To be sure, [atonal composers] do not, contrary to their conviction, eliminate tonality; they rather avail themselves of the same trick as those sickeningly wonderful merry-go-rounds on fair grounds and in amusement parks, in which the pleasure-seeking visitor is tossed around simultaneously in circles and up and down and sideways in such fashion that even the innocent onlooker feels his insides turned into a pretzel-shaped distortion. The idea is, of course, to disturb the customer's feeling of gravitational attraction by combining at any given moment so many different forms of attraction that his sense of location cannot adjust itself fast enough.Paul Hindemith, excerpt from A Composer's World, quoted in Henry Pleasants, The Agony of Modern Music. I really like Hindemith, and because he's a much livelier writer than Pleasants (burn!), even in translation (double burn!), reading his comments was a breath of fresh air. He's wrong too, of course, but he's charming about it.
So-called atonal music, music which pretends to work without acknowledging the relationships of harmonies to tonics, acts just the same as those devilish gadgets; harmonies both in vertical and in horizontal form are arranged so that the tonics to which they refer change too rapidly. Thus we cannot adjust ourselves, cannot satisfy our desire for gravitational orientation. Again spatial dizziness is the result, this time in the sublimated realm of spatial images in our mind. I personally do not see why we should use music to produce the effect of seasickness, which can be provided more convincingly by our amusement industry. Future ages will probably never understand why music ever went into competition with so powerful an adversary.