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  • All music is learned, not inborn.

    My books on the psychology of music all say that musical understanding,  musical behavior is learned...      and that it is cultural...   ie.,  never genetic.

    Can this be true?

    These books say that it is therefore incorrect to ever suggest that some ethnic groups "have rhythm",  or that other ethnic groups can all sing  (one hears about the Welsh,  Italians,  Mexicans,  Filipinos).    At Berklee,  it was said that only Black musicians could truly "swing".    Whites could try at it,   and Asians,   the wisdom held,   were hopeless at it.

    So even child prodigies like Mozart or this amazing little kid,  Avery Molek,   simply began learning cultural musical norms after their births,   and are simply picking up cultural norms heard in their environment.

    But my books even say that things like rhythm,  harmony and melody are all learned,  cultural behaviors.

    What say you on this score?   



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  • #2

    I gues they mean with the musical understanding in their books something that is
    layered over the biologigal readiness. Like learning a language.

    You have got everyting to learn it when you born, but which language depends on where you were born.


    And the meaning of this learning in music is much more less important ,what ever the books say, i think.

    It is a pitty if that child is considered as a child genius and not letting him find his own way.

    Best Regards
    V&N

    Comment


    • Philter
      Philter commented
      Editing a comment

      Maybe it is all "learned" but what differs is the propensity for such learning from person to person.


  • #3

    I strongly suspect that if we were to fight our way back to the original science, we would likely find the conclusions drawn from each successive study were, on whole, limited and heavily qualified. 


    But then the educators and pop science types get a hold of it and   start rounding off all those inconvenient square corners that prevent the science and conclusion from fitting in the round holes the non-scientists often seem to want to jam them in.


    Sometimes they have an axe to grind. Sometimes they're just trying to simplify things so students can absorb them.


    Whatever, a frequent product of the process as science moves out into general society is considerable distortion, willful as well as accidental, of important facts as well as a general over-simplification that often leads to a matrix of incorrect conclusions from students.


    I get pretty sick of the intellectual ninnies who dominate the media -- and a surprising slice of the education system -- whining about how 'science is always changing its mind' -- when in reality what is going on is that those same ninnies do such a terrible job of communicating and explaining science that it is THEIR innane inaccuracies and fudging that often are at the root of those 'everything-you-thought-you-knew-is-wrong' type stories that come out multiple times a year.


    (They're evergreens because they always generate a lot of readership and commentary. Maybe if bad science reporting and education didn't exist, they'd have to invent it just to have something to churn.)


     


    I strongly suspect that if we were to look at some of the originating science behind those broad claims we would see that the scientists did not lay out these absurdly absolutist and strikingly naive conclusions but, rather, that they were laid on by the (largely incompetent) 'explaining class.'


    While it might well prove difficult to impossible to correlate race/ethnicity with musical talent -- there can be little doubt that just as some of us clearly have greater native abilities in math or language or sports, some individuals clearly have far more native musical 'talent' than others. Attempts to map this talent across the races, however, are often corrupted by the presumptions of those trying to make the connections.


     


    As someone who desperately wanted to play music as a kid but was told by at least two different musical educucators that I had "absolutely no musical talent whatsoever" I don't doubt that range of native talent.


    But at the same time, as someone who was so-declared but who nonetheless went on to be able to learn to play as an adult -- freed from the counterproductive pedagogical strategies of the traditionalist dead-enders -- I have a profound distrust of all such absolutisms about a subject as profoundly complex, variegated, and multi-layered as human musical ability.


     


    ‚Äč
    music and social stuff

    Comment


    • #4
      I see a lot of consensual belief systems in universities, especially the 'soft sciences' like music, art, psychology, medicine; etc.; where theories that have no means to be proven are presented as fact.

      If you wish to be gullible, by all means, believe in what they tell you.

      Otherwise, like most college students, agree with it in class, memorize it long enough to get through the exam, then immediately forget it.

