Is it a given that when we age, our taste in music evolves? Does our appreciation for different tunes mature as well? And as technology changes, do we then prefer new ways of listening to music? Or do we stubbornly cling on to what we’re used to?
According to a 2013 research, it seems that teenage years are defined by “intense” music, then early adulthood by “contemporary” and “mellow” as the search for close relationships increases. The study (published in the Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology using data from more than a quarter of a million people over a 10 year period) also states that “sophisticated” and “unpretentious” music allows one to project status and family values later in life.
How a person experiences music is no longer the same too. There are children these days that don’t even know what a cassette is. On the flipside, those who are in their golden years probably would not know of music streaming platforms like Spotify or Apple Music.
A More Diverse Range
For 38-year-old Choy Teh, Dancing Queen by Abba was go-to-dance-along song as a toddler.
“We listened to a lot of bands from the 1960s, particularly The Beatles as our mum was a huge fan of them so that influence played on me and paved the way for a lifelong love of their music. Michael Jackson was definitely a big part of my childhood! His songs were constantly played at home. We loved a variety of music that ranged from the 60s all the way to the 80s.”
The Hong Kong-based Malaysian mother of a three-year-plus boy, says she then went on to have a deeper appreciation of the classics – and listening to old school singers like Billie Holiday and Nat King Cole. Adding to that is a lot of Motown, plus 90s hip-hop. After seeing Bohemian Rhapsody, Choy’s love of Queen’s hits and learning about their other songs has resurfaced.
“Lately though, I’ve been addicted to Reggaeton. So artistes such as Maluma, Becky G, and Ozuna have been featuring heavily on my playlists. As time goes on, my tastes have grown global, so I appreciate music and genre from all kinds of cultures,” says the director of a vocational mentorship social entreprise.
Caption: Choy showing off some of her vinyl collection and her early influences.
Choy actually started off with music cassettes and the radio, and recording songs off the radio onto cassettes. That later progressed to CDs.
“Growing up for a short time in Australia during the 90s, my (twin) sister and I would head up HMV to buy the latest CD singles, or watch Rage to view the latest music videos. It’s a wonderful memory in my life, a time before smartphones so you’d make time and effort for music. Now like everyone else, it’s all about Spotify and iTunes. Everything is at the swipe of your fingers.”
Given a choice though, Choy actually prefers vinyl records having been collecting the last few years: “There’s nothing like the rich and slightly scratchy sound of vinyl coming off the speakers.”
Otherwise it’s Spotify and listening via YouTube. She does acknowledge that having a good sound system helps enhance the experience. She’s into watching live concerts as it brings more soul into the delivery (hopefully) and the interaction with the audience helps feed the experience.
“Janet Jackson was one of my absolute favourites and she’s a must see! If I could turn back time and watch The Beatles in real life I would. And David Tao (Taiwanese singer) is amazing in concert.”
Choy thinks technologically, it’s already up to the mark – especially in collating one’s music, which can change according to mood and situation.
“I turn to Spotify because it’s easy to search for the type of song or a particular singer. However, there are a few lists I keep that are necessary, my gym workout songs and some nostalgic lists that evoke certain past memories,” she explains.
Here’s to you Mrs. Robinson, for 33-year-old Aussie, Leon H Roberts, obsessed over this Simon & Garfunkel classic growing up. While not quite understanding the lyrics, it was the melody (he rates it one of the best) and the emotions that drew him to it.
“Another good example of an early obsession was Pink Floyd's Money; the song has always had a very sexy/ happy feeling to me. It has always made me feel good when listening to it, made me feel good about myself and want to get up and move.
“This was not a natural feeling to me but something my sillier side would abide by. Only later on would I start to dissect the song a little bit, paying more attention to the amazing bass line and overall song composition.”
Caption: Roberts says that both his body and head have gravitated towards listening to bass lines in a song, and he’s not quite sure how long he has been doing this but it is definitely something he looks out for in a song.
His parents and their friends influenced his early taste in music with Dire Straits, The Mamas and the Pappas, Loreena McKennitt and Led Zeppelin. In his early teens this then moved on to bands and singers of his own choosing, Red Hot Chili Peppers and gravitated to new musicians as it meant new worlds to explore and those that resonated with him, he stuck to them.
Roberts next phase didn’t sit well with many – it was rap – and came complete with the baggy pants, hoodies and big chains.
“As a teenager I loved these guys as it felt like a naughty secret of mine that almost everyone knew about. All the swearing, violence and womanising in the lyrics fed a false ego/confidence that was overall not very good for me but fit into the angst of a young white teen.
“They touched on darker thoughts and battles between the light and dark within oneself, and was quite a different experience to me that I had not had anywhere else.”
His friends intervened and made him a mixed tape that had bands new to him (many considered mainstream now). Think Korn, Placebo, Muse, Death Cab for Cutie, Evanescence and such.
“Out of that list the bands which I took to were bands like Korn, Muse, Disturbed and S.O.A.D. These bands mostly appealed to my new found taste in darker styled themes and sounds, a lot of the experiences contained within some of these guys early records I had never experienced before sonically.”
Moving from the small town of Mallacoota to Melbourne at 19 years old introduced to him the world of industrial trip hop, big band, folk and black metal. Ulver, Acid Bath and Foetus and Tool, Nine Inch Nails and Strapping Lad (courtesy of his elder brother). Roberts, who’s in the export business, looks at what influences his favourite bands have and then check them out too.
His listening medium was a CD player at first, then to a Sony Discman and the iPod mini to an iPhone and does most of his listening in a car. After getting married a year ago, his musical taste has not been influenced by his wife’s – instead it became more like his wife reluctantly listening to his music.
“While I can appreciate a better sound system, and agree that it can change a listening experience, I do not find it necessary for listening to music casually. While I use my iPhone to sync to my car and my speaker at home, I still prefer to buy CDs and wish the next revolution would be something much smaller physical you can hold in your hand,” says Roberts and adds he’s not into streaming music.
He feels that because he composes his own music and sings, it helps him appreciate other music more and also to understand the nuances behind them. And the music he composes? Influenced by the music he listens to – death metal to acoustic ballads.
Cover Image: Sound Of Life
Writer | S. S. Yoga
Yoga is a freelance editor/writer/media consultant who does not like to be limited in his interests and hence occasionally gets TMI-infections. That does not stop him, though, from exploring many rabbit holes all over the world. He loves the challenge of organising data and experiences.