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Old 12-17-2010, 02:06 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Do you guys think it's possible to condition yourself to enjoy certain types of music (or certain bands, or certain albums, etc.)? My friend operates under this hypothesis that the only reason Radiohead is so popular is because somebody influential (or some group) arbitrarily decided that they released the best album of the 90's, and as a result a large amount of people began listening to their music, even though they might not necessarily have enjoyed it, until they actually did enjoy it.

Of course, regarding his Radiohead hypothesis, I think he's just being a close-minded idiot. But I do think he's touching on a larger underlying idea. I do think it's possible to "condition" yourself into liking music that you otherwise would have dismissed. This can be a result of two factors, often working together:
1) The music/album/artist is acclaimed by some or many people you find respectable. These people could be professional critics, friends, family members, celebrities, etc.
2) The music/album/artist is something you force yourself to listen to repeatedly, not necessarily out of enjoyment, but because you feel obligated to and/or feel you're "missing" something that other people are "getting".

There are two kinds of examples I have in mind. In the first kind, you are conditioning yourself into enjoying only an artist, album, or song. Small-scale conditioning that only "teaches" you to like a small set of music, while leaving your overarching taste relatively untouched. A personal example would be my quest to understand In The Aeroplane Over The Sea's popularity. I initially learned of the album because an artist I hold in high esteem (Jesse Lacey) described it as one of the best albums he'd ever heard. I later found out of its near-universal critical acclaim, and lastly, of its polarizing nature on this forum. It's not a very good example because I still don't enjoy this album even after repeated listens for over 365 days time, but should I someday find that I do, I'll be sure to report back.

I would like to make an important distinction though: I think there is a clear difference in this type of conditioning and having music "grow" on you. I think in the latter scenario, you often find yourself appreciating aspects of the music that you didn't appreciate initially, thus providing a reason to explain why it grew on you. Small-scale conditioning lacks this entirely.

The second kind of example is large-scale, "taste-orienting" conditioning. I think this is the much more feasible aspect of my hypothesis. It occurs when the subject is very young and is just discovering music, with little or no foundation in preferred genres/artists. They are subjected to frequent, unintentional exposure to a type of music that someone else around them enjoys (or perhaps is a large part of their culture/society), and as a result at some period later in their life they learn to enjoy that type of music as if they initially consciously chose to listen to it on their own. I think this explains why you see cliques of children/young adults who emulate a specific artist or number of artists in a genre and listen exclusively to that genre. An example I have in mind is the skate punks that I went to high school with. Many of them dressed in plaid, strap-laced pants, converse shoes, wore studs, had many piercings and tattoos, and often had ridiculous hairstyles that involved unusual colors and immense amounts of gel. They listened almost exclusively to The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, The Casualties, Minor Threat, and other "real punk" bands. This can also be attributed to why some people only listen to "classic rock", or "real hip hop", etc.

I think it's common in large-scale conditioning for these people to "outgrow" their musical beginnings and branch into enjoying other types of music, but they almost always have a "soft spot" for the type of music they identified with as a child, even if they recognize, as adults, that music was rather sh*t. Personally, I don't think I could ever dislike Green Day or Blink-182 because they were such an important part (if not the central focus) of my musical life as a teenager.

Any thoughts on this?
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Old 12-17-2010, 03:02 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Music is like a web, and you're dropped in the center. The music you're exposed to in early ages usually is dictated by what your parents listen to, and whatever you pick up. I whole-heartily believe that the early years of music are conditioning.

From there, it's up to you what direction to go, and how far to go on it. Obviously there's guidelines. I mean, it's very rare you'll be exposed to every type of music to ever exist. However, there obviously is cultural guidelines. Obviously, you're going to get a lot more exposure to Hendrix, Beatles, etc. than you will to Soft Machine even if Soft Machine is a band that musically matches up to them. This form of conditioning is very much inevitable. Very few people go past their inherit cultural surroundings. I mean, when you get even more obscure, like bands like Fanfare Ciocarlia, you get a really divide in those who dare to go further, and those who don't. Then again, maybe daring to go further, and ignoring what you left behind is just as much a result of conditioning. My choices in doing so certainly do reflect from my personality which was guided by many hereditary, and environmental traits just as all psychology.

Still, it doesn't mean you don't have free choice, and that sometimes your ear buds do act just as taste buds and react with a very natural reaction to sound immediately, depending on your personality.
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Old 12-17-2010, 04:01 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RVCA View Post
Do you guys think it's possible to condition yourself to enjoy certain types of music (or certain bands, or certain albums, etc.)? My friend operates under this hypothesis that the only reason Radiohead is so popular is because somebody influential (or some group) arbitrarily decided that they released the best album of the 90's, and as a result a large amount of people began listening to their music, even though they might not necessarily have enjoyed it, until they actually did enjoy it.

Of course, regarding his Radiohead hypothesis, I think he's just being a close-minded idiot. But I do think he's touching on a larger underlying idea. I do think it's possible to "condition" yourself into liking music that you otherwise would have dismissed. This can be a result of two factors, often working together:
1) The music/album/artist is acclaimed by some or many people you find respectable. These people could be professional critics, friends, family members, celebrities, etc.
2) The music/album/artist is something you force yourself to listen to repeatedly, not necessarily out of enjoyment, but because you feel obligated to and/or feel you're "missing" something that other people are "getting".
This might explain why Pink Floyd are so popular.




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Old 12-17-2010, 08:02 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by RVCA View Post
DMy friend operates under this hypothesis that the only reason Radiohead is so popular is because somebody influential (or some group) arbitrarily decided that they released the best album of the 90's, and as a result a large amount of people began listening to their music, even though they might not necessarily have enjoyed it, until they actually did enjoy it.
Haha, no. Anybody who actually remembers Radiohead's rise to fame can tell your friend that that doesn't make sense. A large amount of people listened to them right from the Pablo Honey era. It's just that they were seen as a band with a catchy, popular single and that's it. Then The Bends came along, got a decent amount of critical praise and spawned a couple minor hits. They were already very well known when they released OK Computer.

But, to your point, yes I do think you can be conditioned to like music. There have definitely been times where I've put some effort into checking out stuff that didn't immediately appeal to me and eventually it's won me over, presumable through repeated exposure.
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