Deconstructing Cultural Omnivorousness 1982-2002: Heterology in Americans' Musical Preferences

This research examines heterogeneity in Americans' musical tastes by separating breadth and level of taste, taking into account the structural constraints such as cohort, period, social class, gender and racial composition, which have shaped Americans' musical preferences over the past 20 years. We identify four types of respondents who share similar taste patterns that correspond to different degrees of omnivorousness: omnivores, limited, temperates and moderates. We argue that taste patterns deviate from the usual elitist basis in that omnivores are depicted as both highbrow individuals with lowbrow taste and non-highbrow individuals with lowbrow taste. We also find that structural constraints have little impact on breadth of tastes among omnivores and a relatively high impact on breadth of tastes among limited, temperates and moderates. Heterology is emphasized (rather than the Bourdieuvian homology) in an examination of the equivalence between the social structure and the cultural sphere. Heterology recognizes that breadth and level of taste are two independent dimensions of cultural consumption.