Most people will have grown up hearing sequences that use mostly 7ths and/or 9ths, and won't think of them as exotic or strange at all.
The ones that are dissonant - like the Dom 7#11, and some of the clusters - fall later down the preference list, just as you'd expect them to.
The simplest dissonant chords are the basic augmented and diminished triads, and the authors didn't include them in the tests - which is a bizarre and curious omission.
Not true. Some styles of classical music employ dissonance in a prominent way - from late 14th century Ars Subtilior, through the pre-baroque stylus fantasticus and the bold chromaticism of Gesualdo, Frescobaldi, de Macke and others, and to the late baroque with Bach, Vivaldi, Zelenka, Rebel and others.
This isn't the kind of dissonant the OP is talking about. I'd be very surprised if you can come up with a clashing jumble like a Dom7#11 in Bach, even as a suspension or pedal. Cluster chords in classical music are almost unheard of.
I don't think even Gesualdo used chord clusters. IIRC it was his chromatic sense of tonality that was shocking, not his choice of chords.
> This suggests that preference for consonance over dissonance isn’t baked into universal human auditory processing, but is rather something we develop by being exposed to certain kinds of frequency relationships in the music that we hear.
No, that is not a conclusion that can be drawn from the experiment and not the conclusion the paper draws.
Quote from the paper:
> The results indicate that consonance preferences can be absent in cultures sufficiently isolated from Western music [...]
From what I understand the experiment shows that there are peoples that have not developed harmony until now. They make music, but they only play notes in a sequence never simultaneously.
This is not surprising, western music developed real harmony only in the modern era, music of the middle ages was mostly melodic.
That they have no harmony does not mean that preference for consonance over dissonance isn’t baked into universal human auditory processing because if they would develop harmony they might end up with the same preferences we have because we share the same human auditory processing.
I am a musician and I have been interested in music theory since I was a teenager, so I have almost always read writing about this topic. In my experience, it seems like, generally, the people who write about and study musicology are very reluctant to take the position that the music of some cultures can be more primitive than others, but to me it seems to explain a lot of the apparently paradoxical aspects of what we regard as consonance and dissonance.
Or they might develop the same preferences because they're exposed to the same stimuli. Or they might not develop the same preferences at all. Or they might prefer alternation between both.
It would seem that proof of the assertion in question would require finding people with a notion of musical harmony that is genuinely dissonant.
This doesn't translate to "they don't have harmony". Tons of those cultures do have harmony AND it's different than the traditional western harmony.
Note that this only happens with musical instruments featuring overtones based around the harmonic series, which usually means instruments based on vibrating strings or vibrating columns of air. These are by far the most common instruments in Western music, but this is not the case for cultures that heavily use tuned percussion. Tuned percussion can easily have enharmonic timbres, which require different tuning systems for control of consonance and dissonance.
Note that Sethares' theory says nothing about dissonance being good or bad, and this new study says nothing about whether Tsimane people are capable of detecting dissonance or not. As the vast majority of humans can detect consonance and dissonance, including babies (see https://www.researchgate.net/publication/222455086_'Infants'... ), I would personally be surprised if they were incapable of perceiving it. I think it's more likely that their culture simply does not value consonance. The same is true of some Western subcultures. Atonal composition is high status with many music academics, and it's genuinely enjoyable to many of them. I've enjoyed listening to atonal compositions myself.
It should also be noted that people have reported trouble reproducing Sethares' dissonance curves which Sethares has, to my knowledge (we've corresponded on the subject for almost 20 years), never addressed.
Lastly, there are serious problems with the ethnomusicology in Sethares' book. The scales derived from timbres, e.g. of Indonesian instruments, are designed to match the dissonance curve of the timbre only in a single mode. Intervals not measured from the chosen tonic will in general not be present as minima in the corresponding dissonance curve (except in the case of highly symmetrical scales like the diatonic scale).
 e.g. http://dx.doi.org/10.1152/jn.00271.2001
 Spectral models are all based on pairwise interactions between partials and therefore predict roughly equal dissonance scores for harmonic and subharmonic chords (including the major and minor triads). But subharmonic chords are dramatically more dissonant, as you can hear for yourself
(files beginning "o" are harmonic; "u" subharmonic)
This is a consequence of chords larger than dyads being almost completely ignored for the entire history of psychoacoustics. A strangely analogous situation may exist in economics, where the theory of comparative advantage is thought to be settled by most economists despite that there is no consensus on how to extend it beyond Ricardo's 2-country, 2-goods model of 1817.
