Different folks listen to different types of music. The question I ask myself is what makes them prefer one type of music over the other. The most likely answer to that question is — -people prefer to listen to the type of music they got exposed to early on in their lives.
When I examine my own preferences, that observation is certainly true. Growing up in India, the first music I got exposed to was the Hindi film music — -or Bollywood music (although that is not strictly true because the term Bollywood did not exist then). The radio in our house was on most of the times and my parents, uncles and aunts (who lived with us at that time) enjoyed songs by Saigal, Pankaj Mullick, Hemant Kumar, Mohammad Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar, and Mukesh. Almost sixty years later, I still enjoy listening to these songs of my childhood. To me the era before the 70s was the golden age of that type of music and a favorite oldie from those days still gives me goose bumps.
However, if that was the only reason why I listen to what I do, I would not be enjoying the Western Classical music. I was not exposed to that at all until the late 60s when a pen pal of mine (a girl living in Germany) sent me a recording of Beethoven’s violin concerto. I truly enjoyed listening to it. My repertoire increased after I came to the US and started listening to the collection we had in MIT’s Ashdown house. I had friends who guided me along and soon I was hooked. After a while, listening to Beethoven’s ninth, or Mozart’s G minor symphony gave me the same level of excitement as those old songs of Mukesh, may be more. It still does.
Since I did not grow up with it, perhaps the reason I like it is that there is something intrinsic in me that attracts me to that type of music. It resonates with me. Resonance occurs when an external input has a characteristic (say, frequency) that matches that ingrained internally in a system. That is what makes a car vibrate furiously when you go over a rutted surface at a specific speed. Perhaps that mechanical phenomenon also takes place neurologically. I am an analytical thinker, organized to a fault, who likes mathematics and physics. May be these internal characteristics play a part in my appreciating an organized, mathematical, and primarily Germanic classical music.
That would also explain why my passion for the Indian Classical music is not as strong. Here, I had an early exposure. I actually learned Indian Classical music for a year and was a promising student. Even though I could not continue after one year, there was no dearth of listening opportunities for that type of music. That fact still holds true, but I just cannot put on a CD (or MP3) and listen to it, the way I do the other types. May be it is because of the fact that this form of music is improvised and not composed, or it lacks harmony. The “mathematics” of its rhythm is terribly complex, not easy to internalize.
This is the case in which I had an early exposure, but the resonance factor, being more powerful, dilutes its effect.
My above theory probably also explains one type of music that I just cannot get into, and that is Jazz. It is improvised, just like the Indian classical music, but without its richness. It is just too loosy goosey for my taste. This is the case of no exposure growing up and no resonance.