Pondering the influence of non-musical influences on our musical tastes

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I've been thinking a lot about the way that my tastes and interests outside of music influence my musical taste. The most recent example is my fascination with horror movies over the past year, which has caused me to start listening to a number of movie scores, a practice I once disdained as pointless, thinking that the score existed simply to serve the movie. Not so much, these days.

Those of you who keep tabs on our Heavy Rotation feature may have noticed that Fabio Frizzi's score for Zombi 2 (aka Zombie, aka Zombie Flesh Eaters), and the main theme from it has popped up a couple of times on my list. And it will probably continue to appear for another week, maybe two. That's because I've been obsessed with it, like I sometimes get obsessed with albums or bands, listening to it over and over again. And it's pushing me to look up more film scores, as well as similar instrumental music, like ambient. Had I not fallen in love with the movie first, I never would have heard this, and it never would have pushed me in that direction.

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Another example regular Backbeat readers might have picked up on is the influence of hundreds of hours in front of video games during my youth. There's no other explanation for my immediate embrace and deep immersion in the chiptunes sound, which utilizes the raw, simple and seemingly unmusical sounds of early digital synthesis as its building blocks. Thank you, Atari 2600, for helping me to see the beauty of those beeps, squawks and burps.

I'm equally as fascinated with Japanese pop. My initial intro to the genre left me disinterested, since I took it to be overly cutesy and saccharine, with very little redeeming musical value. Then came Katamari Damacy, the insane rolling-things-up masterpiece with a soundtrack of fantastic J-pop and J-lounge music. At first I found it kind of annoying, but as I played more, I began to appreciate the amazing variety of influences incorporated in the music.

In this saccharine pop, there were threads of everything from classical music to acid techno, not to mention familiar Western pop (as in Western hemisphere, not country-Western) influences, all bound together with cutesy vocals and hummable melodies.  And if I hadn't played the game, I don't think I ever would have spent enough time with the style to look past its surface qualities and see what it really had to offer.

So what about you? What forces outside of music have conspired to influence your taste in music?

[Ed. note: Eryc Eyl pondered this exact same topic from an entirely different perspective in a pair of March installments of his Mile High Makeout column.]


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