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View Full Version : Fleshing out characters - musical taste



jeseymour
10-31-2009, 05:50 PM
This is sort of a poll, to help me flesh out the characters in my crime novel. I'm curious as to what kind of music people listen to and how (or if) that relates to their age. For example, I'm about to turn 47 and I listen mostly to stuff that was popular when I was in high school or just after I graduated high school. Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, etc. I'm trying to figure out if everybody is the same way. I had my main character listening mostly to the Beatles (he turned 18 in 1970) but I don't know if that is realistic or not. I went through my Beatles period and still like them, but I'm wondering if there is anything else, maybe less pop music type of stuff, that he might like. Maybe something more rock and roller. A secondary character is older than he is, she turned 18 in 1967, and I originally had her listening to Elvis, but I think that might be too old for her, maybe she should listen to the Beatles? This sounds so lame, like my characters only listen to what was on the top 40 or something. Anybody want to share how old they are (or roughly, if you don't want to share your exact age,) what you listen to and why?

Rowan
10-31-2009, 06:21 PM
I turned the big 4-0 earlier this year and I'd have to say my musical taste has evolved with my age... I currently listen to everything from Classical to New Age to Alternative. Currently my faves are: Digital Summer, Burn Season, Souls Harbor, One Less Reason, Mute Math, Shiny Toy Guns, Jon Asher, Paramore, Godsmack, Ego Likeness, etc. I prefer more obscure music - ie., not top-40 which you hear over and over again on the radio. I listen to Classical at work... I think I know which main character you're speaking of (female) and from little I know about her - she strikes me as quirky, bold and not one to follow trends (just based on her career path ;) ).

Let's see....when I was in High School (having to dust off the files in my brain on this one) Duran Duran, Black Flag, The Sex Pistols,Journey (etc) were my thing.

Having said that: I know teens who love the Beatles and The Rolling Stones along with 'modern' music.

Hope that helps! :Sun:

stuckupmyownera
10-31-2009, 06:33 PM
I'm 29 and my music taste is pretty varied. In my teens and very early twenties I was into the indie stuff popular at the time. Not sure how many of these names you'll recognise in the states, but stuff like Blur, Suede, Pulp, My Life Story, Spacehogs, Delicatessen, Supergrass. A bit of angsty stuff like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Placebo, Skunk Anansie. That kind of got old as I grew up though, and these days I'm much more discerning. I don't really go for any particular genre - there's just so damn much music about at the moment. Sometimes a band just captures me. Favourites at the moment are Mew, IAMX, The Hoosiers and Just Jack. I too tend to go for more obscure stuff - not the chart stuff. But also, I grew up on my Dad's late 70s/early 80s music and have always had a soft spot for Joan Armatrading, The Pet Shop Boys, Asia, Kate Bush, Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel etc. etc. I have listened to them at all stages of my life, and they still remain favourites!

In the end, I don't think you can judge what music 'an eighteen year old girl' would listen to. You have to judge what THIS eighteen year old girl - your character - would listen to.

waylander
10-31-2009, 06:55 PM
I turned 18 in 1976 and still listen to what I was into then - heavy rock/metal. Most of the newer bands playing the stuff I like are Scandinavian

Rowan
10-31-2009, 07:07 PM
... Kate Bush, Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel etc. etc. I have listened to them at all stages of my life, and they still remain favourites!

In the end, I don't think you can judge what music 'an eighteen year old girl' would listen to. You have to judge what THIS eighteen year old girl - your character - would listen to.

I LOVE Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel too! :)

I agree re: your end statement... My MCs all have a favorite song or playlist as part of their bio's... :hooray: Helps me define their characters. (Yes, I'm weird).

Linda Adams
10-31-2009, 09:26 PM
I guess I'm going to be the oddity here. I rarely listen to music, and it's always been that way. I'm in your age range, and when I was growing up I had a brother who played disco at full volume in competition with a father who was playing classical. Then when I joined the army, I'd get two people at opposite ends of the building trying to outplay each other with rapp, then complain about someone in the middle playing country. Or the guy who plays at full volume at two a.m. As a result, I associate music with "loud and annoying."

I did listen to 60s music for a while (Beach Boys and such) when it was played on the radio, but when the radio station changed, that was it. I have a few island music CDs, but I have to work hard just to play them once or twice a year.

Puma
11-01-2009, 05:21 AM
I turned 18 in 1962, so I'm closer to the age of your characters. I'd led a sheltered childhood which meant I knew all the classical music selections, popular operas and musicals from the period, and traditional songs and folksongs from around the world.

I went to college - Kingston Trio, Beach Boys, Beatles, and a lot of other groups I can't name, but I can still sing their songs.

I got married in 1971. My husband loved country music so I became acquainted with Johnny Cash, The Statler Brothers, The Oakridge Boys, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, etc.

These days - I'll listen to about anything from any of the above groups, but if I'm driving in a car, my preference is definitely for the popular songs from my college days and just beyond - Walk Right In, Leader of the Pack, It's My Party, Beach Boys, Beatles, Kingston Trio, etc. They're old friends.

Hope that helps. Puma

Pepper
11-01-2009, 06:02 AM
I was born in the 80's, and my favourite music are the hits from the 80's (or songs in the style of 80's music). I don't listen to or like the hit music that was around when I was a teenager. Pretty much any hit that was around the decade (or few decades before) I was born ranks pretty highly on my playlist.

I associate hit songs of my teenage years with school-social-status (if you didn't like the hit songs, you weren't cool). I also found it generally to be annoying, amateur fluff with empty lyrics.

Edit: I also enjoy Kenny G, which seems out of place on my playlist. My parents got his first CD for Xmas when I was younger, so I associate his music with a happy, calm time.

