If you think of the songs that you listen to most, the ones that you always go back to, scientists argue that many of them will be songs that were released (or that you listened to for the first time) when you were 19 or 20. These years they say, are the formative years of our music appreciation. Read on to learn exactly how we learn to love the music that we do.
From a young age, we are surrounded by noise. The noise of traffic outside the window, the noise of siblings fighting in the next room, the noise of parents shouting when we are bold. Yet we are also surrounded by music. The music on our car radio, the music that our parents like, the music that we hear at shops and restaurants. In our early years, we devour all of this music. While we do have an opinion of it at the time we are still strongly influenced by it and the more we listen to one genre or type of music the more we will enjoy it going forward.
This is because of pattern recognition. Essential there are millions of patterns heard by our brains every day and most are not seen as special or highlight by the brain. Yet every so often a pattern slips through as it has been heard before, it starts to leave an imprint on the brain. This pattern stays with us and as we listen to music in later years, if the same pattern plays it goes over the imprint in our brain like a finger tracing over an existing line. This tracing behavior releases a shot of dopamine to our brains and makes us happy.
From then on when we listen to more and more music, if it uses the patterns we like, we like the music, if it does something strange, we don’t like it. Psychologists argue that the age of 19 or 20 is when all of this pattern settling really takes form. This is when we are at our most suggestible and the songs that we listen to at that time are likely songs that will stay with us for life. Test out the theory. Work out what year it was when you were 19 or 20 and see what songs were released.
I turned 19 in July 2007 and the next two years until July 2009 definitely feel formative looking back. I am still in love with albums like In Rainbows by Radiohead and The debut album from The XX . Bon Iver’s debut album ‘For Emma Forever Ago’ was released in July 2007 and still holds a special place in my heart. I recently went to a Bon Iver gig and when someone asked me how it was, I said, “Amazing, all of his new stuff is great. I never really listened to anything much after the first album so it was a surprise”. Now I know why. It is because that album landed in my lap in my important years.
Radiohead’s In Rainbows is probably their best piece of work so it makes sense that I go back to it more than any other album but the new stuff is great too. Yet it doesn’t hold me the way the works of those key years hold me.
So what are your formative albums. What are the ones that you keep going back to? Is there an album that falls in your two-year window that you love and will love forever? Are you still discovering music or has it become too much like hard work? Let us know your thoughts and what your key albums were!