The role of childhood space in the development of musical taste

Message Bookmarked
Bookmark Removed
Inspired by a recent passage in my blog and a conversation with Dom about it. How much does the way you grow up and experience the world in your formative years affect your taste?

This is what I wrote on AusPishFish;

"Maybe one of the reasons I don’t get hip hop much is the fact that I’m used to a lot of space. Scary, empty space. Hip hop is too crowded, too urban, too busy; I can’t even begin to hear the words. I never cared about the words. Maybe. I’m used to… The sea. The sky. Great big fucking fields. My house is two minutes from fields, five minutes from seas, no minutes from skies. Maybe this is why Bark Psychosis ‘speak’ to me too. (What an asshole phrase.) Open space, twilight, moving vistas, empty heads. No heads. No company. Expanses. Big swathes of synth? I love The Streets but Skinner’s raving was done indoors, in nightclubs. Orbital did theirs outside, in fields and barns and Glastonbury, which, lest we forget (I’ve never been, though I’ve been to the Pilton Village Fete) is only up the road. Bark Psychosis may be in the city, but they’re in a church or else on the streets at night when nobody else is around, in the roads away from where the clubs kick out. Space. Huge swathes of synth? Orbital. Those enormous, synthesised vistas are like the sea, moving slowly, interlocked, life beneath them and barely perceptible. Standing atop cliffs. And such."

I think the fact that I grew up in a countryside/seaside area, surrounded by lots of space, and playing football / exploring woods / walking through fields and stuff rather than going to discos (although I did that too every so often [generally on a Thursday]) affected the way I listen to things. A lot of positive feedback i get from the blog is for when I write about walking the coast or whatever with my walkmen, and there's no doubt that this is something I do a lot, but it isn't something I imagine many other ILMers do (though maybe not through choice). Thus music with a sense of space and movement greatly appeals to me, perhaps much more than it would do to someone who grew up in an urban environment.

Dom commented that he grew up in a terraced house in the middle of a big town, and that his childhood was spent "finding things rather than exploring them", whereas mine was very much about exploring rather than finding - I think this is definitely true about the way I listen to music too; I'm much less bothered about finding new things than I am about really soaking in and appreciating the kinds of things I like.

So is this idea all a load of bunkum?

Sick Nouthall (Nick Southall), Monday, 3 May 2004 09:04 (seventeen years ago) link

No one likes my beautiful thread.

Sick Nouthall (Nick Southall), Monday, 3 May 2004 09:29 (seventeen years ago) link

I guess my childhood was quite insular, lived in a terrace house in an urban area, spent more time in my room or the back garden than out and about. I like music that continues on this escapist vibe, i.e not talking about gritty urban reality, polictics etc. If it reminds me of where I live and people I've known and not liked, I probably won't like it.

jel -- (jel), Monday, 3 May 2004 09:56 (seventeen years ago) link

I don't know if this is exactly what you're talking about, but I grew up in the southern US, and I think it definitely had a bearing on my musical development cuz the South is such a storytelling culture, and I don't think it's a coincidence that I gravitated to arguably the two most narrative-centric genres of music, country and hip-hop.

Josh Love (screamapillar), Monday, 3 May 2004 10:31 (seventeen years ago) link

That's a different strand of the same thing I think, Josh.

Sick Nouthall (Nick Southall), Monday, 3 May 2004 10:49 (seventeen years ago) link

Best thread in a while, Nick. I'll answer as soon as I find the tiiiiiii*echoes away*mmmmeee...

Franco Wotlington, Monday, 3 May 2004 11:13 (seventeen years ago) link

I grew up in a classic sterile midwestern US suburb. Stuck right between rural and urban. The amount of space available to an individual was tightly contained, controlled. Exploring past the limits of your quarter-acre lot -- physically or mentally -- definitely not encouraged. So I gravitated at a very young age to what I perceived as urban music/culture: soul/funk/disco, glam/punk/new wave rock. And then I moved to a big city first chance I got. So I guess environment ("space") shaped my musical tastes/obsession, although in a negative way. Probably more a sociological process than the psychological/developmental one Nouthall describes. This fascinating question desrves more thought!

lovebug starski, Monday, 3 May 2004 11:34 (seventeen years ago) link

Bump, lest this get forgotten.

Sick Nouthall (Nick Southall), Monday, 3 May 2004 19:28 (seventeen years ago) link

I think in environment is crucial.

I've always thought my enduring love of early Genesis is related to a semi-rural childhood. Trespass is totally long walks on long summer days for me. Will think about this whole thang more when I get back from holiday.

noodle vague (noodle vague), Monday, 3 May 2004 19:32 (seventeen years ago) link

I think my entire life is still shaped by the way I grew up.

uh (eetface), Monday, 3 May 2004 19:51 (seventeen years ago) link

>How much does the way you grow up and experience the world in
>your formative years affect your taste?

In a word, no. Totally irrelevant. I'm merely one of far too
many counter-examples.

Squirrel_Police (Squirrel_Police), Monday, 3 May 2004 19:58 (seventeen years ago) link

I live at the edge of a vast wilderness and thumping gritty
urbeats are cool for me.

