From Sting to a Moonlight Sonata – why age changes our tune
Published 17/10/2013 | 05:00
OUR taste in music changes as we get older to match the shifting social circumstances of our lives, says a wide-ranging study by Cambridge University.
Teenagers who despair of their parents' choices are warned that their musical preferences are likely to follow the same path.
Researchers at Cambridge believe they unravelled how a liking for pop hits such as 'Teenage Kicks' can evolve into a love for 'Moonlight Sonata'.
They have identified three musical stages that we pass through as we mature: intense, contemporary and sophisticated.
Teenagers favour intense music such as punk and metal to establish their identity, but as they move into early adulthood a preference for contemporary music such as pop and rap takes over.
This corresponds to a shift in lifestyle in which we socialise far more in bars, clubs and at parties, where uplifting music tends to be played.
The taste for pop fades in early middle age when more sophisticated genres such as jazz and classical take over. Scientists say this marks a shift to a more solitary expression of our intellect, status and greater emotional maturity.
They also found that tastes became less pretentious with far more older people liking country, folk and blues music.
"There is a tendency for young people to prefer music that their parents cannot stand or find obnoxious, so there must be some developmental changes that take place as we get older," said Dr Jason Rentfrow, a senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Cambridge. "Teenage years are often dominated by the need to establish identity.
"Intense music, seen as aggressive, tense and characterised by loud, distorted sounds, has the rebellious connotations that allow adolescents to do this.
"The next musical stage appears to be more about gaining acceptance from others."
The researchers point to Sting and Paul McCartney, once the purveyors of rebellious youth culture, who went on to make classical and folk albums. The research, published in the 'Journal of Personality and Social Psychology', drew on surveys of more than 250,000 people over a 10-year period. (© Daily Telegraph, London)