Changing music preferences has been explored by a number of researchers. Studies have shown that music preferences can be changed through lessons and repeated listenings. Expanding students’ preferences to include classical music would broaden their musical horizons so that as adult listeners they would be familiar with and able to choose from a variety of styles of music.
The purpose of this study was to find out whether music preference could be changed through a lesson taught about a particular piece of 20th century art music and through repeated listenings to that same piece of 20th century art music. The study lasted six weeks and consisted of a pretest, 10 lessons, repeated listenings and a posttest. The experimental group was made up of second and fifth grade students and the control group was made up of third and fourth grade students.
All the students took the pretest and the posttest comprised of taped excerpts of the same 20 musical examples of 20th century art music. Students marked their preferences on a five point Likert-type scale anchored by strongly like and strongly dislike. The second and fifth grade students were taught 10 lessons in which they had the opportunity to listen to 11 of the 20 musical examples presented on the tape. Third and fourth grades students only took the pretest and posttest and did not study any of the musical examples.
Data accumulated in the study were organized according to average scores and percentages. Both averages and percentages were divided into two groups: 1) musical examples studied by the experimental group and 2) musical examples not studied by either group. Musical examples were divided into these two groups in order to compare the differences from pretest to posttest on preference scores for examples listened to and studied and for examples not listened to and not studied.
Results of the music preference study showed differences between average scores of the experimental group and the control group pretest to posttest. There was a bigger increase in liking for the studied examples in the experimental group than in the control group. With one exception, percentage scores of second, third and fifth grade students all displayed a higher increase in liking for studied pieces than for not studied pieces.
Third grade control group results were somewhat unexpected. Their preference increases between pretest and posttest could be attributed to their positive attitude about music. Fifth grade experimental group preferences did not increase as much as expected. Possibly this occurred because one fifth grade class had a negative attitude and brought the averages and percentages of the other two classes down.
The 20th century musical examples were tonal, polytonal, atonal and electronic.
Preferences increased almost equally for pieces from each of these categories. Six weeks was not quite long enough for this study. Lessons were successful, but sometimes rushed. Posttest recognition and identification of studied examples by the experimental group was positive and encouraging. Listening lessons could be an important part of a music curriculum. Music educators could have the opportunity to prepare their students to be discriminating adult listeners by introducing them to a variety of musical styles and composers.