Medical Mysteries of Music

Do your musical tastes change with the seasons?

Photo credit: Robb Leahy

[A guest post from Jess Walter. – AC]

In the Rolling Stone’s list, the 500 greatest songs of all time, 7% of these were about the weather. The changing seasons and the weather have a huge influence on not only how we are feeling but also the music that we listen to.

So how do weather and climate affect your tastes in music?

Those April Showers

Music is of course heavily linked with the emotions that we feel. Think about how many songs that you know linked with bad weather. “I Can’t Stand the Rain” by Tina Turner, “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers, “Stormy Weather” by Billie Holliday. These songs are a way of pouring our heart out through music. Even changes in barometric pressure can affect our mood, and thereby influence the music that we want to listen to.

A study done by the University of Berlin on 1,223 people found that we are more likely to be sad when the weather is poor, and the days are shorter. If it is windy, the participants reported that they were more likely to be grumpy. During this time, we reach for the sad music, whether it is Radiohead or some dark and stormy Chopin. Interestingly enough, scientists from Durham University found that listening to sad music actually boosts your mood, and makes you feel happier.

Perhaps in listening to melancholy music, we are actually self-medicating?

Basking in the summer sunshine

Last year Spotify and Accuweather did a joint study to research how our music tastes change with the weather. They found that on sunny days, people listened to happier, more up-beat music. They liked high energy tunes that were loud and noisy. The music did not necessarily have a high number of beats per minute (BPM) though.

It was found that people listened to faster music that was good for running – at around 126 BPM when it was cloudy. It is worth mentioning that the results of the study also showed a correlation between where you live, the type of music you listen to, and the weather. For instance people living in Chicago and Seattle were more excited by rain than sunshine – this says a lot about the general climate in these two cities.

The Christmas season

It will come as no surprise that over the Christmas season, we listen to far more seasonal and Christmas music – this is something that fills us with nostalgia. A whopping 75% of people said that they enjoy listening to Christmas music – and the biggest listeners? Millennials. Every year Neilsen do an in depth study of music consumers in America. They found that 36% of this age group were holiday music fans.

The fact is that music is very much entangled with our memories. During winter, the songs that we listen to are mentally preparing us for the childlike joy that this season can bring.

So yes, it does seem that our musical tastes do change through the seasons. The weather can affect our mood, and this influences what we listen to.

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 38562 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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