Wednesday, August 02, 2006

AI Quotient

When someone asks you to list your musical influences, they usually expect you to identify 'primary sources', that is artists and compositions that you consciously enjoy. After all who is really interested in what nursery rhymes you heard as a child? But, in fact, there's every reason to believe that one's underlying influences are those very same nursery rhymes, and not one's current list of favorite recording artists, for instance.

Of course, Americans who were born in the United States since at least 1980 have grown up listening to pop music from the day they were born. My friend, Andrew Hager, a composer who graduated from NYU’s Graduate Musical Theater Writing Program, noted that for Baby Boomers, the bands of the sixties represented rebellious music, whereas today’s kids are lulled to sleep in their cribs while their mothers play Beatles tunes.

You might even argue that kids growing up today will understand rock’n’roll in an innate way their parents never did, because they grew up with the genre –within the genre– rather than discovered it as the innovators of the medium rolled it out to teenagers.

My own exposure to pop music came a little later than most Americans because not only did we live overseas until I was thirteen, but also at the time the places we lived were considered remote. We were lucky to have any kind of television programming, which when we did was never in English, and this was certainly before the birth of the Internet.

What accounts then for the diminishing interest in the music of early childhood, and the increasing enjoyment for other forms of music, sound, conversation, etc? Human beings by their very nature require variety. And Maturity begets a taste for more sophisticated forms of music than the simple melodies of nursery rhymes. Thus as we evolve, we become more sophisticated creatures, whether we intended to or not –and some would say jaded, as well.

Once exposed to variety, it follows that we will require more and more complex forms of communication/ stimulation to keep our minds engaged.

But I think the substratum upon which all this mental processing is built, the architecture of sound, your personal Aural Intelligence Quotient, if you will – is formed as a child and forever remains the filter through which all subsequent sonic experiences are interpreted.

How could it not be the case?

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