Is modern art more accessible than modern music?


Why is it that people are happier to go along to a modern art gallery than attend a concert of similar style? My first thought was that the answer might be connected to the etiquette prevalent at both events, while a gallery shares the same intellectual sphere as a concert , its etiquette is far less formal, allowing the individual a greater amount of freedom. Newcomers, to the world of classical music, may be swayed from attending such events due to this fact and the very British attitude of not wanting to cause offence with their lack of circumstantial know-how.

Yet this answer doesn’t really satisfy my curiosity regarding this phenomenon; could there also be a cultural influence- is modern art somehow “cooler” than modern music? Who knows!  I feel that the most unbiased way to approach this question is through the scientific evaluation of some sociological factors, allowing the findings a greater scope of application in this problem of artistic exclusion. If we consider this feeling of exclusion or cultural superiority, as an example of a sociological deterrent in modern music, it is first important to consider its stimulants. Why do people feel excluded when they hear modern music yet not when the view modern art? I propose that the answer to this might be found in the realms of educational psychology; specifically learning styles. The Visual Teaching Alliance (yes, they do exist) have provided a few fun facts for us to consider:

Around 65% of the population are visual learners.

The brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than text.

40% of nerves in the brain are connected to the retina.

From these statistics it appears that a large per cent of the population would be far more comfortable looking at something, than listening to something. I personally fall into this category finding that even as I listen to music, I contextualise the sound into a visual medium. Music becomes unenjoyable for me when I am unable to place the music within a given context or when the context in which I place it, is unenjoyable. These facts may provide a further insight into why few people are willing to attend a modern concert  and could perhaps inspire the introduction of further visual aids to guide the individual towards a possible form of musical interpretation.

One further aspect of this conundrum that I wish to draw attention to,  regards the quantity of education received by a person as opposed to their learning style. The writer Roger Scruton in his essay Understanding Music, suggests that a person’s ability to understand music is dependent on their ability for metaphorical transfer. This is the part of the brain which lets you connect something you don’t know with something you do, in order to understand it without all of the necessary components (the biological equivilant of Shazam). Scruton suggests that music is processed as movement within the mind, which provides it with flow, direction and meaning. Now, considering that metaphorical transfer is a linguistical tool, used in everyday cognition, it is easy to assume that everyone may be equally as well practiced. However, I think it is worth considering  that the more highly a person is educated, the more opportunity they will have to practice, improve and perfect their metaphorical centres, allowing them to be more efficient at processing seemingly abstract information than less educated others. When you relate this to modern music, with its often experimental nature, it is easy to see how it may surpass the average person’s everyday experience of music. This allows that upon hearing,  a person may not only feel intimidated by the etiquette of its setting but also confused by its nature which does not easily relate to their previous conception of music.

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