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Is dissonance resolving to consonance a "natural" phenomenon . . .?
#367451 05/25/06 12:21 PM
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Is dissonance resolving to consonance a “natural” phonomenon, or is it an acculturated acquisition? Would it be possible to acculturate a child to hear consonance as a bitter, unpleasant, nasty sound . . . a sound that wants to resolve to a restful, peaceful, dissonance?

How we hear dissonance and consonance is not all acculturation, as there is a difference. Harmonies are not equivalent neutral sounds. There is a scientific explanation for dissonance and consonance with which I’m sure many of us are familiar. It has to do with the ratio of vibrations per second when two pitches are simultaneously sounded, and the resultant moire patterns, which we hear as the “beats” the piano tuner employs. The more beats per second, the more dissonant the sound.

But this still doesn’t address the question of dissonance resolving to consonance as a “natural” phonomenon, or an acculturated acquisiton. Personally, I’m willing to entertain the rather far out notion that a child could be acculturated to hear consonance resolving to dissonance . . .

. . . but I highly doubt it. I’m fairly convinced, and all the evidence I’ve seen throughout my life points to this, that dissonance resolving to consonance is in the “natural” order of things.

If we accept dissonance resolving to consonance as being “natural,” than we can say that there is a natural basis to the triadic harmony of the classical music tradition.

And further, we can say that the dodecaphonics are employing a totally artificial system which has no basis whatsoever in nature. This is not to find fault, and makes it neither good nor bad. Sort of like when Lenin attempted to impose an artificial system on Russia and all of eastern Europe.

Tomasino


"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do so with all thy might." Ecclesiastes 9:10

Re: Is dissonance resolving to consonance a "natural" phenomenon . . .?
#367452 05/25/06 12:29 PM
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I think it's all down to conditioning. If you exposed a child to only atonal music (or only music with unresolved dissonance) and didn't teach them about cadences and functional harmony, etc, then you might find that they would accept as normality. At the same time they might still reject it (as it doesn't sound 'nice') and realise that even though they don't know the theory behind it, there is a difference to this kind of music compared to diatonic music in a recognisable tonal idiom, and they don't like it. So basicaly, I have no idea!

Although having said that, doesn't Indian music use microtonality sometimes? That is a pretty hard concept to grasp (certainly for me) but from what I understand, it is quite common in Indian classical music and their treatment of ragas. They almost have their own set of rules with regard to harmony (dictated by the treatment of ragas..) and they seem to alienate you a bit if you are not familiar with them.

Re: Is dissonance resolving to consonance a "natural" phenomenon . . .?
#367453 05/25/06 01:21 PM
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I don't believe that Indian music employs harmony in our sense of the word. A sitar has some sympathetic strings which would give the sound some volume and body, and a little sense of a tonic--sort of like a pedal tone gives a sense of tonic. But beyond that, I don't really think "harmony" applies to classical Indian music.

Tomasino


"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do so with all thy might." Ecclesiastes 9:10

Re: Is dissonance resolving to consonance a "natural" phenomenon . . .?
#367454 05/25/06 01:24 PM
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Tomasino,

That theory you mention - and other older ones that I have read about - take into consideration one kind of dissonance: intervals. Certain intervals are considered to be dissonant, while others are considered to be consonant.

However, there is another kind of dissonance, and this has to do with dissonance within tonality. Suppose a classical sonata is in the key of C Major - it basically revolves around the notes of the C Major triad, and most especially the tonic (C) and dominant (G). When listening to a piece in C Major, we (perhaps have been trained to) remember the tonic and dominant, and this is where dissonance comes in: suppose one is playing all these scalar passages and ends up stopping on a D - that will sound very dissonant, because we want to end on the C, which is the tonic. Suppose one is doing these scalar passages and ends up stopping on F; this will sound very dissonant, even though C-F is a perfect fourth, because we want it to resolve to either E or G (depending on the direction of the passage).

Suppose you're at the end of the piece and you want to end with a cadence: the piece is in C Major, but you end with the note G. Well, that's the dominant, and it's a perfect fifth above C (or a perfect fourth below C), which is a consonant interval, but it will sound very, very dissonant and unsettling, because we need it to resolve to that tonic note C.


Sam
Re: Is dissonance resolving to consonance a "natural" phenomenon . . .?
#367455 05/25/06 01:28 PM
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There is a study that I read about which you might find interesting.

The researches gathered a large group of people (I don't remember how many people; maybe 100 or so) and played for them (each person individually) a random series of intervals. Each person had to then say if the interval was consonant or dissonant (without knowing exactly what the interval was called).

