Consonance and Dissonance in Musical Works

In the 16th century consonance and dissonance were strictly defined and categorized.In the 21st-century consonance and dissonance were perceived differently. Arnold Schoenberg taught that there weren’t necessarily consonant and dissonant intervals but intervals of varying degrees of intensity.With this logic, the concept of consonance and dissonance began to change and grow. Dissonance was avoided in the past, but as our ears developed, so did the perception of dissonance.

The overtone series is a series that consists of intervals that start strong and become weaker and more distantly related from the fundamental as the series continues.To say that these more distant intervals are dissonant while the stronger ones are consonant is incorrect.The more distant intervals sound dissonant partially because of their unfamiliarity to the ear.

When the ear encounters something new there is a tendency to categorize it as undesirable and avoid it.It tends to take time for new sounds to make sense to the ear. Perhaps if a wider palette of music was provided to children from birth there would be a greater acceptance of it.As so often happens in history, when new sounds enter the repertoire they are dismissed as noise. It is until the future generation picks these sounds up that the music is accepted.

Consonance and dissonance create conflict and bias in music. Seconds and Sevenths are deemed undesirable, rather than appreciating them for the sounds they produce and understand how they can be used in a composition. Rather than thinking purely in terms of one note is consonant, while another is dissonant, intervals are now seen as varying in degree of consonance an dissonance. For instance, a Perfect Fourth is a consonant, but it is less consonant than a Perfect Octave.


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