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article imageDoes musical taste reveal social class?

By Tim Sandle     May 30, 2017 in Lifestyle
Toronto - Do you like wild rock or more sedate easy listening? An opera buff or a hip-hop lover? A new sociological study indicates what your musical taste reveals about you and your peers.
The new study into musical tastes and social factors, like class, comes from Canada, hailing from the sociology department at he University of British Columbia. The researchers show that a person's musical likes and dislikes say more about them than might initially be thought.
The research aims to look for patterns of musical preference with social class. Naturally this leads to some generalizations from the social patterns, which is what sociologists try to interpret: how clusters in society form and what the implications are. There is also the complication of what social class is. The authors of the new study adopt a Weberian approach to class based on social stratification by income and occupation (which is somewhat different to the Marxian conception of class based on relations to production).
Add to this, when looking at society, there is the complication of which factor causes another. With social class, does class lead to those within the class generally preferring one type of music over another? The sociologists behind the study do not go for extreme causation, but rather see class as narrowing choices. According to the lead researcher, Dr. Gerry Veenstra: ""Breadth of taste is not linked to class. But class filters into specific likes and dislikes."
The research was based on 1,600 telephone interviews conducted with adults in Vancouver and Toronto. Those polled were asked about their likes and dislikes across 21 musical genres. From this the analysis revealed:
Poorer people and those with lower educational attainment prefer the following musical genera: country, disco, easy listening, golden oldies, heavy metal and rap.
Wealthier people and those with higher educational attainments prefer classical, blues, jazz, opera, choral, pop, reggae, rock, world and musical theater.
The analysis also showed a reverse effect in shaping musical dislikes, so that someone from the lowest-class was eight time more likely to dislike classical music; whereas those in higher social classes were strongly inclined to dislike country music in particular.
The study also showed that social class shapes a person's musical tastes. There are other complexities as well, in relation to an age, gender, immigrant status and ethnicity.
The research is published in the journal Canadian Review of Sociology/Revue canadienne de sociologie, under the title "Class Position and Musical Tastes: A Sing-Off between the Cultural Omnivorism and Bourdieusian Homology Frameworks."
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