The results? Unison was unanimously considered consonant. All of the intervals between unison and minor third were mostly considered dissonant. Every single interval above a minor third was considered almost unanimously to be consonant.

The source for this was a textbook that I used in a "Physics of Music" course last fall, called "Measured Tones."


Sam
Re: Is dissonance resolving to consonance a "natural" phenomenon . . .?
#367456 05/25/06 02:10 PM
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Originally posted by tomasino:
I don't believe that Indian music employs harmony in our sense of the word. A sitar has some sympathetic strings which would give the sound some volume and body, and a little sense of a tonic--sort of like a pedal tone gives a sense of tonic. But beyond that, I don't really think "harmony" applies to classical Indian music.

Tomasino
Yeah, that is what I was getting at - we can't accurately analyse it using the Western classical music idiom, therefore it falls into a 'grey area' and we listen for things that are recognisable, and 'listen through' the rest. I think a lot people do the same thing with atonal or dissonant music. I heard a piece for string quartet by a recent female composer (name has escaped me, I think someone will know her) comprised entirely of glissandos - and when I listened to it I was unconsciously listening for moments of consonance when the pitches match up. However hypothetically if I was conditioned to atonality, then perhaps it would be the other way round? I'm getting confused with myself :rolleyes:

"Every single interval above a minor third was considered almost unanimously to be consonant."

Well, both minor seconds and major seconds are intervals that resolve well - when you hear it in a piece, you expect it to resolve (eg - FG to EG). However if they dont, then because they are so close together it has a very strong dissonant effect. Even with intervals like dimuinished 5ths, etc, they aren't so dissonant on their own because you could hear it (emphasis on could!) as part of a 7th chord - C-F# could be seen as an imcomplete Ab-major 7th chord. C-D is much less distuingishable as part of a 7th chord. This is just me rambling though wink

Re: Is dissonance resolving to consonance a "natural" phenomenon . . .?
#367457 05/25/06 02:15 PM
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Hi Sam,

I agree with all of your descriptions about how we feel unsatisfied when the scale doesn't complete itself, and does not end on a point of harmonic resolution. But there it is, "harmonic resolution." As you suggested in your first post, "we (perhaps have been trained to) remember the tonic and dominant." I agree with that, and so the dissonance isn't a matter of the scale, but is a matter of the scale's relationship to the underlying harmony, whether the harmony is sounded or not.

The research you cite in your second post is interesting, but I'm a little confused by it. Were the intervals played together, or one after the other?

Tomasino

Tomasino


"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do so with all thy might." Ecclesiastes 9:10

Re: Is dissonance resolving to consonance a "natural" phenomenon . . .?
#367458 05/25/06 02:27 PM
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Sam,

I googled "measured tones." It's by a man named Ian Johnston. There's a web site that goes along with it that looks interesting. Thanks for the citation.

Tomasino


"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do so with all thy might." Ecclesiastes 9:10

Re: Is dissonance resolving to consonance a "natural" phenomenon . . .?
#367459 05/25/06 02:59 PM
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Yes, the book is by Ian Johnston. I couldn't remember his name.

In the study, the notes of the intervals were played together, and the subjects were asked if each interval sounded pleasant (consonant) or unpleasant (dissonant).

Of course, the intervals were entirely out of context, but it was interesting to see that, for example, almost all subjects though a major 7th sounded pleasant and consonant, and almost all subjects thought a major 9th sounded pleasant and consonant.


Sam
Re: Is dissonance resolving to consonance a "natural" phenomenon . . .?
#367460 05/25/06 04:30 PM
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Surely that has something to do with how (I think) two frequencies resonate more when they are close together? Like when you hear a violin playing slightly flat to a piano.

Re: Is dissonance resolving to consonance a "natural" phenomenon . . .?
#367461 05/25/06 04:54 PM
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Originally posted by tomasino:
Is dissonance resolving to consonance a “natural” phonomenon, or is it an acculturated acquisition? Would it be possible to acculturate a child to hear consonance as a bitter, unpleasant, nasty sound . . . a sound that wants to resolve to a restful, peaceful, dissonance?

How we hear dissonance and consonance is not all acculturation, as there is a difference. Harmonies are not equivalent neutral sounds. There is a scientific explanation for dissonance and consonance with which I’m sure many of us are familiar. It has to do with the ratio of vibrations per second when two pitches are simultaneously sounded, and the resultant moire patterns, which we hear as the “beats” the piano tuner employs. The more beats per second, the more dissonant the sound.

