July 13, 2015

Music tastes follow class

 Pacific Standard - Even as our listening options multiply, there's still a huge disconnect between the types of music enjoyed by members of different social classes.

That's the conclusion of sociologist Gerry Veenstra of the University of British Columbia. Analyzing a survey of 1,595 music lovers in Toronto and Vancouver, he finds a divide between the sounds enjoyed by the educated elite and the common folk.

Veenstra used data collected in 2009 by the University of Victoria's Survey Research Center. A total of 732 adults from Toronto and 863 living in the greater Vancouver area were interviewed about their musical tastes.

On first glance, the notion that people are open to more genres is supported by the survey, which found "a cluster of musical likes and dislikes, wherein people who liked one form of music tended to like many others as well."

But further investigation found that was misleading. "When pushed to choose a favorite musical genre, the musical omnivores were relatively likely to favor some musical styles over all others," Veenstra writes, "indicating that not all musical tastes were equal in their eyes."

What's more, even among people who expressed liking for several different types of music, Veenstra found a clear delineation between "highbrow" genres enjoyed by educated, upper-class people, and "lowbrow" ones favored by others. Being a researcher rather than a critic, he notes that those are traditional descriptors, and adds that "highbrow tastes are not necessarily intrinsically sophisticated."

"Blues, choral, classical, jazz, musical theater, opera, pop, reggae, rock, and world/international (are perceived as) relatively highbrow, and country, disco, easy listening, golden oldies, heavy metal and rap as relatively lowbrow," Veenstra writes.

"Of all the highbrow tastes, all but jazz are disliked by lower class people, and of the lowbrow tastes, country, easy listening, and golden oldies are concurrently disliked by higher class people."

To a large extent, this divide falls along educational lines.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There are only two kinds of music, good and bad. Much attributed to Duke Ellington, the axiom has been around musical circles in one form or another since likely the very beginnings of the art.
It has nothing to do with any particular genre, rather, there seems to be a particular sort of integrity---honesty, if you will, that becomes manifest to discriminating ears. Ears to hear, as the saying goes?
Bob Marley had it, so did John Coltrane, as did Pharoah Sanders, as did Earl Scruggs and Ralph Stanley, as did John Lee Hooker, as did Lennie Tristano, as did Igor Stravinski, as did Bach, as did...

Perhaps education may be some sort of factor, but only providing that the education addresses and fosters an understanding of pure music, an education unadulterated by prejudice. The greatest asset for any musician is the ability to recognize valid expression and transcend personal bias---Hence, there are only two kinds of music.