Amsterdam Dance Event is on its way! Which raises a question: Why is clubbing predominantly the domain of people in their twenties? You might think this has just to do with the life phase they are in: no demanding jobs and families yet, a greater focus on social life and they seem to have fewer problems handling the hangover and sleep deprivation.
But that’s not the whole story: Young adults are also more receptive to new music. So are you under thirty and really passionate about discovering new music? Good for you, enjoy this precious time while it lasts! Because it might change when you grow older. Let me explain this to you.
When it comes to the development of our musical sensitivity and preferences, we go through different stages in our lives. This starts in the womb, after the 6th month of pregnancy. As an unborn baby, your hearing mechanism is already fully developed. This means that the sounds you hear, like your parents’ speech intonation, will decide the intonation pattern of your first baby cries.
In the further months after birth, you are like a sponge and highly affected by everything you hear. At this stage in your life, it will be decided whether you’ll grow up preferring Western chord progressions, complex Balkan rhythms or Arabic Maqam scales. This heightened perception will disappear after your first year. So you can say that where your cradle stands, will determine what kind of music you will value later in life.
When you’re a young kid, music stays highly important. You probably remember enjoying dancing and singing without being ashamed of yourself, until you developed a sense of self-consciousness which made you lose your spontaneity. And from the age of fourteen, you start to develop you own personal musical taste and preferences. At that time it’s all about your identity, and music plays a part in this.
Do you remember the huge impact music had on you as a teenager, and the intensity of the emotions that were involved? This is because your brain connects music to important new experiences in your life, of which you’ll have plenty in your teens and twenties. And this is exactly the reason why we get all sentimental when we listen to music from our youth. It connects us with emotions and memories from the past and makes us reminisce, for instance, a first kiss.
As a young adult, you’re still developing your musical preferences. You might change from heavy metal to hip hop, or exchange Justin Bieber for Arnold Schönberg – in the case you learn to appreciate a more complex sound. At approximately twenty-four the development of your musical taste is at its peak; it won’t change much anymore after this age. This is the type of music you’ll be listening to for the rest of your life.
From then on, it all goes backwards. Research has shown that you stop discovering and valueing new music when you’re in your mid thirties. As I’m turning thirty-nine next week, I find this a frightful idea. Is it because new music does not have the same emotional connotation as the music from your youth, or do you lose the ability to be touched by events that used to have huge impact when you were younger? I’m not sure yet, but it does explain the presence of people my age at 80’s and 90’s dance classics parties! And probably also their absence at the contemporary club scene.
Fortunately, and despite my age, I’m still a passionate collector of new music. The obvious reason for this is that I’m a musician myself, and I’m trained to being perceptive to new sounds. But I also think that you can train your sensitivity as a listener: do keep listening to new music, and you will keep on enjoying it. Yes, it’ll become a matter of dedication, in some ways you have to ‘work harder’ to appreciate the new stuff.
But the best precaution against ‘musical numbness’, I think, is to avoid overall numbing. So, don’t lose your sense of wonder. Look at the world with marvel, and let it touch you. Try to experience things as if you encounter them for the very first time. This way, you will not only keep on appreciating new musical experiences, but even more important, life in general.