The science behind why your favorite music is hated by your parents
It is relatively uncommon for parents and their children to share similar tastes in music. Most adults find millenials’ musical palates to be “sub par,” while chances are we don’t find their preferences to our liking, either.
Oliver Bones of Manchester University and Christopher Plack of the Chinese University of Hong Kong performed a study in the hopes of finding out why. “Losing the Music: Aging Affects the Perception and Subcortical Neural Representation of Musical Harmony” argues that as people age, their brain’s ability to discern between certain sounds dwindles.
Their research pinpoints consonant and dissonant chords, the first of which “is pleasing and evokes a sense of resolution,” while the second “evokes feelings of tension.” Compared to individuals under the age of 40, those 40 years and above perceived consonant chords to be less pleasant and dissonant chords are more pleasant. Ultimately, this suggests that age disparity and, subsequently, differences in neural temporal coding, are partially responsible for the way in which we perceive music.
On the results, Plack noted, “It was as if their perception of the difference between consonance and dissonance was massively reduced.”
What does this mean for music, though? Bones says that aging takes a toll on our appreciation of music as a whole: “We couldn’t enjoy music without dissonance, because if you don’t have a sense of dissonance you can’t enjoy consonance. This distinction is central to Western music and it determines musical ‘key.'”
However, Plack ends on a more positive note, explaining that people can “train” their neural responses to music by listening to a wide range of genres. The more we listen to music, he argues, “the more responsive your neurons become.”