Some people have made up their minds about certain types of music – they hate it, and there seems nothing one can do about it. What kind of reasons are behind this strong attitude? What behaviors result from it? Where does the dislike come from? Does it have to do with over exposure? With an autobiographical memory? The sound? The lyrics? The ideology presented by the music? The fans? The artist?
Funnily enough, some people will tell you that they don’t dislike any kind of music – which is just not true. Maybe they are too nice to say it (because they don’t know yet what you like) or are not aware of their dislikes because of limited exposure to the disliked music. They might also unconsciously avoid the music by avoiding the situations in which this music might be played; how often do they go to a rave or the local Volksfest? What you will definitely see is their open rejection of certain politically oriented music and artists. Some music definitely goes against their beliefs and values and clashes with their self-image.
So probably everybody dislikes something. But why? What is the rationale for disliking certain music? What is it good for? What are its functions?
For one thing, people’s dislikes tell you something about their social status. Sociologists have already noted that social distinction plays a large role in (musical) taste. People’s self-concept is not only determined by music they like but also, and maybe even to a larger degree, by the music they don’t like because dislikes set boundaries and build distinctive personal identities. Social reasons are also tied to the fans of a musical style (as a social group that one may not identify and engage with) and the artists, who might embody something one is highly opposed to.
Of course, one should not forget about the music itself with its specific sound, structure, melody, harmony, rhythm, and lyrics. Maybe the sound of a certain instrument or vocal style does not please you and sounds like fingernails on a blackboard. Maybe the music is overabundant with certain features and is hard to follow or – on the contrary – far to repetitive and simple for what you require of music. This may actually be tied to social distinction: disliking music because it is not sophisticated enough demonstrates musical competence and serves to emphasize one’s own knowledge and “good taste” and thereby informs about the cultural capital one possesses.
What we have not mentioned yet is the emotional effect of disliked music. While liked music is chosen for its pleasant effect, disliked music is of course rejected because of its unpleasant effect. Like fingernails on a blackboard, music can (metaphorically) hurt one’s ears. However, this doesn’t answer the question of cause and effect: What was there first? The dislike or the unpleasant feelings? Do we dislike particular kinds of music because they sound unpleasant or do they sound unpleasant because we dislike them?
In brief, the diversity and complexity of an everyday aesthetics of music can be captured better and our understanding of attitudes toward music and the functions of music can be extended if we investigate musical dislikes.
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