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I have never liked music. Why do people like it?

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This may be relevant; "Bad brains: some people are physically incapable of enjoying music; Research shows that people who say "I don't like music" aren't just trying to sound cool":

Not necessarily, says Josep Marco-Pallerés, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Barcelona and lead author of a new study ["Dissociation between Musical and Monetary Reward Responses in Specific Musical Anhedonia"] that explores why some people feel indifferent to music. "Music isn't rewarding for them, even though other kinds of r

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2garethrees6yThis is an excellent question. grouchymusicologist above [] has it right that "music enjoyment is a remarkably multifaceted phenomenon", and I would like to expand on this. Michael J. Parsons [], in How we understand art: a cognitive developmental account of aesthetic experience, identifies a sequence of developmental stages in the appreciation of visual art. This is of necessity a very rough and un-nuanced summary since I don't have the book to hand, but I think this sequence is: first, colour ("this painting is red"); second, subject matter ("this painting is of a dog"); third, emotional content ("this painting makes me feel wistful"); fourth, technique ("this painting is pointillist"); and fifth, historical relationships ("this painting is a witty riposte to a work of Velasquez"). I can't point you at a corresponding developmental study of music, but I'm sure that similar stages of appreciation are there. To give a flavour of the different kinds of thing going on in the appreciation of music, let's take an example: here's Ian Bostridge singing Schubert's setting of "Der Erlkönig" by Goethe []. When listening to this, I appreciate: (i) the timbre of the piano and voice; (ii) the driving and urgent rhythm; (iii) the words and the story; (iv) the way the harmony creates and releases the dramatic tension at appropriate points in the text; (v) the skill of the performers: stamina is needed by the pianist to keep the triplets going, and vocal control by the singer to maintain timbre of the high notes; (vi) the "tone-painting": that is, the ways in which the musical notes illustrate aspects of the story, for example the repeated notes representing the horse's hooves; the way that the "child's" entries are a semitone above the piano, this discord illustrating his distress; the way that each entry is higher and more di
0RobertLumley6yI like to draw a (rather pretentious) delineation between music and songs, the archetypal examples being, say Beethoven's fifth symphony and "Call Me Maybe". (As a side note, I very much consider it possible for something to both be a "song" and "music") I enjoy music because I played a few instruments and sang when I was younger, so I know enough musical theory to appreciate the artistry it took to come up with the structure in the music, and (when appropriate) lyrics. Contrarily, I enjoy songs (although happen to hate "Call Me Maybe") because they're fun and upbeat and keep me in a positive mood. You can find a song to fit most moods, and fitting them very closely is a very satisfying feeling. Once last week, I was in a very relaxed mood on my way home and set Sultans of Swing [] on repeat, because it fit how I was feeling very exactly. It was probably the happiest I have been in the last week. Additionally, sometimes songs have the ability to change my mood and/or motivate me to work harder, and I often exploit them for this purpose.

More "Stupid" Questions

by NancyLebovitz 1 min read31st Jul 2013498 comments


This is a thread where people can ask questions that they would ordinarily feel embarrassed for not knowing the answer to. The previous "stupid" questions thread went to over 800 comments in two and a half weeks, so I think it's time for a new one.