 Briefly, the shape of the dissonance curves is unrealistically sensitive to the relative amplitudes of the input partials.
My reading of your link is that it doesnt argue against pitch ratios being fundamental - what it does do is say that ratios are not only happening in chords but also in the sound of a single note, in different ways for different instruments.
This is very interesting work though and to me at least much more interesting than the headline post here which just points out the blindingly obvious (people raised in different musical cultures hear things differently)
If we decompose sounds into sine waves, and sum the values on the Plomp and Levelt curve for all the pairs of sines, weighted by amplitude, then for the specific case of timbres based around the harmonic series, the minima for the dissonance curve happen to fall at simple ratios. This does not mean the brain is actually counting cycles! It's only a coincidence, and for other timbres the minima fall at different places.
For me it seems logical that the brain (as a well established pattern matching machine) is probably doing something far more primative than calculating exponential curves. But if thats your view i cant disprove it.
Studies like the OP's turn up every few years and are massively flawed due to oversimplification. Acoustic dissonance is waaaay more than a single-dimensional binary function... and then cultural layers are added.
I've never played baseball, but lots of basketball and soccer, and I get this "virtual trajectory of ball" overlay, so that I can adjust my body position, jump at the right time if needed.
Also often you look at ball, memorize where it will fall, then run to get there without looking at the ball. It can take seconds if it's a long ball in soccer, so it can't possibly be just adjusting to the sight picture.
"Dissonant" is not a synonym for "not fine".
Culture doesn't fix the fact that if you play a perfect perfect fifth (exactly 2:3 frequency mix) the blend is very homogeneous, whereas if the ratio is off, you hear "beats" in it. Those beats are not produced by your upbringing.
Because it definitely seems like something which can be trained - professional musicians often have a pain-like reaction to it, while your Average Joe just notices that it sounds bad.
But at the same time, your Average Joe still notices that it sounds bad, and yeah, just like with dissonances, it's hard to imagine someone who doesn't.
Personally I do think that they would dislike it, because I have this theory, which is somewhat similar to / a generalization of the Uncanny Valley theory . That theory is that we fundamentally dislike anything which is not similar enough to something else to be perceived as the same thing, but neither different enough from it to be clearly distinguishable as something different.
So, no matter if that's two tones which are slightly out of tune, a painting with bright blue right next to baby blue, a shadow in the dark, or rice with noodles.
The idea seems to be, keys that are foreign to the piece should sound dissonant.
Think of it as '6 degrees of separation'. The further away I am away from the starting point, the more alien the tuning would be, and therefore the more startling the sound.
During this period in music, the ideal was to make the 'home base' key to be as perfectly in tune as possible (making adjustments of course).
Michelangelo Rossi is playing with this, and is pushing the boundaries of those assumptions. William Byrd did much the same in England at pretty much the same time.
It makes me wonder if the hyper-specialised quarter-tone composers of our day might have had a better time of it if we had never adopted equal temperament as the standard…
Western fine art is more formulaic in it's creation, due to training using colour wheels (complementary across, traidic and other geometric harmonies) and a analytic notion of these harmonies.Even the pleasing ratios of area are codified (5:1 Yellow:Purple for weight balence) Itten wrote quite a few books on balence/design and became a major influence on modern art. Contrast this with naieve/primal forms created by those without that training.
One size fits all does not work for the arts. It cant be a product that is objectively correct.
Now if someone played a diasonant frequency and time the beat such that it fell in line with the tempo of a composition. That would be a cool way to add structure to a work. No idea on how to do the math here, but how many cent under standard tuning would generate this for an andante tempo?
Woman gets dressed to go to a funeral. What colour dress does she pick out?
