Monday, February 21, 2011

Music Monday ~ Taste in Music ~ Astro-indications?

Typing the words "musical taste personality" into a Google search box will bring up countless articles, blogs, surveys, questionnaires and statistics on the topic of whether personality defines a person's musical taste - or vice versa. There's material dating from 2003 to 2010, with information in a variety of depths and complexity. The conclusion: apparently it does.

The following, chosen mainly for its brevity, comes from Psychology Today in 2003, written by Colin Allen: The Sound of Personality

Does music preference really predict character traits? It may be an indicator of personality traits, according to new research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. The study pinpoints musical tastes with respective attributes.

A person's album collection may actually say quite a lot about him. It may be an indicator of personality traits, according to new research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. The study pinpoints musical tastes with respective attributes.
"Music preferences are a manifestation of our personality," says lead author Peter J. Rentfrow, a psychology graduate student at University of Texas in Austin. He found that, when it comes to personality traits, there are four major groups.
(I've inserted numbers)

1.People who enjoy blues, jazz, classical and folk are more likely to be creative, open to new experiences and enjoy abstract ideas. They often lean politically to the left.

2.Rentfrow found those who liked pop, country and religious music tend to be more extroverted, trusting of others and hard working. They are often more practical and lean politically to the right

People who prefer alternative music, rock and heavy metal are inclined to be physically active and adventurous.

4. Dance and hip-hop fans are apt to be more outgoing, athletic and agreeable, yet they were also more likely to view themselves as being physically attractive.

In the study, Rentfrow and colleagues surveyed 3,500 students, examining their musical tastes, along with their self-perceptions and mental acuity. He suggests that taste in music develops according to personality traits
If musical taste and personality are linked, and personality and astrology are linked, then astrology and musical taste must be linked....or is that fallacy of composition or division...or some other obscure form of faulty reasoning ? Never mind!

Trying to link taste in music to astrological indications in a natal chart would have to be a "suck-it-and-see" type of experiment. There are so many astrological ways musical taste could manifest. For instance, the "four major groups" indicated in the above piece might be seen to relate to the four astrological elements, and their predominance (or not) in a person's natal chart might indicate what type of music that person would likely prefer. Doesn't Group #1 sound spookily akin to the Air signs (Gemini/Libra/Aquarius)? And Group #2 to Earth and Water. #3 and #4 to Fire?

No person is ever likely to fit exactly into one group - these or any other contrived groups. We're all made up of a highly complex mix. My husband, for instance, a lifelong avid jazz fan, has no Air (Group #1) astrologically, but has a "splash" chart (planets spread around the circle) indicating a wide span of taste. He has often been heard to say that in spite of his preference for jazz "there's no music I do not enjoy". So... chart pattern may also be a consideration here.

Then there's the matter of individual planets. The position of Venus, planet of the arts, in sign and house has to be significant.

Identifying musical taste from a natal chart is not going to be straightforward - or 100% reliable - nothing in astrology ever is.

Digging further I found this at McGill Reporter ( Volume 39: 2006-2007):
Question: Why do we like some music and not others.

By: Daniel Levitin, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology and the McGill Program in Behavioural Neuroscience, holds the Bell Chair in the Psychology of Electronic Communication.

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.

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 to16. 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.
Each generation develops a particular pattern of musical taste, different - often wildly different - from the generation before, yet certain members of each generation will have tastes which vary from that of the majority of their peers. Classical music, and jazz have lived on in spite of rock, rap, punk, country etc.

From my own experience I'd be inclined to add another factor likely to contribute to a person's musical taste - i.e. people one happens to encounter on the journey through life. If I had never met a certain country music artist back in the late 1980s I'd know exactly nothing about country music. Instead, because I met this person, my musical taste was led along a country music path, almost exclusively, for around ten years, and this was in the UK where country music is very much a "fringe" taste. Many years later I met and married Himself - a lifelong jazz fan.

I've realised that my taste in music is evolving/expanding still. Expanding is a better word than evolving in this context. In evolution, the old is left behind as defunct, in this case the old is still cherished. My taste before I met Himself ran to Sinatra, light opera, musicals (movies and Broadway-type), Sinatra, country music, Sinatra, Neil Diamond, Sinatra, occasional pop/rock songs, Sinatra. I now find my list includes some (emphasis on some) jazz; but what seems to me to be a bigger change: I have a much better appreciation of music without lyrics. I'd always been a "lyrics freak", but recently I've begun to enjoy just the music - for its own sake. This may seem like a subtle change, of little importance - but for me the change is huge!