      Comment


      • blue2blue
        blue2blue commented
        Editing a comment

        I was part of a special interdisciplinary studies program (took me half my first semester just to learn to spell interdisciplinary) and I feel, overall, I got a great education. But it was almost a school-within-a-school, covering virtually all the general education requirements -- but doing it in such a way as to make all that stuff really interesting and tying it together. Imagine all those boring 100 and 200 level survey classes you had to take (if you wanted to graduate, anyhow, not really a consideration to me at the time) only all tied together by comparative study and looking at underlying cultural principles, from science to art to philosophy. It was really brilliant.


        But I've seen the other side of academic life, too. Outside that program, I had some great teachers and some dogs. 


    • #5

      Is there a genetic predisposition for certain aspects of musicality?  Could be - case in point is how often we see musical talent running in families.  The more math-like factors in music might come easier for folks born with latent talent of that sort.

       

      But it's still just speculation.  These terms, "music", "talent", "ability", "swing", "culture", "ethinicity"  and so on are huge, fuzzy, composite notions, not discrete, measurable factors by any means.  Too many factors zooming around to and from all directions to make this topic anything except something to think about with only tentative conclusions and few of those.  

       

      The cultural links are so evident, those factors need no discussion.

       

      On the other hand, if there was some sort of connection between something definable as "race" and certain types of musical ability, the current zeitgeist would censor such a notion and no scientist would dare to touch it with any pole of any length.  The answer for our time is "no" - and even the question itself is not to be asked seriously. Too touchy a subject, too close to spots that are understandably still quite sore.  

       

      Maybe some future generation will be able to sort out such questions dispassionately, but not this one or the next I don't think.  That's fine with me - the issue of detoxing racial relations is I feel far more important than teasing out this particular nature/nurture academic question.  Let future generations handle it if they care to once it's less radioactive.  

       

      nat whilk ii

      Comment


      • UstadKhanAli
        UstadKhanAli commented
        Editing a comment

        nat whilk II wrote:

        Is there a genetic predisposition for certain aspects of musicality? 

         


        I would be surprised if there weren't.

        Obviously, most music is learned, not inborn.  If it were purely inborn, separate of culture, etc., then we'd get much greater variation simply in one town.

        But that doesn't mean that certain groups of people don't have a genetic predisposition for a certain kind of music, rhythm, texture, or whatever, or that they don't naturally gravitate toward certain sounds over another.

        And it probably goes without saying that the environment plays into it as well, where someone who lives in a mountainous region may create or respond to music played very differently from someone who lives in a forest region or a desert region...or coastal areas or steppes or snowy climates and on and on.

         


      • vintage_nature
        vintage_nature commented
        Editing a comment

        In a document on tv was this point: When the child is not yet born the rythm and the intonation
        of his mothers speech comes thru. The learning has already begun. Maybe this misleads into thinking its genetic.

        We have got a new technomusic generation because of the mothers with mobile phones and their ringing tones.

        Sorry about continuing this, we are too deep in this. Let the boy play his drum.


        Best Regards
        V&N


    • #6

      I think it would be a mistake to confuse a cultural propensity for a genetic one.

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      Comment


      • UstadKhanAli
        UstadKhanAli commented
        Editing a comment

        Of course.

        But sometimes, it's difficult to completely separate the two, as they can be incredibly intertwined, with one influencing the other.  But yes, absolutely.


      • blue2blue
        blue2blue commented
        Editing a comment

        veracohr wrote:

        I think it would be a mistake to confuse a cultural propensity for a genetic one.




        And, of course, those could, one imagines, intertwine.


         


        I remember sitting with some friends at a free afternoon blues show. It was very relaxed, slanting afternoon sun and all that. There were a bunch of mostly mostly little kids dancing up front.

        My friend next to me, a white, suburban accountant, a specialist in wealth retention (ie, playing the tax system like a fiddle for clients rich enough to take advantage of the jury-rigging -- not to mix string-based metaphors and similes), tugged on my sleeve and said, "See how it's a real ethnic mix of the little kids but it shifts with age and the only older kids dancing are the black kids? I've got this theory that everyone is born instinctively knowing how and loving to dance -- and then some of us are taught to unlearn it."


         


        Me, I had no fear of dancing. I loved The Twist. It was, as they said, a dance anyone could do. And I did.


