So does “tone deafness” exist? And why do some people prefer crap music despite their intelligence and education?
When I was about 10 we all had to audition for the school choir. I was one of the very few who wanted to join – most of the other boys deliberately ruined their chances of being selected. Unfortunately, the music teacher said to me: “It’s funny how some people (meaning me) just cannot follow a tune!” and that was that.
Since then I’ve been in various singing ensembles (being a tenor it’s easy to be accepted) but never for long as I find week after week of “note bashing” rather boring. I’ve even had solos in musicals. I don’t know whether tone deafness exists but I think anyone, unless he has a medical condition, can make an acceptable sound with a little effort and encouragement.
As for taste in music, I am never impressed by anyone over the age of 30 whose musical horizons are limited solely to pop music. Then again, some people prefer tinned salmon to any other variety, what passes for chocolate in this country to the real stuff, and mass-produced lager to real ale. I suppose there’s no harm in having what you fancy rather than pretending to like something you don’t just because you think you ought to, just as long as you are open minded enough to give things a fair chance.
However, we could be more restrictive (or is it extensive) about tone deafness. What about those incapable of splitting a chord they hear into the different notes being played? More difficult, what about those incapable of hearing the first harmonics of a given fundamental? This goes far beyond education. It is here indeed a matter of intelligence. Not of course a matter of level or amount of intelligence but indeed a matter of form of intelligence, i.e. analytical v. synthetic, sensitive v. discursive.
Even more difficult – what about a musician incapable of hearing, hence not playing in accordance with, not the music he is playing, but the music the public is listening to when he plays. I would personally call this tone deafness … for a professional musician of course.
Education can help in many ways but there are probably some gifts which you either have or don’t have, such as perfect (or absolute) pitch (although some would argue that this can be acquired).