Academic journal article Contributions to Music Education

Undergraduate Non-Music Major Preferences for Western Art Music

Academic journal article Contributions to Music Education

Undergraduate Non-Music Major Preferences for Western Art Music

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study was to examine undergraduate non-music major (N = 95) preferences for Western art music. A survey of 15 musical examples was assembled consisting of five subtests, each with three excerpts from the Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, or Twentieth Century. The mean preference rating of all excerpts combined was 4.68 (Mo = 5, SD = 1.34) on a 7-point Likert-type scale. A Friedman non parametric analysis of variance indicated a significant difference (p < .001) among the five subgroups. Mann-Whitney U tests revealed that undergraduate non-music majors prefer (a) repertoire of the Classical era significantly more than that of any other time period, (b) music of the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic periods significantly more than that of the Renaissance and Twentieth Century, and (c) music of the Renaissance significantly more than that of the Twentieth Century. Preferences were not affected by musical training, but may have been influenced by timbre, texture, and referential elements.

Albert Leblanc (1982), in his interactive theory of music preference, proposed three categories of variables that affect music choice. The first category includes variables related to the physical properties of music (such as genre, tempo, modality, and performance medium) as well as complexity, referential meaning, and performance quality. The second category consists of variables associated with the listener, such as auditory sensitivity, musical ability and training, personality, gender, ethnic group, socio-economic status, maturity, and memory. The third category encompasses factors related to the listener's environment, including media, peer group, family, authority figures, and outside conditioning.

Research concerning variables related to the physical properties of music indicates that style has the most influence over preference, with all age groups beyond the first grade preferring rock and popular music above all other genres (Baumann, 1958; Greer, Dorow, & Randall, 1974; Greer, Dorow, Wachhaus, & White, 1973; Hargreaves, 1984; LeBlanc 1981; LeBlanc, Sims, Siivola, & Obert, 1996; Neville, 1985). LeBlanc et al. (1996), however, obtained preference ratings for classical and jazz that were similar to those for rock. Getz (1966) and Montgomery (1996), in addition, noted relatively positive reactions to classical orchestral music among elementary and middle school students after the first hearing. These findings suggest that students' attitudes toward non-rock genres might be favorable if they are introduced under the right conditions. Other studies have found that people listening to unfamiliar styles prefer faster over slower tempos (Fung, 1996; Getz, 1966; LeBlanc, 1981; LeBlanc & Cote, 1983; LeBlanc & McCray, 1983; LeBlanc, Colman, McCrary, Sherrill, & Malin, 1988; Montgomery, 1996), instrumental to vocal music (LeBlanc, 1981; LeBlanc & Cote, 1983; LeBlanc & McCrary, 1983; Shehan, 1982), and melodies that are moderately complex (McMullen, 1974) or complex (Fung, 1996), interesting, active, recognizable, and in a major key (Getz, 1966; Montgomery, 1996).

Additional factors related to characteristics of the listener, such as age and musical training, have also been found to affect music preference. Several studies (Boyle, Hosterman, & Ramsey, 1981; Greer, Dorow, & Randall, 1974; LeBlanc & Cote, 1983; LeBlanc, Sims, Malin, & Sherrill, 1992; LeBlanc et al., 1996; Montgomery, 1996; Shehan, 1982) determined that preferences for non-rock genres narrow as students approach middle school, but rebound among older high school and college students. Burns ed (2001) and Burns ed and Sochinski (1995) concluded that participants above the age of middle school prefer excerpts utilizing dynamic variation and that age and musical training affect people's ability to perceive subtle changes in nuance. Fung (1996) determined that undergraduate non-music majors prefer world music selections with less complex textures, greater consonance, more melodic activity, and faster tempos compared to those preferred by music majors. …

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