I’d bet money on the fact that a good portion of you reading this article right now have, at some point or other, hated a song you heard. A few minutes, days or even years later, however, that hate changed to tolerance changed to acceptance changed to annoying your friends and family with it until they hate your stupid face. But how can that be? You are a connoisseur of great music and you know what you like and what you don’t like. It’s not as though you underwent major life changes and the piece you once despised became the soundtrack to your rebirth from the ashes. As usual, science is here to explain the wizardry.
It turns out that music, like racism, is learned. Researchers at the University of Melbourne found that just the ability to identify tones and harmonies was positively correlated with musical training. The less trained we are to hear certain sounds, pitches, tones or cadences, the more likely we are to associate it as dissonance (grating, unpleasant noise) and in some cases, straight up not hear it at all. (Magic!)
As Lindsay Abrams of The Atlantic puts it:
From a practical standpoint, [this] seem to suggest that we can train ourselves to better appreciate music.
The researches did another experiment involving 19 participants with little to no prior musical training and gave them just under a dozen music theory lessons. The result? NPR’s Anastasia Tsioulcas summarizes:
…those participants were not just better at pitch identification but also found those chords to be less dissonant, even when they were technically “dissonant” according to traditional music theory. That is: The more you hear, the more you’ll love.
Bitter because you never got to take music lessons as a kid and are thus doomed to spend the rest of your days living in musical ethnocentricity? Cheer up, we have the internet now. A wealth of free music theory lectures are available online. Worst case scenario, you can expose yourself to untold amounts of new, international music on YouTube. Just don’t fall into the comments section, nothing good ever came of that.