Why do old people listen to old music?

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of Record-Producer.com.

Monday August 14, 2006
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It's true - old people listen to Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, jazz and classical music (and MC Hammer even!). Why do they do that? Can't their brains keep up?

If you observe the listening habits of old people (over thirty-five, that is), you will generally find that they like to listen to old music.

They won't be listening to the Arctic Monkeys or 50 Cent, they'll be listening to something that was popular years ago - maybe even before they were born.

There are several theories for this...

One is that the brain becomes incapable of assimilating new experiences after a time, and prefers to revisit old, familiar, comfortable experiences. And what better than the calm, sedate music of a bygone era?

Another theory is that the brain becomes imprinted with the sounds and styles that are popular during one's teens and early twenties. After that, the brain simply isn't receptive any more.

A third is that when people get old, they become irrelevant to society. What is proper and good is determined by the young, fit and mentally able. The old live out their lives in a cocoon of unimportance. Their taste in music is less important to society than which side Prince Charles dresses.

But I have another thought...

It's an exciting time during your teens and twenties. A lot is going on around you, and your ability to comprehend it all is limited, simply through lack of experience of life.

As you get older, you can indeed assimilate new experiences. In fact you get better at this as your general experience of the world increases.

However, from time to time you get the feeling that you didn't properly enjoy your earlier years. There was so much you didn't understand, and you didn't fully appreciate your place in the scheme of things.

So an interest in the culture of one's youth is entirely logical!

You could go through life lightly skimming each new thing that comes along, never properly appreciating anything.

Or you could spend much time and effort exploring the culture of the days of your youth thoroughly, gradually gaining a deeper and deeper understanding.

OK, next question...

Why do young people like old music?

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