The Pleasure of the Unpredictable - Aesthetic Experience of New Music

Since its origins, New Music has been criticized for being difficult to understand, if not completely inaccessible. Certainly, if Arnold Schönberg did desire his music to be whistled, this clearly did not occur. In fact, New Music is diametrically opposed to the aesthetics of classical tonal music and is characterized by its dissonance, partially impenetrable structure, and unpredictable development. This is not only a challenge for the inexperienced listener, but also one of the reasons why New Music has been more or less a niche in the last 100 years. Nevertheless, supporters of New Music are naturally unimpressed by this, and their loyalty to New Music is remarkable. These experts will be the focus of this project.

The question pursued here is not about the challenge of comprehending New Music. Rather, the approach adopts the opposite perspective by asking: What is the fascination with New Music and why do people seek out experiences with New Music? What is the so-called "aesthetic pleasure" and how is it related to the perceptually challenging properties in the listening process? In a comprehensive interview study with listening experts of New Music, fundamental questions of aesthetic experience will be addressed. Based on existing models of aesthetic experience and further exploration, different kinds of experience are investigated through 20 expert interviews.

The aim of the project is firstly to breakdown the apparently complex perceptual process of listening to New Music. In addition, a basis for building hypotheses about the processing and enjoyment of New Music will be generated in order to guide subsequent quantitative studies. Last but not least, the current study aims to advance the modeling of the aesthetic experience by using qualitative data to either confirm already existing concepts, or to generate new dimensions and experience qualities for subsequent integration.