BardSkye
11-01-2009, 09:21 AM
I turned 18 in 1972 when the big names were mostly hard rock: Alice Cooper, Black Sabbath, Rush, AC/DC. I find now I rarely listen to them. Instead, I gravitate towards the music I heard much earlier in life. My parents' tastes were eclectic. Country, classical, gospel, jazz, big band, show tunes, pop.

I do spend most of my time now listening to barbershop. I've loved it since I first heard it as a child, but it wasn't until the internet age that it became possible to even find it most of the time. That could be one reason almost all of the bands in any genre that ever appealed to me were the ones with rich backing vocals.

StephanieFox
11-01-2009, 12:27 PM
Most people listen to the music they liked when they were between the ages of 18 and 28. Musical tastes (and other tastes) get set in this age group. Marketing and Advertising people know this and use music to target demographics.

That does NOT mean that people can't learn to like other music, but as a rule, if you came of age in the 1980s, and you listened to contemporary music of that period, you'll always like that music and it will always speak to you.

DavidZahir
11-01-2009, 07:05 PM
I will be fifty in a few months. And I do love the Beatles, but if you go to my blog you'll get a pretty clear idea of my music tastes:

Meatloaf
P!nk
Joan Jett
Lady Gaga
Madonna
The Postmarks
Tori Amos
Kate Bush

I think if someone does retain the musical tastes from their youth, then that in and of itself is indicative of character. But it also depends upon why. For example, maybe this person has very fluid world view, constantly adjusting to things that change or to new information. But their tastes serve as a psychological anchor, the one thing that remains steady. Or--something about a specific type of music appeals to them on a very personal level. Perhaps glam rock feeds the extravagant, androgynous part of themselves that has no other outlet. Maybe 60s music recalls the idealism of their youth. Then again, maybe they're simply in a rut and their musical tastes never changed much. Or, they fell in love with a certain type of music and never fell out of love--so it isn't that they can't appreciate other forms, but they remain in love with opera music/acid rock/folks music/whatever.

Hope this helps.

Kathie Freeman
11-01-2009, 07:44 PM
I turned 18 in 1966, and I still prefer the music that was popular in the middle 60's, early Beatles, early Stones, all the girl groups, folk rock, definitely Elvis, and also country music from that era. Most of the later stuff just grates on my ears, although I do like some early 80's Springsteen. It has a folkish sound to it. It's not that I'm reliving my teen years, in fact they were quite horrible, it's just that that particular type of rhythm makes me want to dance. I still dance in the supermarket when one of my favorites comes on over the PA.

Steam&Ink
11-02-2009, 12:22 AM
This is sort of a poll, to help me flesh out the characters in my crime novel. I'm curious as to what kind of music people listen to and how (or if) that relates to their age. For example, I'm about to turn 47 and I listen mostly to stuff that was popular when I was in high school or just after I graduated high school. Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, etc. I'm trying to figure out if everybody is the same way. I had my main character listening mostly to the Beatles (he turned 18 in 1970) but I don't know if that is realistic or not. I went through my Beatles period and still like them, but I'm wondering if there is anything else, maybe less pop music type of stuff, that he might like. Maybe something more rock and roller. A secondary character is older than he is, she turned 18 in 1967, and I originally had her listening to Elvis, but I think that might be too old for her, maybe she should listen to the Beatles? This sounds so lame, like my characters only listen to what was on the top 40 or something. Anybody want to share how old they are (or roughly, if you don't want to share your exact age,) what you listen to and why?

I'm a bit younger than that (my nephews and nieces think I'm 27, so take from that what you will), so it's not much help telling you what I listen to.

My formative music years probably went from 13-25, so much music I hear from those years still has me singing along.

However, to address your question, I do think it would sound a bit cliched if your MCs like the Beatles and Elvis, respectively. It runs the danger of sounding like you, as the author, didn't know much about music in the characters' youth eras and just chose the first names which popped into your mind.
To avoid this, I would suggest you just google search top 40 charts in the relevant years of your MCs lives. Then find a popular band which is less obvious but still known (such as The Animals, or Neil Young in the 70s for example). Then go ahead and research their music - if you don't know it already. If it suits your MC's tastes, voila. You can even make a point that your MC liked the Beatles, but was much more into this other band. Or (like my mother) didn't "get" the Beatles, and geekily listened to Simon and Garfunkel LPs while her friends were singing about newspaper taxis and tangerine skys... (sorry if I mangled the lyrics :) )


PS This advice obviously doesn't apply if a plot device relies on the MC liking the Beatles (I'm thinking of Stephen King's character in Needful Things who was scarily obsessed with Elvis Presley)

Puma
11-02-2009, 12:49 AM
Kathie Freeman - You summed up my feelings completely. There's very little from back in that period I don't like - and - I can understand the lyrics (something not easy to say for some of the ?lyrics? since then. And you're right about the beat - I have trouble keeping from bouncing in the supermarket or where ever I am when one of the oldies I really like comes on.

Maybe going back to jeseymour's original question, the answer is in one of the songs by (can't think of the name - brother/sister ETA - Donnie and Marie Osmond ) "I'm a little bit country; I'm a little bit rock and roll" (popular in the mid seventies). Puma

Rufus Coppertop
11-02-2009, 12:42 PM
I'm now forty six.

When I was twelve I discovered that there was such a thing as classical music and fell in love with it. When I was thirteen, my record collection consisted of an LP each of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Suzi Quatro.

When I was twenty one, I was crazy about baroque, renaissance, classical, heavy metal and blues.

Now I'm just crazy about renaissance and baroque music. I can appreciate other forms but they don't grab me.