Michelle, music and me: How siblings influence music preferences and how music influences their relationships

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  • How do sibling relationships affect the music we listen to? And vice versa, how do the music choices we make influence the perceived intimacy of the relationship between siblings? This study looks at the relationship between two sisters, close in age, and how their individual musical preferences were developed. Through a duoethnographic method, the sisters discuss how music figured in their relationship and whether there is a direct relationship between the music they listen to and their relationship. Through this case study different musical influences revealed themselves: parental, friend, personality and sibling. We see that siblings do influence each other’s musical choices through the games they play as children, their desire to differentiate in childhood, their identity formation in their teen years, and increased intimacy in their adult relationships. There are multiple dimensions to sibling relationships, some of which are conscious, and some unconscious. Our sibling’s have the ability to influence our behaviour in ways no other person in our life can. Being each other’s first peers and constant companions, we observe each other’s behaviours and make judgments about them, helping us to decide whether we choose to emulate these behaviours or differentiate from them. Regardless of the direction we choose, our siblings have a marked effect on who we become and the preferences we have. The purpose of this research is to explore how siblings influence each other’s music selections. By examining my sister’s and my relationship, it allows us to see the effect this sister relationship had on our individual musical choices, what other influences helped form our musical preferences, as well as seeing the effect music had on our relationship. Examining musical preference through the sister relationship allows us to understand the effects musical preferences have on how sisters develop their musical taste and their perceived closeness. By examining each sibling’s musical preferences, and the personally significant events surrounding music, we can see how a sibling set is similar and different, and how a youthful relationship affected music preference and perceived closeness. Further this examination will allow us to see the effects that other relationship have on both musical preference and the sibling relationship. This qualitative study has taken a social constructivist view using a duoethnographic method. This is the case study of my sister and me who are two and a half years apart in age. By using this interview and self-reflection, I have contrasted and compared the experiences of my sister and me from our preteen and teen years, through to today. The intention of this research project was to discover whether siblings transfer musical preferences to each other and if, through the sharing of music, there was an increased perception of closeness. Based on sibling research I expected to see that Michelle and I would intentionally de-identify with each other. Through my conversation with Michelle, different musical influences revealed themselves: parental, friend, personality and finally sibling. External influences were also important (this includes mass media and entertainment cultures) within all of the above influences. By examining our different influences and our music selections, I saw that we differentiated in many ways. It was however in no way a conscious choice to avoid each other’s likes or dislikes. My sister had some influence over my music selections especially during our late teens. I had significantly less on her choices. In fact, there was a conscious attempt by me in later years to accept and participate in Michelle’s preferences as a way of gaining her approval. I found that music did bring us closer to together at times in childhood, but much more so in our 20s and 30s. Technology and mass media were important influences within all the mentioned relationships. Popular culture in the 80s had a very strong effect on the youth of the time, as did the changes in technology. In my first fifteen years of life, music was distributed in three very different formats: records, cassette tapes and compact disks. Television and music videos also became a popular medium for consuming music making image as important as music for the artist and their fans. This research is helpful is within the context of enhancing sibling relationships. My sister and I fall into a very predictable pattern within sibling relationships. As siblings close in age, we experienced closeness as young children, de-identification and separation as tweens and teenagers, and now as adults we are closer than ever before in our history. Music was definitely a unifying factor throughout our lives, giving us cause to come together.

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    Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 International