Where Does Your Musical Taste Come From?

Is musical taste nature or nurture? For me, it’s gotta be nature because my parents have terrible taste in music. I mean, truly awful. Mom’s favourite song of all time is “It’s a Small World.” Yes, the Disney tune that will now be in your head for the rest of the day. But then you probably know people–maybe yourself–brought up in a highly sophisticated musical environment.

In either case, this requires some study of the brain. From CNN.

Your taste in music might have more to do with the culture around you than how your brain is wired.

Scientists previously thought that musical preference is rooted in the brain, but a new study of a remote Amazonian society suggests that musical tastes are cultural in origin.

It turns out that the preference for consonant sounds — which include the combination of notes in the classic chords of C and G, often heard in pop music — varies across nations and is strongest in Western cultures, said Josh McDermott, assistant professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and lead author of the study.

“This indicates that the preference for consonance depends on exposure to particular types of music, probably those that feature harmony in which some combinations of notes are prioritized over others,” he said. “If it were ‘hardwired,’ one would not expect such dramatic cultural variation; everyone would be expected to have a robust preference.

Keep reading. CNN explores stuff like this with a new original series called Soundtracks, which debuts on April 20 at 10 pm ET.

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.

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