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Music is a very strange thing. We all enjoy it, regardless of where we’re from, who we grew up with, or what sort of financial situation we’re in. No matter where you go you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who even only marginally enjoyed music. It’s a universal connection between all human beings, this love of organized sound.

But music is odd in that it is also a heavily divisive force.

There are a range of stereotypes revolving around the kind of music that people enjoy, and not all of them are good.

Classics lovers are the closeted intellectuals, but they’re supposed to be snobby. Folk lovers of any sort are the artsy-fartsy types whose houses smell like burning sage and old-cat stink. Trance and ambient people are the artsy-fartsy types whose houses smell like burning wood and weed. Metalheads are nerds, but they’re racist and very violent/aggressive. Pop and soft rock people are sociable, but dim-witted. Rock and Hardcore people are deep, but also violent. Grunge and punk variants are outside the consumer hellhole, but they smell like a hellhole. Dubstep people are innovative, but hipsters. Screamo-kids are also outside of the curve, but they’re supposed to be whiny and suicidal.

It’s interesting to think about where these stereotypes come from. One might think it’s the fans in general. The younger the fans are, the more true this seems. But, if you look at the bands, especially early on, across the board, you see that the younger audience is more modelling off of them.

But this doesn’t make any of these assumptions true, so why do these assumptions exist?

I think it’s the human mind’s need to categorize and subdivide the people around us so we can more readily prepare ourselves for what is to come when we talk to them for the first time. We need that mental association so we can figure out who we may or may not want to associate ourselves with. It’s strange, right?

Musical taste is certainly nothing based in the science of the mind, though. At it’s very basic, there’s really no personality guarantee from music. Numerous studies have found that Adolf Hitler and Mahatma Gandhi could have very well liked the same kind of music. They didn’t, but that’s beyond the point. What they’ve found is that, much like other kinds of art, music is entirely subjective to the listener. A violent serial killer might have a favorite Kelly Clarkson playlist, whereas the supermodel jams out to Gorgoroth and God Seed before going out on stage.

That’s not to say that there aren’t certain personality traits that tend to pop up with music listeners. The main thing is that they aren’t guarantees. These tend to be more subtle personality traits as well, such as: being more or less introverted, higher levels of creativity, self-confidence or lack thereof, et cetera.

What has been figured out, though, is early music exposure’s affect on the mind.

Classical and Metal are good for developing minds.

Doubt my words? Google it.

This isn’t coming from a metalhead or Classic-nut mindset, either (although I totally qualify as both). Apparently at very young ages the technical complexity and emotional overtones of both provide extra stimulation for cognitive development. Once the children get older, the lyrical themes of the music are apparently pretty healthy as well: both often teaching to stand up for yourself, or just talking about history, philosophy, religion, or what have you.

Apparently Metal is also really good for plants. A couple groups, including MythBusters, did a study on the affect of music on plants, largely focusing on Metal, Pop, Classical, and Country. If I remember right in the MythBusters one the Pop plants started to die. Good on ya Katie Perry. In any case, the Metal plants sort of exploded in growth and thrived, with Classical close behind. Country fell in the category of the control plot. So, in other words, if you want your hydrangeas to grow faster, blast some Maiden and watch them up the irons!

Complex music helps stimulate neural pathways and helps things to line up just right from an early age. It also helps to develop the ability to process certain kinds of sounds and information from pretty early on.

I did see something at some point about how a lack of exposure to Classical music, or similar kinds of music, before the age of fifteen actually hampers your brain’s ability to process such music effectively, leading to it sounding overly complex and chaotic. I’d link the article if I could find it, but alas, I have not been able to. If I do come across it again, though, I’ll make sure to put it here.

All of this being said, though, it’s interesting how people are perceived based on what music they listen to.

Personally, I’m a metalhead at heart, but I also love Classical, Folk, some Rock (mostly from the 70s and 80s), and very rarely a Rap artist or two. I always find it odd when people tell me a while into knowing me that they were “scared” of me before they started talking to me. I can sort of understand that in general. Having long hair, a beard, and being around 6’6″ can be intimidating for people. But normally it stems from how I dress or what they see me listening to. I never personally understood musical stereotypes, but I think that’s because I’m normally the only person in a room who’s even dabbled in the kinds of music I listen to.

But then people always tell you that they have a “live and let live” mindset with music. Unfortunately that courtesy usually only extends as far as another’s ability to not talk about what sort of music they like. That’s also a conversation you can’t actually avoid.

I’ve never really felt like a metalhead stereotype, though. Outside of the nerdiness, that is. I just love the music. I love the topics they talk about. Old stories, mythology, philosophy, religion, history, et cetera. Although, the music’s never made me aggressive, violent, or rude. I like to think I’m a friendly person. But, then again I don’t really know. Personal bias and such.

In summation: music is really strange. It brings us together and it drives us apart. It causes us to love people, judge people, and it helps us grow as human beings.

So close out I’m gonna leave you with one of my favorite instrumental bands: Blotted Science; a great band with some amazing musicians.