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Dissonance

Dissonance
September 05, 2008, 02:31:13 PM
Gilboa, Avi; Amir, Dorit; Bodner, Ehud, 'The Unexpected Side-Effects of Dissonance', Psychology of Music 35:2 (April 2007) p. 286-305.

Quote
A study is presented that examined the effects of dissonant and consonant music on cognitive performance. Situational dissonance and consonance were also tested and determined as the state where one's opinion is contrasted or matched with the majority's opinion, respectively. Subjects performed several cognitive tasks while listening to a melody arranged dissonantly, consonantly, or under silence. Prior to hearing the music, subjects were given "worldwide opinions" of the music they were about to hear: adequate information, inadequate information, or neutral information. The results showed that dissonant situations (musical as well as situational) improved cognitive abilities. This was found under different cognitive loads. A possible explanation involves recalibration of the dissonance-consonance continuum with arousal. It may be that dissonance brings arousal to optimal levels, thus sharpening concentration. The author includes a discussion on ways to expand the understanding of dissonance and its effects on performance and cognition.

Like a desperate deer struggling to escape a predator, it makes sense that when we are at odds with our surroundings, we are most alert. The power chord is one of the most consonant intervals on its own, but its tonality, function and sonority in extreme metal is overwhelmingly of a dissonance nature. Unlike pop/rock music, the phrases rarely resolve quickly, denying the brain a chance to settle into a mode of relaxation. This instability creates momentum, demanding a level of concentration which must anticipate, sometimes for long periods of time, some kind of resolution to a situation where release of tension is achieved (inevitable by laws of quantum theory and entropy). Extreme metal requires more of the listener by suspending this resolution and as such can be used as a tool towards self-improvement, but like in classical music, the short-attention span listener who is unable to follow the plot will be lost for the ultimate pay-off. 

Re: Dissonance
September 05, 2008, 08:42:01 PM
they're still relative terms, dissonance and consonance.  was there anything about what music was selected for each category?

Re: Dissonance
September 11, 2008, 12:05:02 AM
they're not relative terms, it's a scientifically explained concept having to do with the frequencies between notes. consonant notes' wavelengths match up with a minimum of interference, i think.

Re: Dissonance
September 11, 2008, 08:57:39 PM
If consonance and dissonance are relative terms then all western musical theory counts for nothing. The idea of the tonic leading to the dominant, which is one of the strongest staples of classical music means nothing, the idea of a resolution by returning to the tonic means nothing, the fifth and the octave as strong harmonies means nothing. If they are relative terms then everything is aas consonant as everything else, im sure few would agree that Bach is more dissonant then Schoenberg.

the idea of music as a set of strong mathematical principles as existed since Pythagoras, since then many aspects of music have never thought to be subjective. 

Re: Dissonance
September 12, 2008, 01:10:54 PM
If consonance and dissonance are relative terms then all western musical theory counts for nothing. The idea of the tonic leading to the dominant, which is one of the strongest staples of classical music means nothing, the idea of a resolution by returning to the tonic means nothing, the fifth and the octave as strong harmonies means nothing. If they are relative terms then everything is aas consonant as everything else, im sure few would agree that Bach is more dissonant then Schoenberg.

the idea of music as a set of strong mathematical principles as existed since Pythagoras, since then many aspects of music have never thought to be subjective. 

Have a read through this (ripped from wikipedo). You've got most of the theory right, but there are always specific exceptions when it comes to frequency ratios, that have meant that harmony has always been somewhat subjective.

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In equal temperament, and most other modern tunings of the chromatic scale, pairs of enharmonic notes such as E flat and D sharp are thought of as being the same note — however, as the above table indicates, in Pythagorean tuning, they theoretically have different ratios, and are at a different frequency. This discrepancy, of about 23.5 cents, or one quarter of a semitone, is known as a Pythagorean comma.

To get around this problem, Pythagorean tuning uses the above 12 notes from E flat to G sharp shown above, and then places above the G sharp another E flat, starting the sequence again. This leaves the interval G#—Eb sounding badly out of tune, meaning that any music which combines those two notes is unplayable in this tuning. A very out of tune interval such as this one is known as a wolf interval. In the case of Pythagorean tuning, all the fifths are 701.96 cents wide, in the exact ratio 3:2, except the wolf fifth, which is only 678.49 cents wide, nearly a quarter of a semitone flatter.