But this still doesn’t address the question of dissonance resolving to consonance as a “natural” phonomenon, or an acculturated acquisiton. Personally, I’m willing to entertain the rather far out notion that a child could be acculturated to hear consonance resolving to dissonance . . .

. . . but I highly doubt it. I’m fairly convinced, and all the evidence I’ve seen throughout my life points to this, that dissonance resolving to consonance is in the “natural” order of things.

If we accept dissonance resolving to consonance as being “natural,” than we can say that there is a natural basis to the triadic harmony of the classical music tradition.

And further, we can say that the dodecaphonics are employing a totally artificial system which has no basis whatsoever in nature. This is not to find fault, and makes it neither good nor bad. Sort of like when Lenin attempted to impose an artificial system on Russia and all of eastern Europe.

Tomasino
You pose some very interesting questions that I've certainly thought about before, and up until your last paragraph, you actually managed to avoid sounding prejudiced, ignorant, and narrow-minded. It's obvious you already have your mind made up, and I'm certainly not prepared to change a 60 year old man's opinion. You've had these rather commonplace, misguided, superficial notions about atonal music for your entrie life, and at this point I'm not really concerned with trying to persuade you to reconsider your rather archaic opninons. Luckily, other people read this board too.

The fact is, we don't know whether or not a child could be accultured to find consonances resolving to dissonances aesthetically pleasing or to prefer atonal music over tonal music. I'm fairly confident it could be done in individual cases, and I've heard anecdotes which I'm not sure are actually true that do in fact provide examples of this happening (I heard a story once that Nicolas Slonimsky had a daughter whom he raised to only listen to serialist music, and when she first heard tonal music in her teens, it sounded foreign and revolting...again, I can't prove this and I'm not sure of its validity). Regardless, I think the more pressing question for you is whether or not this could be done on a large scale. I would say, probably so, but 1) it likely will never be attempted and 2) who cares anyway.

I think people often approach the nature vs. nurture debate from too extreme an angle. They tend to think every characteristic humans have is either 100% innate or 100% conditioned. This is certainly not true, and in fact, I would go as far to say that almost NOTHING is completely one or the other. For example, lots of people are born with more of a capacity to be intelligent, but are never taught or challenged to reach their potential. Others are born less priveledged, but work to develop strengths and overcome their weaknesses. In the same way there are probably lots of people out their had greater capacities to become piano virtuosos than Horowitz or Rubinstein, but never touched a piano in their lives. At the same time, there are lots of people who weren't born with as much natural talent as certain people and yet became even better, more successful pianists.

I think the same is true of a person's innate sense of harmony. 'Innate' tendencies are affected by plenty of 'conditioned' thinking and acting, consequently blurring what is and what isn't INNATE. Therefore, I might be born to like tonal music, but grow to dislike it when I'm older.

Also, people's taste have evolved over the last few centuries so that the average person's innate tastes and predispositions today are different than they were back then. I'm fairly certain that a person born in America today is innately more predisposed to find traditional Western tonality more pleasing than a person born in medieval France in 1156 A.D. At the same time I bet that a person born in America today is less predisposed to traditional Western tonality than somebody born in Vienna in 1803. My point is that what is "innate" or "natural" is constantly shifting from person to person, and from generation to generation, so it's hard to make overarching claims about what is in fact natural.

But let us think for a moment.

Now let's say that we did in fact have INDISPUTABLE evidence that in fact traditional classical, I-V-I, western harmony centered is innate and everyone who has ever been born has been born with very similar predispositions and inclinations to find only these flavors of harmony pleasing at first hearing. WHO CARES!

I repeat: WHO CARES? WHO CARES? WHO CARES?

THAT IS AN IRRELEVANT PIECE OF INFORMATION!

Just because something is innate, doesn't mean it's correct. Just because something is natural, doesn't mean it's right. Just because we give certain predisposed human characteristics value, doesn't mean that every characteristic that relies more on conditioning can't have value. That's right, I'm saying the same thing over and over again, so maybe people will start to get it.

Besides, that whole "natural argument," and yes, you're making that often oversimplified, hackneyed "natural argument," can work both ways. Just as we are innately predisposed to certain tendencies and attributess, we are also innately predisposed to develop tendencies and attributes that AREN'T inherent. For example, it is in our innate capacity to LEARN, to develop TASTES, to CREATE. Now we have created certain restrictions on how we can act with what we learn and what we are allowed to create, in order to maintain a functioning society...

