Music is made up of consonance and dissonance

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Rognvald
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Re: Music is made up of consonance and dissonance

Post by Rognvald » Thu Jul 27, 2017 1:30 am

There is a musical definition of the above terms and there is a cultural variation that overrides these terms. Consonant sounds are considered pleasant. Dissonant sounds cause tension. However, these are Western values since much of the music in the Middle East and Far East consider "dissonant" sounds to be pleasant to the ear and are a major part of their musical communication. Here's an example of Japanese Biwagaku Music https://youtu.be/GSTMgrPN0zo and Japanese Kabuki Music https://youtu.be/du2TRSjgr-U. Playing again . . . Rognvald
"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music." Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra

Luis_Br
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Re: Music is made up of consonance and dissonance

Post by Luis_Br » Tue Aug 01, 2017 2:04 am

Consonance and dissonance are not absolute. They are relatives to each other and the tonal center key. There is no dissonance without consonance and vice-versa. A minor third is consonant and an augmented second is dissonant in a tonal music, despite they are built with the same piano keys (tempered scale). Atonal harmony rules were built to avoid generating this comparison and hierarchy, so you don't feel any dissonance or consonance (some would feel it leads to only dissonances :mrgreen: ).
Last edited by Luis_Br on Tue Aug 01, 2017 2:29 am, edited 1 time in total.

stevel
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Re: Music is made up of consonance and dissonance

Post by stevel » Tue Aug 01, 2017 2:28 am

llch wrote:
Thu Jul 27, 2017 12:57 am
To ask something that may be on the simpler aspect - could it be what used to be less traditional is now more common, say a dimished 6 chord would be less common in baroque period and after getting our ears used to it, it's now a perfectly accepted consonance?
This is generally what has happened traditionally.

In the earliest polyphonic music, the music was primarily consonant (there are some examples of dissonances being used but given the information from the time, it's not necessarily clear that they were considered bad-sounding or something, but they do seem to be fleeting and thus "less favored").

In some ways, albeit an oversimplification, the history of Western European Art Music contains a gradual acceptance of more and more dissonances.

So while we're not necessarily clear on exactly when or how or why a 3rd became an accepted consonance, it's pretty clear that it gradually became an "accepted' interval such that ultimately by the common practice period, 3rds, 6ths, and 5ths were consonant, and 4ths were consonant in certain contexts.

An interesting aside is that 4ths were previously accepted consonances but in the CPP became dissonant in certain contexts making them actually become less accepted overall. So this one went backwards so to speak.

In Jazz, we see that 7ths aren't always treated as functional dissonances and are essentially not really "tensions" anymore.

Even in Quartal Harmony, 4ths and 7ths produce structures that aren't necessarily "dissonant" or at least, treated as such.

And there's you're key word - it's really about how "dissonances" - if something can be objectively defined as such - are TREATED in music.

As time has marched on, the previous era's intervals (or harmonies, etc.) that had been TREATED as dissonances came to be TREATED as - if not consonances, at least not having the same tension, forward drive, etc. etc. (with the glaring exception of the P4th in some contexts during the CPP).

So we might still say that objectively (or at least, based on lingering CPP trappings) a 7th is "dissonant" but it certainly isn't necessary treated as such in music (at least, functional, in terms of need of resolution, forward drive, and so on).

So yes, we "get used to sounds" we hear, and just over time, accept them.

Many modern theory students are befuddled why they can't just through in a 2nd inversion triad wherever they want (or why Parallel 5ths are to be avoided).

They just "don't sound bad" to us because we've heard those things so much nothing stand out about them.

But, in Mozart's day, anyone writing things like that might be subject to being lampooned in "a musical joke" (musician in joke).

A lot of people on forums ask "why does this chord progression work" and I always delight (but really, am saddened) by all the psuedo-psychoacoustic answers given when really the answer is "because you've heard it enough times it doesn't bother you".

Same for ending a song on a 7th chord.

Palestrina wouldn't do it.

Mozart wouldn't (outside of a segue to another piece immediately following it)

Miles Davis would have no problem with it.

But, Green Day might - because it might sound "too jazzy".

Context, context, context.

xionc_proboszcz
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Re: Music is made up of consonance and dissonance

Post by xionc_proboszcz » Wed Aug 02, 2017 10:06 am

An interesting point, actually, even if the terms are quite unclear - even theoretically speaking, the 4th is normally considered a consonance, but in a counterpoint construction it is to be avoided on the downbeat as a dissonance...
I remember one handbook that discussed the melodic movement in terms of "melodic gravity", that is to say that the more natural progression is always the downwards one.
I think that our discussion overlooks the question of tonality in music. I mean - if we are talking about any kind of tendency to resolve the dissonant intervals, there has to be a notion of tonality. Otherwise, we can't really tell, what this resolution should actually be, can we? Just compare the classical harmony with Hindemith's or even with the Schenkerian analysis (which is also founded upon the resolution in the tonal space, basically).

