Thursday, November 22, 2007

Which ethnic group has the classiest tastes? There are all kinds of good music, but you must admit that there are only three kinds that we would call really classy: classical, opera, and jazz. So who likes these types of music the most? The General Social Survey asked almost 1,200 Americans about their musical preferences. Answers ranged from "like it very much" (1) to "dislike it very much" (5). I calculated the means for ethnic groups with at least 30 respondents, and subtracted them from 5 so that higher scores indicate more preference for the music:

Mean classical music score

Scottish 2.77
Jewish 2.65
Polish 2.53
English/Welsh 2.52

USA 2.43

Italian 2.41
Irish 2.32
Dutch 2.39
German 2.32
Black 2.12
Amerindian 1.87

Mean opera score

Polish 1.86
Scots 1.83
Italian 1.74
English/Welsh 1.61
Dutch 1.58
Jewish 1.58

USA 1.57

Black 1.55
German 1.46
Irish 1.41
Amerindian 1.31

Mean jazz score

Black 3.05
Jewish 3.00
Polish 2.63

USA 2.44

English/Welsh 2.41
Irish 2.40
Italian 2.38
German 2.29
Scots 2.24
Amerindian 2.19
Dutch 2.00

Not surprisingly, Blacks like climb to the top of the list for jazz, and Italian Americans move up for opera. But overall, Polish Americans are at the top. Jews aren't too crazy about opera, and people of Scottish descent like classical and opera but not jazz. Amerindians don't dig any of it.


  1. Anonymous3:20 PM

    "There are all kinds of good music, but...": really? I thought that the moment you stepped away from classical, opera, jazz, you fell into the world of popkrap. Not always, not in every generation, but now, and for the last few decades.

  2. Interesting that Germans are not high on classical considering Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, Brahms, Wagner.

  3. Anonymous8:51 PM

    The Poles and Scots beat us on opera?! We fucking invented it! Pathetic.

  4. Anonymous12:06 PM

    there are only three kinds that we would call really classy

    What do you mean "we" Kimosabe? The use of the term "classy" is indicative of the bias of this analysis. The three musical forms you identify appeal primarily to the upper classes, with jazz being a partial exception (I'm actually quite surprised so many blacks still like it). But just because someone is wealthy doesn't mean they have taste. Witness the upper-class's horrid taste when it comes to the visual arts. You'd have to be out of your mind to pay $140 million for this piece of crap.

    Most jazz strikes me as self-indulgent pap. Some of it represents a high degree of musical talent, but most of it ranks quite low on the aesthetic scale as far as I'm concerned. Drugged out musicians indulging themselves and trying to one up each other does not make for good music, no matter how cool wealthy white people think they are for listening to it.

    Opera is just awful. And based on the data presented here, most non-criminally-insane people are clearly aware of just how painfully awful it is. Pretty much the lowest form of music invented by mankind. And that includes (c)rap. Guido points out that we have the Italians to blame for opera---I say we nuke them now in retaliation.

    I'll admit classical is something special. Not the be all, end all of music, but it ranks high both on the musical talent scale and on the aesthetic scale. At least some of it. Lots of it is just garbage, though.

    I'll take some good shakuhachi or Balinese gamelan music over most of the above any day of the week. Or even better, grunge :)

  5. Anonymous12:35 PM

    I agree with Jack. Most jazz is boring, self-indulgent crap.

    Note the high scores for liking jazz -- I suggest they, in part, reflect the fact that jazz is identified as a "black" form of music, and so it is politically correct to demonstrate one's liberal "cred" by professing to like jazz. Not surprisingly, Jews claim to like jazz more than classical music or opera. In my experience, this is totally off base.

    But Jack's wrong, wrong, wrong, when it comes to opera. It's great! Not all of it, of course, but the grand opera tradition of Mozart, Verdi, Puccini, Rossini, et al. is fantastic.

  6. Anonymous11:54 PM

    Jack, you are an idiot.

    Classical music is the highest form of musical art ever created by human minds. In particular, the period from 17th to early 20 th in Europe represents an unprecendented and unparralleled period in musical creativity and composition. There has been nothing like it in any other culture. I doubt that we will live to see anything like it again. Perhaps it can be attributed to the "crazy zig-zag in the brain" that the Japanese believe exists in the Western mind.

    There are many other beautiful musical forms in the world, but none of them come even close to the High classical.


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