Tendency to prejudice and stereotype seem to come naturally to the human mind
Out of professional politeness, I try to avoid commenting on the Star, but I can't help myself this morning, in the cause of illustrating prejudice.
In citing a new study published in University of Chicago's Journal of Consumer Research, an editor has chosen to illustrate possible genetic personality traits with music, in the headline: Prefer jazz to opera? Blame DNA, study says.
The study appears to be about adventurous versus cautious people. Fair enough, but the headline implies that each genre of music has a particular quality. We all know this is wrong, but I think most of us carry around preconceptions anyway.
It made me think of a friend, Kelly, who is an accomplished decorative painter. The first time I painted my own place, he volunteered to help me choose colours. More than two decades later, I still can't forget how he started the exercise.
"When I say 'green,' what colour do you see in your mind?" he asked.
I confessed that I was thinking something chartreuse-y.
For yellow, it was a bright-banana shade. For orange, it was something that belonged on a crossing guard's vest.
Kelly then explained that whenever people are asked to imagine a colour out of the blue, so to speak, they inevitably imagine the ugliest, most garish shade in the spectrum. Pale lichen inevitably loses out to irradiated pond scum in our brain's imaginary colour wheel.
Today's newspaper headline suggests there's a similar unconscious reduction happening in people's minds when they're asked to characterise a genre of music out of the blue -- i.e. opera: screeching; jazz: cool; rock: head-bangers, and so on.
As with my colour sense, these reactions to music ignore the full, rich spectrum of possibility within each genre of music.
Is this the way our brains always work, or is there something we can do to demolish stereotypes?
In case you're a doubter, here are two examples from the world of classical music, brought to you today by the letter O:
1. Organ music. What do you hear in your head?
Here is Daniel Roth, titular organist at the church of Saint-Sulpice in Paris, playing "Pastorale" from Louis Vierne's 24 Pieces in Free Style at the Cvaillé-Coll organ at the church of Saint-Louis-des-Quinze-Vingts:
2. Opera. What's the first thing that comes to mind?
Here is a fun take on Samuel Barber's A Hand of Bridge, presented by University of Nevada students Nicole Dzadek, Therese Curatolo, Adam Machart and Kyle Rea: