20 January 2015

The Theory of Musical Identity

Individually, we do not like or dislike certain artists, songs or genres of music. We may think that we choose the music we like or that our individual brains are pleasured to certain music scores and everyone’s brain is uniquely different. However, my theory is that we subconsciously choose the music we listen to so it gives us a unique identity. 

Music is a man-made felicity. Therefore, our brains are not programmed by nature to like certain types of music. Instead we live in a society where we need an identity to make ourselves more interesting and more likely to thrive in human relationships. Meaning, our subconscious chooses artists and genres to build this personal identity which will make us unique and more likely to form relationships by showing this distinctive identity. 

During the Middle-Ages, music was for banquets, gatherings and events. Usually there’d be musicians playing instruments whilst royalty, nobility and/or guests would enjoy the occasion with the music as ambience. I highly doubt that there were people back then that didn't “like” the music. The reason I suggest this, is because there weren't many different genres or styles of music during the Middle-Ages. Our subconscious chooses our musical taste now because there’s such a wide variety of genres and society has empowered our minds to select music for our identities. 

I’m sure there’s inevitable scientific evidence and studies using MRI scanners that somehow show our minds reacting to certain musical genres and it’s different for every that takes the test. However, can this not be the subconscious somehow informing our brains? For example, the subject might be a Springsteen fan but dislike U2. The scientist plays Born to Run for the subject. The subconscious recognises the music and sends a signal to the subject to react as this is the music it has selected for the subject’s identity. It then shows up on the MRI scanner and the scientist takes this as the subject enjoying the music. They then play Vertigo and the images on the MRI are negative reactions. The scientist may then use this as evidence to show that our brains are uniquely and naturally hardwired to like and dislike certain styles of music which is in the make-up of our genes. 

Band Aid 30. Bono and Bob Geldof release ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’ for the third time. On this occasion, the artists included One Direction, Ed Sheeran and Ellie Goulding. Instantly, it was hit with negativity because it wasn't as ‘good’ as the original. Now, if one found a subject from a remote part of the earth, that has never heard these songs and sat them down to listen to them for scrutiny, the subject would find it very hard to decipher between them as the newest is pretty much a carbon copy of the original. The reason, we as westerners choose between them, is because it gives us an identity in society and we can express our opinion of the songs for human interaction and relationships. 

Next time you hear a new band or singer, think to yourself, ‘Do I actually like/dislike this? or is my subconscious telling me to like/dislike this?’. It’s hard to comprehend the power of our subconscious as its not something we can visibly see. However, there’s no denying that we do form identities to stand out in society and music is a big part of one’s identity. You just have to decide whether it’s you choosing your identity or your subconscious. 

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