Hello, I think I missed the mark on this experience and other evidence essay. Or rather, inquiry/exploratory essay. In what ways do you think I could improve upon the writing of this paper? I think the organization/structure of the essay needs to be more reflective upon my introspection. Also I added a thesis at the end which I was not suppose to, how could I rephrase this to make it more open-ended and inquiry based?

Any help on making this essay better would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you

My entire life has been influenced through the arts, specifically music. Growing up in a musical/artistic family, my father was always playing loud rock music in the household with his friends on the guitar. So in turn I always had a strong admiration for music and likewise I play guitar and have been in many bands. While on the other hand my mother has always had a keen eye for drawing and fashion design. This dynamic has strongly influenced the person I am today, for I am both musically and artistically gifted. However, I’ve always questioned how much of my preferences for music were conditioned and which ones were my own. Through my research I have been able to at least come to my own conclusions, some of which have changed my previously held views while others have been affirmed. With the experience and evidence gathered I plan to prove that musical preferences are determines not through our choice but rather many factors including personality, age, gender and cultural background.
Of all the questions that appear in music the most persistent one for me is why I prefer certain types of music to others. Music is a powerful force, which occurs at almost every facet our lives, and although not every form of music excites us, some do, but why? On the surface I can say that I listen to music because of the emotion for which it elicits, although many are indescribable. This then begs the question, what is causing me to feel these emotions and why only for a certain kind of music?
In order to better understand our musical preferences we must first understand ourselves. Indeed research suggests that our personalities play a major role in defining what type of music we prefer. For instance a study carried out at University of Texas, Department of Psychology by Samuel D Gosling suggests our personality traits are in direct relation to the music we prefer:
A series of 6 studies investigated lay beliefs about music, the structure underlying music preferences, and the links between music preferences and personality. Data indicates that people consider music an important aspect of their lives and listen to music as an activity to engaged in frequently. Using multiple samples, methods, and geographic regions, analyses of the music preferences of over 3,500 individuals converged to reveal 4 music-preference dimensions: Reflective and Complex, Intense and Rebellious, Upbeat and Conventional, and Energetic and Rhythmic. (105-107)
This specific study showed that those who were reflective & complex often listened to classical, jazz, blues or folk. Those who were intense & rebellious would listen to alternative, rock or heavy metal. Those that were upbeat & conventional types would listen to country, pop, religious or sound tracks. And those who were energetic & rhythmic would listen to rap/hip-hop, soul/funk or electronic/dance. Although I agree with this study it can be a bit too general. Many people do not fit a “mold” and are cross-sectional in their preferences. Likewise, I am someone who shares an affinity for rock music although I listen to a good amount of electronic/dance music.
Gender also seems to play a role in the preferences of music as well. As Ann Colley of the University of Leicester points out in her study:
Examining the underlying structure of musical taste by gender. The results confirmed a greater liking of heavier contemporary music among men and of chart pop music among women. Gender was a stronger predictor of taste for gender-stereotyped styles than identification with gender-related traits.(1236-1245)
This study however interesting is not always true; personally I have known exceptions to this rule, although I do not expect them to be the majority. I tend to prefer heavier rock music so it stands true on my behalf.
Musical memory and culture are tied together as universally they are found in every culture across the world. As for me a certain memories play a certain role, a song my father played or listened to becomes familiarized and thus elites a certain emotional response. For this many songs in the classic rock domain spur up retrievals of emotional responses and meaning while listening. Likewise the same is found through learned traditions and biases towards culturally familiar practices. When anyone ties strong memories or repetition to something it becomes part of them. This apparent preference for familiarity towards a certain kind of music begins in infancy as described here:
Familiarity for culturally regular meter styles takes place for young infants of only a few months' age. The looking times of 4 to 8 month old Western infants indicates that they prefer Western meter in music, while Turkish infants of the same age prefer both Turkish and Western meters (Western meters not being completely unfamiliar in Turkish culture). Both groups preferred either meter when compared with arbitrary meter.(286-292)
It seems that preference is not our choice but our surroundings. Likewise, groups play their role at reaffirming musical preference as it acts as a way to define oneself within a group of people. All my friends and most of my family shares similar musical tastes which help us relate to one another. A group is defined by its commonalities and similar traits, music being one of them. It’s seems to me to be biologically driven as for one to survive he/she must relate to a group or else be killed off/left behind so I believe this stems from some biological survival skill.
Musical preference from my experience also have changed somewhat as I’ve gotten older. While I use to listen to violent and angry music it has now broadened to include calmer/tranquil music. Arielle Bonnevill-Roussy from Cambridge’s Department of Psychology describes in a 10 yearlong study with a quarter of a quarter of a million people that:
Our tastes shift as we age and are in line with key life challenges. Teenage years were defined by intense music, then early adulthood by contemporary and mellow as the search for close relationships increases, with sophisticated and unpretentious allowing us to project status and family values later in life. (703)
This certainly makes sense to me and one can see that as humans we are constantly adapting ourselves to new environments, music being no exception. Thus, our musical tastes shift according to our social and psychological needs. Every epoch seemingly has a different musical characterization as researcher Dr.Jason Renfrow states here:
Teenage years are often dominated by the need to establish identity, and music is a cheap, effective way to do this. Adolescents quest for independence, which often takes the shape of a juxtaposed stance to the perceived ‘status quo’, that of parents and the establishment. Once people overcome the need for autonomy, the next ‘life challenge’ concerns finding love and being loved – people who appreciate this ‘you’ that has emerged.(2-3)
As we mature it seems we acquire new plateaus in life, one age replaces the other as it brings fourth a totally new set of parameters. From my experience this is also true but the reasoning for music remains the same, to add a texture/background my life.
Our musical preferences are multifaceted and act upon many specific areas of our lives. It might be easy to think of ourselves as at the helm of our lives but the truth is we are conditioned from the first day we enter this world. Everything from our gender to cultural backgrounds defines who we are and fashions the outcome of our lives. The most important thing I’ve learned through this research is to always keep in mind that nothing separates humans, what we think of as differences are purely fictitious social distractions. Accordingly, we must never underestimate the power of influence on our lives for it is apparent at every corner.