In large parts of the west, these questions have one answer.
How is it any different "near Seattle"? All over the US and Europe people have been using black to signify death for centuries. From the usual depiction of death as a black robe wearing skeleton with a skythe, to the black color of hearses, to the black clothing traditionally associated with funerals and mourning, down to black clothes worn by Death Metal and Goth fans.
With a big enough sample we might be able to draw some conclusions.
I don't know any visual artist who would claim that colour harmonies from the art of another culture are incomprehensible/jarring. Actually I would expect to get the opposite answer.
Popular colour combos for interior decoration, though, are naturally going to vary culturally, but (I claim) within a pretty universal system of colour contrasts perceived the same way by everyone. If there's a literature out there on "weird" colour harmonies that don't work for those acculturated in certain cultures, I'd love to see it.
I only took a quick look but I did find this little paper on cultural differences between Americans/East Asian in terms of uniqueness/conformity in visual media and how that propagates outward.
This makes me wonder if the Tsimane don't hear dissonant harmony, but just two different melodies, like two different people talking at once rather than a chord.
Maybe in a way this is similar but opposite to how it takes a little bit of listening before you can hear Tuvan throat singing clearly - at first it sounds like one note, but after a while you get better at hearing the overtones they're modulating.
Personally, I find that some chords that sound dissonant when played alone and out of context turn around completely and sound gorgeous and intriguing when played as part of a piece.
Minor 6 chords are amazing in the right context, and diminished and augmented scales too. Some of my favorite Bach pieces are the ones that hit a measure or two of fully diminished key.
Is it possible that part of the surprise here is that we've overstated dissonance as something negative, and led ourselves to expect something "dissonant" to be more cacophonous than it really is? I do prefer describing music more in terms of tension and resolution than consonance and dissonance. And tension is a critical part for the resolution to have it's full effect and power, it provides the contrast, and it often comes with as much or more subtlety and beauty, as far as I can tell.
It's weird that if you go all the trouble travel into far away places to test things, but you don't test for that.
First you give them few labeled examples of consonant ad harmony then dissonant harmony and then ask them to label next examples.
So... they went and found a group of people unfamiliar with western music, and then tested which of the intervals from 12-tone-equal-temperament sound good to them?
What would be the result if we were to repeat the test with people familiar with western music, but the notes were taken from 13-tone-equal-temperament? What conclusions (if any) could we draw from that about whether those familiar with western music appreciate harmony?
Granted, notes like the equal-tempered major third are probably close enough to their just equivalents (such as the 5:4 major third) that to someone who was familiar with the latter, the former would probably be recognized as such even to one who had never heard equal-tempered intervals before, but still they'd probably sound weirdly out-of-tune. (The ET third is about 15 cents sharp of the just third.) Why not just test with just intervals, which are more universal/fundamental than equal tempered intervals, which are sort of a modern "good enough" compromise we use for convenience.
With cross-cultural tasks, there is always a risk that
participants don’t have the right idea about what they
should be doing. To control for this, the researchers also
played participants vocal noises and found that all groups
preferred laughter rather than gasps.
Perhaps consonance and dissonance are concepts that are largely defined by musical circumstances. If that's the case, then it doesn't make sense to approach the problem with a sort of western definition of dissonance.
In other words, I think it's safe to assume every culture has an idea of what is tasteful and what is not in their music. The way I see it, if you take that position, then you can also assume the culture has their own definitions of what is consonant and what is dissonant. These may or may not coincide with the western theory of common practice period harmony.
I mean, c'mon. Anyone who has been exposed to the concept of non-western music will know that the 12-tone scale is not a universal construction.
gathering data from 64 Tisane people, as well as 50 urban Bolivians, 25 US non-musicians, and 23 US musicians
different group of 49 Tsimane people and 47 musically trained people in the US
Also quarter-tone music sounds weird to western ears and is common around the world.
I think you need to practice to appreciate music - some people get just stressed by listening to a complex Bach fugue, and some get equally stressed when listening to rap music or traditional jazz. Probably because they do not pick up the nuances.
Nowadays I just feel it's noise, most of the time.