Medical Mysteries of Music

Do You Have Bad Taste in Music? Blame Your Parents.

Looking back on my upbringing, I really shouldn’t have ended up in radio or the music business. Sorry Mom and Dad, but your taste in music sucks.

Mom tells a story about how Dad kept 18-month-old me away from the TV when the Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. “Don’t expose him to that crap!” Their idea of a rockin’ good time was going to see Up with People–again. Mom’s favourite artist of all time was Englebert Humperdinck. Dad liked singing Hank Snow songs on the guitar (Hank Williams was too extreme). The best audio gear in the house was a massive Viking console stereo in the living room that Dad bought for a hundred bucks one Saturday. Their most-played album was The Merrymen Play “Beautiful Barbados.”

Yet despite this stunningly uncool musical culture, my sister and I somehow grew up deeply involved in music, even though our first musical instruments were the accordion (me) and the Yamaha Electone Organ (her).  This apparently makes us anthropologically unusual. Wired reports that most people who were raised in such an environment aren’t so lucky.

Have you ever wondered why you enjoy pop while your friends like rock, or why people you work with are obsessed with heavy metal and you can’t stand it? A new study has found it may be a result of your upbringing.

The culture you grow up in was found to be far more influential than biological factors, according to the research from MIT. This also means different cultures actually hear the world differently.

“Our results show there is a profound cultural difference in the way people respond to consonant and dissonant sounds,” said Josh McDermott, lead author of the paper. Consonant chords typically consist of notes that harmonise, or sound good together. By contrast, dissonant chords typically jar and are less pleasing to hear.

Keep reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38321 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

One thought on “Do You Have Bad Taste in Music? Blame Your Parents.

  • The only good things I believe I liked that my parents liked openly were Johnny Horton, Hank Williams and Jim Croche. As a kid, as a small kid, I was born in 78, My father mainly kept the radio set to country though I did enjoy the few times it would be set to oldies stations, I really liked Buddy Holly but he had a mass of renewed interest in the 80s. I was lucky enough to have some freer access to tv than radio and saw Cab Calloway, the Beatles, Blondie, some New Wave bands on talk shows, and generally developed some separate interests. My brother fluttered around pop and then Christian music heavily which I despise and was forced to listen to, it became too much of a dicatorship in my house of that awful music with everything else being banned, a friend of his burned his record collection, awful. I went secretly alternative, the college radio station but also thanks to a library checked out tons of jazz, blues (Blind Willie McTell, Robert Johnson, as well as David Bowie (my father didn’t like him) and Beatles, George and John’s solo work. I know my father detested the Beatles. I learned my mother did like them as a teen but mostly their early stuff. I learned all of her cool records were lost in a flood when I was 2 or 3 which cut off some exposure to knowledge of her interests. The records she did have left were Tom Jones and Smokey Robinson and she liked Lee Greenwood and Randy Travis in the 80s, I am not really a fan of any of those but in the 80s film Adventures in Babysitting, which she really loved, she revealed a love for the music in it. Most significantly ‘It’s My Party and I’ll Cry if I Want To’ by Lesley Gore and all of the blues music in it. She generally liked stuff I played for her. I think Sesame Street was also a big influence on my musical interests and watching older films on Matinee at the Bijou with my grandmother which gave me some interest in jazzy tunes and Betty Boop. I remember watching films with Cab Calloway in it. I also watched the Pirate Movie a bit too much and the 85 Alice in Wonderland. I think I am fairly well rounded in musical interests though what is good is subjective, some people develop my sort of taste as a response against something. This being said, I can take some accordion music as much as I can take rap or metal but I believe I grew up to be a larger fan of New Wave, Jazz, Blues (older stuff from the 30s and 40s which is also the main period of country that interests me), and Punk, always looking back to look forward. As a note, though I never knew him to be interested in it, when I was cleaning up the place after their deaths, I found an old angry letter from my grandfather to my father criticizing him deeply for liking “black music” among other things. I believe I was not exposed to this side of my fathers taste or he had bent his interests to something more acceptable to his fathers culture in the many decades after the letter had been written. My father did like Blind Willie McTell when I played him sneakily by broadcasting my ipod to the radio. At a bout the same time I also slipped in some Clash, Ramones and he said to me he thought it was really just old time rock and roll repackaged and he seemed to be coming into this thought only then. Not many people seem to think about musical literacy aside from classical and perhaps training a child in an instrument. Some seem to keep their kids away from music that isn’t Barney or Disney. I think it is an important art to share, not just your interests but a well rounded exposure, Not every kid is going to go looking for it.


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