Disliked Music

In Western cultures, musical taste, understood as a particular attitude towards music, is an important aspect of one’s self-concept and self-perception. As an affective and expressive medium, music not only serves to satisfy emotional and social needs; rather, in its individual quality as liked or disliked music, it can be used to create and affirm one’s own identity. However, in detailed examinations of musical taste, the focus is usually only on the dimension of what is liked; music that is rejected may be part of the gathered data, but it rarely plays a role in evaluating the conceptualization of musical taste.

For this reason, this project is centered on disliked music, that is on the individual explanatory strategies for rejecting music and the functions fulfilled by rejecting specific pieces, styles of music and singing voices on both a personal and social level. We take a multimethod approach using quantitative and qualitative research methods, such as interviews, questionnaires and psychophysiology.

So far, we have found three main strategies of legitimation for the rejection of music (Ackermann 2019) and singing voices (Merrill 2019): object-related (the music), subject-related (the self) and social reasons. Participants differentiate in their rationales between different dimensions of music (styles, artists, voices), and functions for disliking music are different from liked/preferred music. The results oppose the common hypothesis that musical dislikes are predominantly social, showing that music-related as well as emotional and bodily reasons play an important role (Figure 1). It further supports the importance of including disliked music in research about musical taste. An extended model of musical taste by the dimensions of avoidance and approach behavior together with ‘liking’ and ‘disliking’ was created (Figure 2).

The results of this research will be made usable for future studies in form of questionnaires: A tool to describe the vocal-articulatory expression by non-experts is published in German (Merrill 2019; the English version is in preparation), which was evaluated in the context of disliked and preferred singing voices, further, a tool to evaluate the individual rationales for disliked music is in preparation. Next steps include psychophysiological responses to further investigate the reported bodily reasons for disliked music and specific aesthetic emotions that occur in the context of disliked music.



Ackermann, T.-I. (2019): Disliked Music. Merkmale, Gründe und Funktionen abgelehnter Musik. Kassel University Press, Kassel.

Merrill, J. (2019): Stimmen – schön schrecklich oder schrecklich schön? Beschreibung, Bewertung und Wirkung des vokalen Ausdrucks in der Musik. Kassel University Press, Kassel.