You can train yourself to appreciate dissonant music

The Atlantic has a piece showing that it is a learned trait to hear music as beautiful.  The results come from a study of what trained musicians heard vs. untrained listeners.  “Trained musicians, perhaps predictably, were more sensitive to dissonance than lay listeners. But they also found that when listeners hadn’t previously encountered a certain chord, they found it nearly impossible to hear the individual notes that comprised it. Where this ability was lacking, the chords sounded dissonant, and thus, unpleasant.”  The study’s conclusions don’t seem all that controversial in some ways — why would Westerners find non-Western music to sound “weird” initially, and vice versa.  But I guess it also means that Schönberg, Webern, and Cage were right all along.  If we listened to atonality more, we would train ourselves to hear what is going on and appreciate it.


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