Science explains human difficulty to divide musical tastes into broad genres

8 June, 2023 | newsx bureau

WhatsApp Image 2023 06 08 at 15.02.05 Lifestyle & Fashion

Human culture has always been profoundly influenced by music, which offers a wide variety of sounds and styles that speak to people in different ways.

Human culture has always been profoundly influenced by music, which offers a wide variety of sounds and styles that speak to people in different ways. Music crosses boundaries and inspires emotions, from classical symphonies to heavy metal riffs. However, attempts to divide musical tastes into broad genres are frequently confronted with difficulties and restrictions. 

Favouritism has a significant role in people’s identities and social interactions. The way we judge and act can be influenced by our tastes. How to best correctly represent musical taste is tough and contentious because of how music is constantly evolving and diversifying. 

The complexity of the music itself is one of the primary reasons why dividing tastes in music into broad genres is difficult. The overall aesthetic of a musical work is a result of the interaction of several different factors, including melody, rhythm, harmony, instruments, and lyrics. It might be challenging to categorise a song because these components can differ greatly even within the same genre. 

More than 2,000 people were surveyed about their musical preferences by German researchers using a procedure that also considered subgenres. They paid particular attention to fans of the following five genres: metal, pop, rock, electronic dance music (EDM), and European classical music. 

“Our analyses revealed that people who like the same genre can have very different tastes if asked which sub-genres they like,”  stated Anne Siebrasse, the study’s primary author and a doctorate student at the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics. “Accordingly, fans of certain genres should not be perceived as homogeneous groups with the same tastes. Instead, we need to acknowledge differences within these groups that are also related to age, gender, education level, lifestyle, or personality traits.” 

“When people talk about their musical tastes, they often use genre terms. However, on a genre level, fans of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones would all be rock fans, however, they themselves would probably see huge differences,”  says Siebrasse.

Considering the rock musical style. Rock music may cover a variety of genres, including alternative rock, classic rock, punk rock, and many others. It often consists of electric guitars, drums, and forceful vocals. The boundaries between each rock subgenre may have unique musical traits, further obfuscating classification. 

Her co-author Melanie Wald-Fuhrmann prepared a questionnaire that asked participants to rate how much they like the sub-styles connected to the genres under consideration in order to empirically depict the differences. The researchers were able to paint a more nuanced picture of musical taste by methodically noting preferences at the genre and subgenre levels. 

Several taste classes evolved when the researchers took attitudes towards subgenres into consideration. According to the writers, three of these classes enjoyed each subgenre to a similar extent—very much, moderately, or somewhat less. Two taste groups, however, had different preferences for sub-styles that were either harder to process or simpler to process. Across all genres, less difficult subtypes were typically favoured above those that represented the mainstream variation.

Additionally, the researchers discovered that sociodemographic and personality traits, such as age, attitude towards one’s environment, and openness, might predict a person’s membership in a genre group or within-genre taste class. For instance, the researchers discovered a definite age effect on pop music. It demonstrated a relationship between pop music preferences and subgroup age. People preferred pop music from the 1990s when they were roughly 20 years old.

In contrast to earlier studies, what Siebrasse and Wald-Fuhrmann developed is a more realistic depiction of the actual musical preferences of the German resident community. Some of their findings, like the discovery of within-genre taste classes, are probably transferable to other nations and cultures. However, some discoveries, such as those that are genre-specific, might be influenced by the development and function of a genre within its particular musical environment.

“We have taken an important step towards enabling the further development of questionnaires for researching musical taste,” Siebrasse said. “In the future, our approach should be extended to other genres and regions. A further step could also be to combine this type of survey with specific sound examples.”