I don't know how much my move across the Atlantic has to do with this expansion of taste. The move shunted my astrological ascendant from Cancer to Aquarius. Now I come to think about it, that does kind of fit astrologically. Cancer relates to all that's sweet, emotional and sentimental (and to Group #2 above). Aquarius (also my Sun sign) relates to a somewhat different scene - a need to listen with the head as well as the heart perhaps (and links to Group #1 above).

So, tidying-up this rag-bag of thoughts:

Factors contributing to musical taste:

Early influence from parents, peers, education.
Personality - astrological indications.
Influence, in adulthood, from people met on life's journey.

A person's taste in music might "congeal" at any point, or it could continue to expand throughout life, the difference depending largely on personality type..... back to astrology!


Rossa said...

James has put up the Kirsty MaColl track tonight on N.O.

One of my all time favourites. I've been singing it all day.

Twilight said...

Rossa ~~ thanks for the heads-up. :-)

I added a link to stop things from "boiling over". ;-)

Wisewebwoman said...

Mine continues to expand, too, T. Along with your #1, I've now added some country and western which astonishes me and more blues fusion than before, also some of the grandgirl's unusual modern.
Plus my parents both sang and tell me I came out singing. Rather fanciful on their part, no doubt.

James Higham said...

I now find my list includes some (emphasis on some) jazz; but what seems to me to be a bigger change: I have a much better appreciation of music without lyrics. I'd always been a "lyrics freak", but recently I've begun to enjoy just the music - for its own sake.

Music is so entrenched in the soul and certain types most certainly resonate or seem to pull triggers. Good analysis but I suspect there is something otherworldly too in our tastes.

Twilight said...

WWW ~~~ Good!!
My leap into country music astonished me, too when it happened, back in 1988. That, along with becoming addicted to the TV mini-series "Lonesome Dove", and watching tapes of it over and over again - I often wonder whether I was unconsciously preparing myself for the leap across the Atlantic which was to come in 2004. :-)

Twilight said...

James Higham ~~~ Hi there - thanks for visiting!

I agree - yes. Otherworldly - another factor in the equation, and one we'll never be able to analyse. Good thing too!

anyjazz said...

This is a good, thoughtful post. I enjoyed it very much.

It is a subject that can provoke long discussions, late into the candle-lit hours.

Twilight said...

anyjazz ~~~ thank you. Yes, an interesting topic, to be sure. :-)

jpbenney said...

Interesting note about how the group correspond to various astrological signs.

I can understand many aspects of it: those who are thinking-oriented are likely to be comfortable with highly abstract music (group #1) where emotion is not important. They would also lean politically to the left.

Those who are feeling-oriented (water) would have a strong preference for highly sentimental music which gives them security. They would also fear the intrusion of givernment into their private sphere and hence lean to the right politically. A bad problem is that group #2 are described as “extroverted” and “trusting”, which is opposite to the typical description of water signs as introverted and suspicious.

It is notable that none of the groups identified by Colin Allen are described as “introverted” or “suspicious”. What sort of music would highly introverted (as the earth and water signs are described as) people prefer? One would imagine strong introverts would prefer music with great depth; what this would constitute is hard to tell though: would it be extreme complexity or intense emotions?

Group #4 is difficult. Whilst the “outgoing” and “athletic” characteristics do fit the fire signs, the agreeableness and emphasis on physical activity do not.

Twilight said...

jpbenney ~~Hi! Thanks for your thoughts on this.

Reading my post through again now, I see what you're getting at, and agree that there's no exact fit astrology-wise, as set out there.

But I always believe that none of us is an exact fit for the way astrology defines us, anyway. We're a mix of other input, and the results of our individual life experiences too.

I agree that there's something of a disconnect in #2. The writer of that piece was struggling to put people into boxes (I was too, I guess) where they cannot comfortably fit, not exactly anyway.

I suspect a strong introvert's taste in music might span any and all of the musical genres, but they'd keep their taste hidden from others. I think a true introvert would be capable of enjoying pop, jazz, classical etc - but always sitting alone at home.