If the notes G# and Eb need to be sounded together, the position of the wolf fifth can be changed (for example, the above table could run from A to E, making that the wolf interval instead of Eb to G#). However, there will always be one wolf fifth in Pythagorean tuning, making it impossible to play in all keys in tune.

Because of the wolf interval, this tuning is rarely used nowadays, although it is thought to have been widespread. In music which does not change key very often, or which is not very harmonically adventurous, the wolf interval is unlikely to be a problem, as not all the possible fifths will be heard in such pieces.

Because fifths in Pythagorean tuning are in the simple ratio of 3:2, they sound very "smooth" and consonant. The thirds, by contrast, which are in the relatively complex ratios of 81:64 (for major thirds) and 32:27 (for minor thirds), sound less smooth. For this reason, Pythagorean tuning is particularly well suited to music which treats fifths as consonances, and thirds as dissonances. In western classical music, this usually means music written prior to the 15th century. As thirds came to be treated as consonances, so meantone temperament, and particularly quarter-comma meantone, which tunes thirds to the relatively simple ratio of 5:4, became more popular. However, meantone still has a wolf interval, so is not suitable for all music.

From around the 18th century, as the need grew for instruments to change key, and therefore to avoid a wolf interval, this led to the widespread use of well temperaments and eventually equal temperament.

Also, spread over a number of octaves (seven, or twelve, I can't remember right now...) the tonic actually becomes dissonant with itself. That the harmonic ratio works but "only within a specific frame of x number of octaves", is just about the best example of the subjectivity of Pythagoras' basis for harmony.

This is nothing as radical as saying that dissonance is only perceived through pre-conceived ideas of "sounding nice", but it does mean that the idea of solid harmonic fundamentals is itself a dubious claim, (though one that we accept thanks to our relatively weak distinction between frequency changes).  Order from chaos!

Re: Dissonance
September 12, 2008, 11:52:00 PM
Instruments in ancient greece were in pythagorean tuning.  As explained above, the temperament is quite different, based on the natural overtone series.  A pythagorean octave is actually quite sharp, and over multiple octaves the harmony can be rather shrill.  But this was their chosen tuning system in ancient times.  When the equal-tempered piano came on the scene (by Bach i think, but not quite sure?), I'm sure some thought it was alien, or at least very "modern" and "novel." 

Far Eastern civilizations made music largely in the pentatonic scale, but there is also another vocabulary of sound utilized that, to be honest, I fail to understand.  If you were to play an ancient chinese opera, I wouldn't be able to tell whether it is meant to convey joy, loss, or any other emotion.  It would just sound out of tune and random.  In other words: dissonant.

Middle Eastern cultures use a microtonal system for melodies.  A scale can regularly dip into quarter and even eighth tones.  Again, this level of complexity is not suited to the western ear, and there is more than just a simple language barrier seperating us from understanding of this type of music.

I think it's proven that dissonance is a subjective term; and beyond it's strict music theory meaning, there is an implication of inscrutability which can be found in more styles of music than just modern classical.  It really does come down to the local culture.

Re: Dissonance
September 16, 2008, 12:48:35 AM
I always thought dissonance was considered by the grating overlap of different frequencies?

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f9/Dissonance-a220-a440-notated.jpg

I'm sure you mean that the way "dissonance" and "consonance" are applied to music is subjective, but Middle Eastern and Far Eastern music literally is dissonant, and they just appreciate it in a way that most Westerners can't.

All of the intervals used most widely in Western music (like the perfect fifth) happen to be the most consonant ones, at least according to that chart, but in the past they obviously didn't have spectral analysis like that. Regardless, they got pretty damn close.

chb

Re: Dissonance
September 16, 2008, 07:22:57 PM
It is true that some intervals are more consonant because the frequency ratios between the notes are simpler. In general, the unison, octave, fifth and fourth are always considered consonant. However, which intervals are considered dissonant varies. Thirds and sixths were deemed dissonant intervals in medieval music, but nowadays people consider them to be very consonant intervals.

Re: Dissonance
September 22, 2008, 02:01:38 AM
Yeah, the quote about the xperiment was pretty vague about what was used for "dissonant" music.  It could be Schoenberg, or it could be a hardcore punk band that "feels" dissonant even if it's composed completely of power chords.