Rasputin
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Re: Music is made up of consonance and dissonance

Post by Rasputin » Wed Aug 02, 2017 11:50 am

xionc_proboszcz wrote:
Wed Aug 02, 2017 10:06 am
An interesting point, actually, even if the terms are quite unclear - even theoretically speaking, the 4th is normally considered a consonance, but in a counterpoint construction it is to be avoided on the downbeat as a dissonance...
Sure, but I am not convinced that the fourth itself is dissonant even in those cases - isn't it more that whenever you have a fourth you are practically bound to have a dissonance between one of the notes making up the fourth and another note that is either present or is inferred by the listener, be it the fifth in a sus4 or the third and fifth in a double appogiatura / second inversion triad? Not that I really think that is the best description of what is going on. At best, trying to explain harmony directly in terms of dissonance is like trying to explain how to use a forum directly in terms of flows of electrons in your PC - possible in theory, perhaps, but not useful in practice. I'm not sure it's even possible in theory, but that's another matter.
I think that our discussion overlooks the question of tonality in music. I mean - if we are talking about any kind of tendency to resolve the dissonant intervals, there has to be a notion of tonality. Otherwise, we can't really tell, what this resolution should actually be, can we?
Dunno. You could put it the other way around and say that tonality is only possible because we already have tendency - it builds on it by weakening some natural resolutions so that a key centre can emerge.

If we wanted to explain tonality in terms of dissonance we could posit that an underlying tonic chord is always inferred by the listener, so that any other chord is dissonant in the same sense as the second inversion triad. As I say though, I don't think this is a very useful approach. I would rather keep consonance and dissonance as acoustic terms and recognise that musical principles and acoustic principles are related but separate things.

xionc_proboszcz
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Re: Music is made up of consonance and dissonance

Post by xionc_proboszcz » Wed Aug 02, 2017 3:29 pm

Rasputin wrote:
Wed Aug 02, 2017 11:50 am

Sure, but I am not convinced that the fourth itself is dissonant even in those cases - isn't it more that whenever you have a fourth you are practically bound to have a dissonance between one of the notes making up the fourth and another note that is either present or is inferred by the listener, be it the fifth in a sus4 or the third and fifth in a double appogiatura / second inversion triad? Not that I really think that is the best description of what is going on. At best, trying to explain harmony directly in terms of dissonance is like trying to explain how to use a forum directly in terms of flows of electrons in your PC - possible in theory, perhaps, but not useful in practice. I'm not sure it's even possible in theory, but that's another matter.
I would rather tend to describe the tonal harmony in terms of a kind of tension between the tonic chord and the others. The dissonances highlight this tension, make it more easily percieved. Still, I don't really think about harmony as anything more than a set of rules set from experience of generations...
If we wanted to explain tonality in terms of dissonance we could posit that an underlying tonic chord is always inferred by the listener, so that any other chord is dissonant in the same sense as the second inversion triad. As I say though, I don't think this is a very useful approach. I would rather keep consonance and dissonance as acoustic terms and recognise that musical principles and acoustic principles are related but separate things.
The second inversion doesn't sound dissonant to me, to be honest. It is contextually understood as a double suspension, sure, but still - the chord as such is just a consonant chord without any additional guiding elements.
As far as the last sentence goes - fully agreed. And don't get me wrong - I fully appreciate both approaches, even if I tend (due to my personal experience) to describe things in terms of music theory. :)

Rasputin
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Re: Music is made up of consonance and dissonance

Post by Rasputin » Wed Aug 02, 2017 3:59 pm

xionc_proboszcz wrote:
Wed Aug 02, 2017 3:29 pm
The second inversion doesn't sound dissonant to me, to be honest. It is contextually understood as a double suspension, sure, but still - the chord as such is just a consonant chord without any additional guiding elements.
No, it doesn't really sound dissonant to me, either, although I have seen it described that way. I just meant that if we were determined to try to explain why it has been described as dissonant when, as you say, in itself it is a perfectly consonant chord, there is an explanation we could give that could also be used to explain tonality. I would rather say that it has a particular harmonic status that is not really anything to do with dissonance.

xionc_proboszcz
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Re: Music is made up of consonance and dissonance

Post by xionc_proboszcz » Wed Aug 02, 2017 5:19 pm

Rasputin wrote:
Wed Aug 02, 2017 3:59 pm
No, it doesn't really sound dissonant to me, either, although I have seen it described that way. I just meant that if we were determined to try to explain why it has been described as dissonant when, as you say, in itself it is a perfectly consonant chord, there is an explanation we could give that could also be used to explain tonality. I would rather say that it has a particular harmonic status that is not really anything to do with dissonance.
Well, in this framework you are right, of course. I think that a tritone with all its ambiguity (as long as it's isolated) could be a good example of this "particular harmonic status" with no connection to the dissonance whatsoever.
Anyway - it is always the question of the language of the description, isn't it?

PeteJ
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Re: Music is made up of consonance and dissonance

Post by PeteJ » Thu Oct 05, 2017 11:59 am

The musicologist Hans Keller was big on this one and wrote much about it with particular reference to Haydn, who plays around with our expectations in wonderful ways. Well worth reading. This is the guy who when head of R3 set up a fake performance wholly improvised in the studio and broadcast it as a original work by a new composer. garnering lengthy learned reviews from the critics on this wonderful new talent. Was a top psychoanalysts and wrote a football column for the Daily Mail, Interesting guy and hot on the use of tension and relaxation as a dynamic force.

Difficult to pin down since what constitutes dissonance varies with fashion and taste so changes over time. The major third was considered dissonant for a long time but nowadays almost any harmony can be considered consonant depending on the style.

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