Squirrel_Police (Squirrel_Police), Monday, 3 May 2004 19:59 (seventeen years ago) link

There's little doubt in my mind that Chilhood Space plays a crucial role for many people's tastes, although I can't think of what that role was in my life. Like LovebugS., I grew up in a suburb but otherwise I don't relate to the story he or she told.
My biggest "environmental" influence, if you can call it that, was my parents, who were big, big music fans in those days. The radio was played frequently (tuned to soft rock or oldies), watching Beatles docs or Motown 25 or music videos were family events (and my parents kept tapes of these things and we watched them over and over), and they had a large collection of rock and disco vinyl which were played all the time (my parents even taught disco lessons in our basement).
Thus, my "environment", music-wise, didn't extend outside of our house. We brought the environment to us, through the TV and through records.
Strangely enough, I was thinking about starting a thread along the lines of "At what age did your musical taste become independent of your parents?". But I don't want to hijack this thread, unless others start claiming "parents" as their environmental influence as well.

Barry Bruner (Barry Bruner), Monday, 3 May 2004 20:07 (seventeen years ago) link

Makes sense that childhood surroundings would be a factor in later taste, absolutely. As lovebug says, sometimes because it reminds you of your surroundings, and sometimes because it reminds you of somewhere else. I grew up in a college town some distance from a real city, and I always romanticized New York. So something like "Take the 'A' Train" gave me all these pleasureable images that had nothing to do with my immediate experience. At the same time I've always loved the sound of a mourning dove, which were quite plentiful where I grew up and which always reminds me of delivering newspapers on the empty streets at dawn, and I like music that delivers a similar sensation. Short melodies with lots of space repeated. Also, the sound of cicadas, another great sound from childhood, has something to do w/ why I gravitate toward Fennesz and Sogar.

Mark (MarkR), Monday, 3 May 2004 20:09 (seventeen years ago) link

I grew up in the countryside and am into all those urban beats etc... though I did spend the years from 0-9 in London, so maybe that means I should be somewhat schizophrenic in my taste.

A couple of flaws off the top of my head -

-there are different ways of growing up in any one location - you can be the sort of person who has a rural upbringing and is actually in tune with it, or the sort of person who romanticises the bright lights of the city (and presumably vice versa)
-too much music can't be defined as either 'urban' or 'rural'... eg I'm not sure how Tori Amos or indeed a lot of music whose appeal is so strongly personal would fit into this paradigm. Bubba Sparxxx is either someone who'd prove it very wrong or very right but I don't know which yet.

The Lex (The Lex), Monday, 3 May 2004 20:19 (seventeen years ago) link

I knew Mark would have something to say about this :)

jaymc (jaymc), Monday, 3 May 2004 20:29 (seventeen years ago) link

Well, I came of age right around the advent of grunge, and a few years later, gansgter rap. Being a Catholic-raised only child from the inner city and having no friends outside from school, I hung out mostly indoors with my mom, eating delivery pizza and watching TV. By the age of 7, I'd about had it with the dubbed Brazilian soap operas my moms tuned on and I needed to stake out some much needed privacy/space. I was always a sensitive and quirky kid; an escapist at heart. Living close to the beach also played a huge role in the tastes I would later develop. I wasn't a junior jock, but I did play basketball, and I had good grades and studied (at my mom's insistence), which set me apart from the other kids early on. At the tender age of 9, I was the only freak in my class, along with another buddy, who grooved to Salt 'N' Pepa and Snoop Dogg and talked about MTV in class. Early 90's MTV made a huge impression on my young mind with its schizophrenic programming. It helped shape my influences, as it was the only outlet we had at the time. Radio was crap, so otherwise I would've been deprived, truth be told, as my parents have never listened to much music. I had to find this out all by myself. By '93 (probably 11 by then), I was asking record store employees for A Tribe Called Quest singles, which they seemed to not be knowledgeable about, surprisingly enough.

Fr4ncis W4tlingt0n, Friday, 7 May 2004 13:04 (sixteen years ago) link

Essentially, I looked out for that underlying sense of urban desperation in music; one that would provide me with empathy in its want to escape. Yet angst needn't to be the dominant trait in said tunage I treasured early on. As I've grown up and become increasingly frustrated with life in general, and developed strong claustrophobic feelings, yet withholding hope as is typical of my age, I've mellowed out some, and seem to be more inclined towards spacious, sometimes psychedelic textures and productions that BREATHE freely; whatever's evocative of wide open spaces. And purtier melodies.

Fr4ncis W4tlingt0n (Francis Watlington), Friday, 7 May 2004 23:15 (sixteen years ago) link

I don't think childhood environment has anything to do with musical taste except in the sense that people often return again and again to music they heard when they were young. So if they grew up in the 60's that means one thing, and if they grew up in the 80's that means another. I'm grateful that my dad had a pretty exhaustive collection of music, but I can count the artists I like and heard through his collection on one hand.

bimble (bimble), Saturday, 8 May 2004 00:39 (sixteen years ago) link


You must be logged in to post. Please either login here, or if you are not registered, you may register here.