A number of academic studies have suggested that the music that we listen to between the ages of 14 and 24 has particular emotional resonance, which tends to stick with us as we get older, even if we carry on listening to and enjoying new music.* This tendency is perhaps amplified with the music that new students listen to in their first weeks at university, usually associated as it is with all the upheaval of moving to a new location, making new friends and undertaking a wide range of new life experiences.
To mark the start on the 2016-17 academic year, when another cohort of students join the University of Nottingham, I asked my academic colleagues in the School of Geography a simple question: what song, from all those in the charts when you first went to university, would you choose to add to a playlist? The results are here in the form of a Spotify playlist:
They range in time from songs of the late 1960s to those of the mid-2000s, reflecting the age of our staff and when they started their undergraduate degrees.
So, these are not the favourite tracks of my colleagues (but if you’re interested in that, look here).
These tracks were picked as they were part of the contemporary sound track of their first weeks at University, and so reminiscent of some of the concerns, excitement and challenges of that period of transition.
If you are starting University this week, good luck, and let me know what you think of the tracks and what current record you think you might suggest if you were asked this question in five, 20 or even 40 years’ time. But remember, one of the reasons that musical taste stabilises at 24 is, apparently, because after that one’s hearing begins to deteriorate so that subtle differences in sonic landscapes become more difficulty to identify. So, if you want to avoid the early onset of the time when you will inevitably moan that all new music sounds the same, try to keep the speakers and headphones turned down to a reasonable level. Enjoy.
Andrew Leyshon, 25th September 2016
* Barnes T, 2014, There is a magic age when you find your musical taste, according to science, Music Mic, August 14th: https://mic.com/articles/96266/there-s-a-magic-age-when-you-find-your-musical-taste-according-to-science#.AVHnGTou4 (accessed 25.9.2016); Hemming J, 2013, Is there a peak in popular music preference at a certain song-specific age? A replication of Holbrook & Schindler’s 1989 study, Musicae Scientiae, 17, 293-304.