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Neuroplasticity and musical taste

Posted September 14, 2018 into Music by John Birmingham

Neuroplasticity is a ten buck word for a simple idea; the brain is designed to keep learning things.

That seems pretty fucking unremarkable. A brain that won't learn new stuff is pretty useless. But it does fly in the face of our very human habit of refusing to learn anything that conflicts with whatever ignorant codswallop we stuffed into the old wrinkly grey head-pudding first.

I'm not specifically thinking about politics here, but rather music.

There's a wealth of anecdata about people giving up on new music from their late twenties. One study of Spotify users nailed the exact age as 33. That research, written up in NME, found that, while teens’ music taste is heavily dominated by popular music, this influence drops steadily through their 20s, before their tastes ‘mature’ (read: turn to stone) in their early 30s. "For the average listener, by their mid-30s, their tastes have matured, and they are who they’re going to be.”

The study also shows that there’s a slight gender gap at play (“Women show a slow and steady decline in pop music listening from 13-49, while men drop precipitously starting from their teens until their early 30s, at which point they encounter the ‘lock-in’ effect”), also stating that becoming a parent “has an equivalent impact on your ‘music relevancy’ as aging about 4 years”.

I'm not gonna put myself out there as a counterpoint. They totally got my number. With tens of millions of songs on the Fruit Company's streaming service, I find myself defaulting again and again to stuff I've listened to before.

I do make an effort. Most weekends I'll flick through the new music playlist and save the tracks that really grab my attention, moing them to a separate playlist that I usually listen to as I drive around in the car.

It's a long list and it's got some great tracks on it now.

But I couldn't tell you the name of the songs or their artists who performed them if my fucking life depended on it.

Even more telling, if I really like a single I'll add the album to my library and give it solid flogging, just like I used to when I could only afford a couple of albums a year.

While I'm actively listening to this discovery, I'm all over it, thinking "Yeah! Look at this guy, listening to new music."

And two weeks later I've usually forgotten to play the new thing and it recedes into the fog of lost memories, only ever to be recalled by accident, usually on shuffle play.

I'm not sure what any of this means but now I think I'm gonna go play some Bachman Turner Overdrive.

5 Responses to ‘Neuroplasticity and musical taste’

Rob puts forth...

Posted September 15, 2018
I'm not so locked in to the same songs and artists, but definitely the genres of music stays the same. If its heavy and fast then I'm there. If I go see a live band and I engage with them its because they play the genre I like. Like I saw a great band from Wisconsin called Conveyer, The singer, a short super polite American boy, came across like the non Henry Rollins singers from Black Flag. The music was brilliant but it was basically just very well played Hardcore punk, so I was bound to like it. I think you have to work a bit hard at finding new music, I prefer live music, which is great until you go to a Metal camping festival only to be congratulated by young people for being older and going to see Deez Nuts. We were like, 'shut up you little fat punk , we paved the way for you grow a hobo beard and sit in your tent drinking beer all day and not see the bands'

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ShaneAlpha is gonna tell you...

Posted September 15, 2018
Yeah, they've got my number. The amount of 80's songs shitting up my iPod is ridiculous and I was the Triple M demographic until the sheer bloody repetition drove me away.

A couple of years ago I was introduced to Babymetal which, thanks to the wonders of the Youtube algorithm, led me to Bandmaid and I have been a fan of both groups since then.

Luckily for me Bandmaid have a pretty active release cycle so they usually have a new single/mini-album/full album released before I wear out their last release.

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Barnesm swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted September 16, 2018
The challenge for me is how to get exposed to new music to try, though watching anime has exposed me to a few artists I wouldn't have known about who I will keep listening to now.

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jason mutters...

Posted September 17, 2018
Two points:
Music is about more than the music, it's about the time and the place you heard it and the people you were with. Very hard to recreate that feel when you just hear a song somewhere.

Kids. Mine introduce me to new music all the time. When we travel anywhere we play Spotify roulette where they play me a new song and I play them an old one (often one which is the precursor to the song they played me) and we keep swapping.

I would recommend the following: Pierce Brothers, better live but still good recorded, DMAs listen to In the Air.

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Brother PorkChop ducks in to say...

Posted September 19, 2018
Interesting read!! I don't quite fit the mould then, as I am still finding new music all the time. My son also appears to differ to the norm. His 16th birthday present last week was a turntable and 6 records - Queen, Eagles, Cat Stevens, Popular Classicals, Melanie and one other I've forgotten. He loves it and is now on the hunt for more - Bowie, Fleetwood Mac, Def Leppard, Pink Floyd, Led Zep and so on. He doesn't have a single current pop/R&B/HipHop track on his playlist and its quite a big playlist. He loves classic rock and classical music and even better, the school has a rock symphony combining the 2 - he plays the bassoon.

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