Here's the biggie though:

MUSIC IS NOT SOCIETY. MUSIC IS FREEDOM WITHOUT RESTRICTION. MUSIC IS NOT CAPITALISM. MUSIC IS NOT COMMUNISM. MUSIC IS ART.

We have the "innate capacity" to create art, and some would say that it is our most cherished quality.

STOP PUTTING RESTRICTIONS ON ART! ART IS NOT SOCIETY!

We also have the innate ability to make value judgements. Value judgements are rooted on that wonderful construction called "reason." Now value judgements can be both constructive and destructive. Sometimes value judgements in politics can be very destructive, and it is sometimes very necessary and meaningful to have negative value judgements, like "War is bad."

So again I repeat: MUSIC IS NOT POLITICS.

Music is inherently subjective, it is based on pure abstraction. Sure, these frequencies may have been around since the beginning of the universe, but the way we put them together HAS NOT. Having said that, we also create edifices and institutions which support certain kinds of music which carry the implication that certain sounds are better than other sounds. In this way negative value judgements can be constructive in creating a common musical discourse in which we can speak intelligently and critically about the process of composing and performing certain kinds of music. But we must all remember that we have created these musical statutes, but they are not universal, and they are constantly subject to change.

Now Tomasino, you are trying to apply your negative value judgements (that's fine) to music in a DESTRUCTIVE MANNER. Now there is absolutely NO PLACE IN MUSIC to make destructive claims, especially when they are based on a very weak logical foundation. These are the kind of claim that say "this music doesn't sound good because of reason X for which I have no evidence, THEREFORE this music is HARMFUL TO OUR MUSICAL TRADITION." ICK! AGHHH! WRONG! NOOOOOO! BAD!!!!!!!

I know that now you're going to point to this statement:

"This is not to find fault, and makes it neither good nor bad. Sort of like when Lenin attempted to impose an artificial system on Russia and all of eastern Europe."

But I know what you are trying to imply here, because I read your other post on the "common distaste for Schoenberg." You're trying to say Schoenberg and the Second Viennese School are responsible for the downfall of western classial music, and THAT, my friend, is simply MISGUIDED, DESTRUCTIVE, and HYPOCRITCAL for all the reasons for which I have already written at length in these two threads.

Now please, be a MAN, and face up to this criticism, and don't try to cop out by just referring to other irrelevant entries that you have already posted on this site which only repeat the same inflammatory mumbo-jumbo you've been spouting all along.

As for the rest of you, I realize my posts are long, but I get the feeling nobody (with the exception of a few) is actually reading them in order to come up with potentally valuable rebuttals. Please, we will all benefit if I get real, intelligent, logical responses that face up to my arguments.

Thank you.


“The first question I ask myself when something doesn't seem to be beautiful is why do I think it's not beautiful? And very shortly you discover that there is no reason.”
-John Cage
Re: Is dissonance resolving to consonance a "natural" phenomenon . . .?
#367462 05/25/06 05:20 PM
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I've been reading about this is a sense.

I like to study the history of music, especially jazz, and read a book recently (I can't remember the name) that touched on this.

I think we have to remember that while European music has advanced mostly based on harmonies, India/African music is based on rhythm and melody. So if a person has grown up listening to harmonically inclined music, (What we would call tonal) we would naturally consider rhythmically and melodically inclined music "bad"

African drumming sounds messy, unclean, and just like random notes being hit, but if you read about it and study it and try to do it, you find it amazingly complex and our western system of notation just simply cannot write it down for us to analyze it. The same goes with Indian tabla drumming.

Re: Is dissonance resolving to consonance a "natural" phenomenon . . .?
#367463 05/25/06 05:39 PM
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Originally posted by DaWF:
I've been reading about this is a sense.

I like to study the history of music, especially jazz, and read a book recently (I can't remember the name) that touched on this.

I think we have to remember that while European music has advanced mostly based on harmonies, India/African music is based on rhythm and melody. So if a person has grown up listening to harmonically inclined music, (What we would call tonal) we would naturally consider rhythmically and melodically inclined music "bad"

African drumming sounds messy, unclean, and just like random notes being hit, but if you read about it and study it and try to do it, you find it amazingly complex and our western system of notation just simply cannot write it down for us to analyze it. The same goes with Indian tabla drumming.
Very true. I think that cultural relativist philosphy certainly applies to music, while it may be dangerous to politics. Let's work within the tradition we have created, always being open to changes and influences from different musical traditions and perspectives, and NEVER believing that our tradition is superior just because we're part of it.


“The first question I ask myself when something doesn't seem to be beautiful is why do I think it's not beautiful? And very shortly you discover that there is no reason.”
-John Cage

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