        It wasn't until switching junior highs to a suburban white flight school that I learned to try not to call any unnecessary attention to myself. But it certainly wasn't my elders, but rather the Lord of the Flies like culture of my new middle school that instilled that dread. That said, few of the adults, teachers and administrators alike, were willing to take any sort of moral or ethical stand whatsoever to protect the weak, the outcastes, or the innocently despised. 


    • #7

      Like most aspects of human behavior music is both nature and nurture.  Like speech, we have an innate ability, but we learn our specific language from our respective cultures.  And if someone grew up in isolation they would invent their own music because the impulse comes from within.

       

      "Everybody loves you when you're six foot in the ground."
      ~John Lennon

      Comment


      • UstadKhanAli
        UstadKhanAli commented
        Editing a comment

        Beck wrote:

        Like most aspects of human behavior music is both nature and nurture.  Like speech, we have an innate ability, but we learn our specific language from our respective cultures.  And if someone grew up in isolation they would invent their own music because the impulse comes from within.

         


        And THAT'S a kind of music that I would love to hear!!!!!!


      • Folder
        Folder commented
        Editing a comment

        Beck wrote:

        Like most aspects of human behavior music is both nature and nurture.  Like speech, we have an innate ability, but we learn our specific language from our respective cultures.  And if someone grew up in isolation they would invent their own music because the impulse comes from within.

         


        How much is nature and how much is nurture?

        Within the linear history of popular music you can hear how previous forms of music influenced later forms.

        Many people who like early forms of music may not like later forms that were influenced by the earlier forms and vice versa.

        The musical environment has been constantly changing for 100s of years.

        But what about genes?

        When I was in college over thirty years ago we were taught that your genetic code never changes during your lifetime and you pass on to your offspring the genes you were born with. Now they know that this is not exactly how it works. The study of epigenetics has shown that gene expressions do change over our lifetimes. They know that someone who is born with skinny parents without any fat genes but becomes obese can pass on their new fat epigenetics to their children who are more likely to be fat. Who's to say it's not the same with music.

        Lets say you have never played any musical instrument and have a child at the age of twenty. Then you spend the next twenty years becoming a world renowned classical pianist and have a child at the age of forty.

        Under the old biology model the two children should have the same odds of having musical talent.

        But now the thinking is changing.

        Shouldn't the child born at age forty have a higher chance of inheriting musical talent?

         

         

         


         

         

         


    • #8

      I don't think it is racial/ethnic, but I definitely have observed that some individuals have an innate talent for music, especially mimicry.


      Cultural differences are also significant. I have observed how two different groups differ in how they respond to their kid's enjoyment of music. This is a broad stereotype, with plenty of exceptions. But if a young child starts dancing in a middle class white family they will generally stop the child out of fear she/he will break something or embarass them. In a working class African American family the child is likely to be cheered and rewarded for the same behavior.  This is what causes "white man's disease" an irrational fear of uncontrolled body motion that causes many white men to think that they should dance with minimum movement, esp foor movement.

      "In a time of universal deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act."- George Orwell

      My music: http://www.oranjproductions.com

      The first website dedicated to the the baritone guitar: http://www.thebaritoneguitar.com

      Comment


      • #9

        rasputin1963 wrote:

        My books on the psychology of music all say that musical understanding,  musical behavior is learned...      and that it is cultural...   ie.,  never genetic.

        Can this be true?

        These books say that it is therefore incorrect to ever suggest that some ethnic groups "have rhythm",  or that other ethnic groups can all sing  (one hears about the Welsh,  Italians,  Mexicans,  Filipinos).    At Berklee,  it was said that only Black musicians could truly "swing".    Whites could try at it,   and Asians,   the wisdom held,   were hopeless at it.

        So even child prodigies like Mozart or this amazing little kid,  Avery Molek,   simply began learning cultural musical norms after their births,   and are simply picking up cultural norms heard in their environment.

        But my books even say that things like rhythm,  harmony and melody are all learned,  cultural behaviors.


         

        Of course, you don't actually cite any "books," just launch another sweeping and ridiculous generalization facepalm

         

         

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