Deprived Blaenau Gwent among most 'musically sophisticated'
- 5 March 2014
- From the section Wales
They live in one of the most deprived areas in Britain where poverty, sickness, and joblessness are among the worst.
But while a third of adults may not have a job, the residents of Blaenau Gwent have a song in their heart.
A study has found it has one of the highest levels of musical sophistication in the UK.
Researchers have said it proves high income and musical aptitude are not necessarily linked.
Goldsmiths, University of London and BBC Lab UK carried out the study, which questioned more than 94,000 people on their musical background and musical habits, and published it in the PLOS ONE journal.
It found musical skills and ability were not evenly spread across the UK population and were linked to a person's profession, education level and their average income.
Traditionally, learning to play an instrument is strongly linked to household income with the highest level of musical training being found among the inhabitants of the City of London, Cambridge, York and Oxford.
But Blaenau Gwent and Gwynedd have joined areas of London and Kent to be ranked as the most musically sophisticated in the country.
Perhaps it will come as little to surprise to those living in those two Welsh counties.
Blaenau Gwent can boast that it is home to the current British Open brass band champions in the guise of the Tredegar Town Band.
The band is also ranked as the second best brass band in the world - beaten to the top spot by its fierce rivals, Rhondda's Cory Band.
Gwynedd can lay claim to the likes of opera star Bryn Terfel - locally known as 'The Boy from Pantglas', the tiny village on the edge of Snowdonia where he grew up.
It is also home to award-winning music festivals, including Festival No 6 at Portmeirion, which was again nominated for awards in the music press this year.
However, it was not all good news for Wales because Anglesey has been included on the list of the "least musically sophisticated" in the UK.
It joins the likes of Christchurch in Dorset, Boston in Lincolnshire and Redditch in Worcestershire, which topped the list.
"It was fascinating to be involved in this study - the largest of its kind ever to be undertaken - and it was exciting to map out for the first time how musical expertise is spread across an entire nation," said Dr Daniel Mullensiefen, lead researcher on the project from the department of psychology at Goldsmiths.
"The most intriguing result for me is to be able to see on a map how musical skills are related to social conditions of our modern lives.
"Perhaps the most surprising result was the relationship between income and musicality. With a couple of exceptions, people who lived in postcode areas with a higher average income performed better in the music ability tests. The next question we're going to tackle is the cause behind this relationship."
The study also found that musical sophistication is generally highest in early and flexible periods of life such as during school and university, and is also higher in certain professions such as the media or education.
But hope is not lost for those struggling to master an instrument. The findings also show that inherent factors such as gender and ethnicity explained very little in terms of the musical sophistication of individual participants.