The Band That Rocked the Cradle
April 3, 2014 | By: James Swan
The shortest, earliest period of our life has the most profound effect on the rest of our existence. A good 60 years of experienced adulthood is entirely defined by our formative years; and those themselves, by our infancy. This isn’t restricted to food, fetishes and phobias (especially fucking clowns. Urgh.) Our taste in music, as much as we’re all unique pretty snowflakes, is impacted by what we listened to while we could still shit ourselves without getting committed. (Future article. Watch this space.)
From personal experience, I can see a connection. When asked about my taste, I’ll usually say rock, but not the whiny stuff. I like power. My Dad listened to a lot of Gary Moore, and now my favourite bands include Meat Loaf, Disturbed and Delain. Without Moore to stem from, that would look pretty eclectic. But as soon as you think in terms of strong voices, prog rock and borderline cheese metal, they can make a pretty convincing venn diagram.
I asked Rock Industry’s Managing Editor Scott about his experiences thus far. As usual, questions about Scott’s past resulted in darting eyes, terror sweat and the demented ramblings of guilt. It’s fun to be able to traumatise someone with a simple question, but for now I’ll not reveal I know his dark secret; he’s a secret Canadian.
Through his quick and evasive mutterings, the maple licker revealed his house was full of Patsy Cline, Paul Anka, UB40, Pink Floyd, The Carpenters, Lena Martell and Sydney Devine.
As usual, Scott, like the rest of RI, are perhaps not good examples of the general population. Or people. Any lifeform, really.
In a study co ordinated by the Beeb, Professor Lamont found that babies retain familiarity with music heard before birth; “Mothers were asked to listen to a song of their choice for half an hour every day during the last three months of their pregnancy. Lamont found that all the babies showed an over-riding preference for fast paced, more exciting music. But they also showed a statistical preference for their mother’s song, regardless of the style.” (from http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn994-babies-musical-memories-formed-in-womb.html#.Uz1eMa3qcmc)
Of course, we know that can’t be the whole story. Around our teenage years we seem to move towards other bands; it was about them my rock appetite started to crave something heavier. My first metal gig was Cradle of Filth at 14; it was an eye opener and an ear shredder. But was it still defined by my previous exposure through my parents, or an exploration into music fuelled by a teenage desire for adventure, and, laughably in hindsight, danger?
““Fourteen is a sort of magic age for the development of musical tastes,” says Daniel J. Levitin, a professor of psychology and the director of the Laboratory for Music Perception, Cognition and Expertise at McGill University.” (Yeah, RI is highbrow now. Suck it.) “Pubertal growth hormones make everything we’re experiencing, including music, seem very important. We’re just reaching a point in our cognitive development when we’re developing our own tastes. And musical tastes become a badge of identity.” (from http://sites.bu.edu/ombs/2013/12/06/neuroplasticity-of-music/)
That seems to say both. We know we associate identities and personalities with people’s musical tastes. You like metal? You must have long hair and tattoos. You like Mumfrod and Sons? You must wear tweed and have an ironic moustache. You like Pitbull? You must be Helen Keller. So is music just a sonic tattoo, a way of branding yourself? (dibs on the band name.) That can’t be totally true; we all have our guilty pleasures. I can always faintly hear Celine Dion and Bryan Adams drifting out of Scott’s office when he thinks no one is listening.
So there are stages of musical taste developing; in the womb, in our infancy and then in our teenage years. Obviously it stills refines or augments, but the rough direction was set for you before you knew it was happening.
I walked into the office to share my findings with Scott, pretending not to see him hurriedly stuff his hockey mask back in his drawer.
“What dyu think?” I asked, as he zipped up his trousers and read my copy.
“Eh, it’s alright, ay.”