Reddit comments argue that for Dissonant Postmodern Music (abbreviated to DPM), enjoyment:

  1. should mean 'appreciated, not necessarily enjoyed. If you feel a deep unease while listening and are quite aware of it, I'd say you are indeed appreciating it on at least the emotional level that Penderecki was trying to convey. I don't think dissonant postmodern music is, generally, trying to get you tapping your foot or humming along.'

  2. 'isn't meant to give you the same kind of serenity as Mozart or energized aggression of Ghostface Killah or imagination-grabbing as Miles Davis (all "enjoyment," though clearly distinct). They're instead meant to cause a more cerebral state, where you are jarred into thinking about why you find certain sounds unpleasant and what patterns emerge in your emotional reactions. That itself is enjoyable for many people.'

[ Source: ] Trying to train myself to like something does not feel right. It seems like I am subduing my natural reaction to what I am hearing and replacing it with an intellectual reaction which rather goes against the concept of "art" as I see it.

Even if hearing DPM as merry uplifting music is impracticable or unrealistic (as the above asserts), is it biologically possible for humans?

  • I edited the headline to take the emphasis off biology, since that's not really on-topic for here. – Chris Sunami supports Monica Jul 10 '17 at 17:06
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    To find an experience satisfying or otherwise worthwhile one need not find it “merry” and “uplifting”; that would be very limiting. While I think your questions go deeper than this, I suggest trying to broaden your idea of what music might bring you. – PJTraill Dec 15 '17 at 12:28
  • Closely related: musicfans.stackexchange.com/q/5481/3955 – Brahadeesh Apr 25 '19 at 7:14

I don't know that "biologically impossible" is the right descriptor --I would go with "psychologically odd." It is quite possible, even common, to initially hear an unfamiliar piece of music as "noise" or "boring" or "repetitious" or "dissonant" or "disturbing," and later hear it as having quite different qualities once you know it better, or have a context for it, or have become familiar with the genre. However, this is generally because you have become better at perceiving it as intended, not because its traits have changed.

In this case, you seem to be expecting to be able to learn to associate an arbitrary set of characteristics to a given piece of music. It is possible that some specific dissonant, postmodernist piece could be merry and uplifting (perhaps the Rite of Spring, if we count that as post-modern?), but it seems fairly certain that that was not the general goal of the creators of the genre. The pleasures of every genre are not the same, if they were, why would we need so many? I suspect that you are pursuing a theory that associations to music are arbitrary, and that post-modernist music seems like a good candidate, since its specific artistic choices are sometimes deliberately randomized, or dogmatically formal. But the pleasures of this genre, for those who appreciate it, are conceptual. Merriment is not really a concept, per se.

Surf pop is an inherently merry and uplifting genre. But Brian Wilson, one of its chief architects, turned it, in his later work, towards themes of melancholy, isolation, nostalgia and despair. It's possible some post-modernist genius could perform the same magic in reverse, and create merry dissonances. (Compare Desafinado, which, while not merry or uplifting, is an entirely lovely piece built deliberately around "wrong" notes and dissonant harmonies.) But it is unreasonable to expect a randomly selected example of the genre to be that song.

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