Some research in neuroscience appears to support the claim that confusion, resulting from listening to postwar avantgarde atonal works, is not due to lack of musical understanding and a conservative taste, but the logical result of works without structural patterns that relate to the mind’s hardwired, pattern-seeking abilities. But of course, acculturation plays a role, but not the only one.
“Much of what the brain does is to anticipate the future. Predicting what happens next has obvious survival value, and brains are remarkably adept at anticipating events. We measured the predictability of tone sequences in music by Arnold Schoenberg and Anton Webern and found the successive pitches were less predictable than random tone sequences.” (My stresses added, JB.)
“Mozart and Bach have similar levels of complexity as Schoenberg, but those complexities are in different musical domains. Their music is very information dense. I would question how much of the familiarity with the music of Mozart and Bach has to do with culturalisation rather than an innate cognitive inability to understand the music of composers like Schoenberg. Certain people can learn to appreciate it.”