So, maybe I just haven't put in enough effort to expand my musical tastes. Maybe it's not too late.

But for now, Tumblin' Dice is full of stuff like this:


pattinase (abbott) said...

I was brought up on show tunes and I find it very hard to leave them behind. Although the fact that no good ones have been written in forty years helps.

John McFetridge said...

Well, Patti, I don't even know if it counts as good ones but my wife and I are going to see HAIR in a couple of weeks.

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Peter Rozovsky said...

I've been listening to a lot of Cuban music the last couple of years. An unconscious reproduction of the stuff me mum listented to years before I was born, perhaps?

Much of my musical taste has developed only since I've become an adult. I suppose Professor Levitin would say that makes me a big baby.
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