Here's an interesting passage from Derek Parfit's On What Matters (p. 53)--
Many people hate the sound of squeaking chalk. I hate the feeling of touching velvet, the sound of buzzing house-flies, and the flattening, deadening effect of some overhead lights. The oddness of these dislikes does not make me less than fully rational. Whether we like, dislike, or are indifferent to these various sensations, we are not responding or failing to respond to any reasons.
Similar remarks apply, I believe, to many aesthetic experiences. It is sometimes claimed that we have reasons to enjoy, or be thrilled or in other ways moved by, great artistic works. In many cases, I believe, this claim is false. We can have reasons to want to enjoy, or be thrilled or moved by, these artistic works. But these are not reasons to enjoy, or to be thrilled or moved by, these works. We do have reasons to admire some novels, plays or poems, given the importance of some of the ideas that they express. But poetry is what gets lost in the translation, even if this translation expresses the same ideas. And we never have reasons to enjoy, or be moved by, great music. If we ask what makes some musical passage so marvellous, the answer might be ‘Three modulations to distant keys’. This answer describes a cause of our response to this music, not a reason. Modulations to distant keys are like the herbs, spices, or other ingredients that can make food delicious. When someone neither enjoys nor is moved by some great musical work, this person is not in any way less than fully rational, by failing to respond to certain reasons.I recently discussed a Fleet Foxes song ("He Doesn't Know Why") with my brother, who is a music professor and cellist. Here it is (just audio) for your listening pleasure--
I wanted my brother to explain in music theory terms why I find this song so beautiful, and he had quite a lot to say about it. I now have a couple of pages of notes that do have some explanatory oomph--stuff about stability, instability, chords, etc. I want to stress: this was pretty illuminating.
Do the notes give me a reason to like "He Doesn't Know Why"? I think Parfit might be right about this--the musical elements my brother identified really are a lot like the spices in food. You could find out it was the cumin that made you like a certain curry so much, but the cumin wouldn't give you a reason to like it.
And yet, and yet ... knowledgeable people seem to be able to tell us why we should like some music and not like other music. In fact, my brother told me (fairly politely) that I shouldn't actually like Fleet Foxes so much. He said they sing out of tune, for example. Should I notice that and respond negatively? Is that a reason not to like them, or just a cause of his being not-enamored?
Not ... sure. But I'm going to listen to some more Fleet Foxes while I think about it. Here's another great song from their first album--"Your Protector."