Hate This Music—Please!

Hate This Music—Please!

What if many frogs make a prince of a piece?

Written By

Yotam Haber

In the late 1990s David Soldier decided to create the world’s ugliest music, as determined by a poll that asked respondents what elements and factors were most unwanted in a piece. With results in hand, he created a work that embodied all of his results. To quote:

The most unwanted music is over 25 minutes long, veers wildly between loud and quiet sections, between fast and slow tempos, and features timbres of extremely high and low pitch, with each dichotomy presented in abrupt transition. The most unwanted orchestra was determined to be large, and features the accordion and bagpipe (which tie at 13% as the most unwanted instrument), banjo, flute, tuba, harp, organ, synthesizer (the only instrument that appears in both the most wanted and most unwanted ensembles). An operatic soprano raps and sings atonal music, advertising jingles, political slogans, and “elevator” music, and a children’s choir sings jingles and holiday songs. The most unwanted subjects for lyrics are cowboys and holidays, and the most unwanted listening circumstances are involuntary exposure to commercials and elevator music. Therefore, it can be shown that if there is no covariance—someone who dislikes bagpipes is as likely to hate elevator music as someone who despises the organ, for example—fewer than 200 individuals of the world’s total population would enjoy this piece.

My problem with this piece (listen for yourself here) is the inherent logical fallacy: That if you take undesirable elements x, y, and z and combine them, you will certainly get an unwanted piece. It’s actually not a full-proof recipe for disaster. In fact, I like certain elements in the piece and it has a solid sense of form, using repetition in a rather sophisticated way. Because the authors wanted to pack in so many parameters, the piece has wildly contrasting ideas, which adds a nice variety. All in all, it exhibits elements that are consistent with music that I (and most people) appreciate: repetition, variety, tonality, humor.

I would much prefer listening to this than a 25-minute long piece that is characterized by constantly gray, total-chromatic harmonies, one dense texture, and no repetition. Wouldn’t such a piece be considered ugly by more people than Soldier’s experiment?

As a side note: Soldier also created the “Most Wanted Song”—I think it’s worse than the Unwanted Song. Thoughts?