Above: Lipa Schmeltzer
…Whether we love or hate music depends on conditioning. It’s not about religion; it’s about what we grew up with.…[T]aste lies hidden in several parts of our brain that have been conditioned to our musical choices. Musical conditioning, in fact, occurs as early as the ninth month of a baby’s life, according to an article by Daniel J. Levitin and Anna K. Tirovolas that appeared in the magazine The Year In Cognitive Neuroscience (2009).
Levitin and Tirovolas helped me understand that opposition to my music is not necessarily a religious opinion but a brain condition. Their research indicated that people who had no exposure to major and minor modes (associated with brightness vs. darkness, or happiness vs. sadness) showed little or no difference when listening to songs in these modes. We can therefore conclude that perception has to do with the genres of music people have been listening to since childhood.
Much of the opposition to me was due to my performing rap music. Like most Chassidic Jews, I did not know what rap was. I first found out about it when I got a booking from a producer who requested that I do “that rap thing for fifteen minutes.”
When I asked what “ that rap thing” was, he told me “the fast rhymes you did the other night while the drummer was performing a solo.” I said “Oh, that’s the rap thing; I can give you more of that.”
Nowadays I think that perhaps my free style developed not because I ever listened to rap but rather from a key childhood influence: the sing-song of the study hall where yeshiva students like me debated the finer points of the Talmud in a complex, rapid-fire delivery. Turning that into rap was not such an unusual step; Jews and others have often adapted musical genres from their surroundings.…