[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Generating a continuum of consonant to dissonant sounds

This discussion has been a nice illustration of why it is not a good idea to speak of dissonance without specifying the term more precisely. I find that is even true in the harmony classroom! Among the features that are often referred to as "dissonant" are:

1. roughness
2. beating
3. instability i.e. a sound's predilection to resolve to a different sound
4. distance from the tonic triad or another tonic chord or triad
5. any musical features that don't go together or exhibit tension, e.g. "rhythmic dissonance"
6. anything difficult to conceptualize in any realm, e.g. "cognitive dissonance"

The first two ought to involve minimal learning, although learning and context can make them more or less salient. 3 and 4 have the most to do with Western musical harmony as it is currently taught. 5 and 6 are usages that illustrate how metaphorical the word "dissonance" can be, and how difficult to pin down.

Dissonance is more or less the opposite of consonance, so it's worth mentioning that in recent music theory the status of the major and minor triads as the most stable sounds in tonal music is understood to be as much a consequence of voice leading as of the psychophysical features of triads. In other words, tonal music uses the triad because if you change one or two notes of a triad by a step and keep the rest the same, you usually get another triad. Richard Cohn is a ringleader of this view; one could look at Cohn (1997) Neo-Riemannian Operations, Parsimonious Trichords, and Their 'Tonnetz' representations. Journal of Music Theory, 41.1: 1-66.

All that aside, I think it might indeed be interesting to see how well a machine could learn to recognize one or another of the first four features on the list. So in an attempt to answer Mike Coen's original question, I would recommend:

For #2: Parncutt, R., & Strasburger, H. (1994 c). Applying psychoacoustics in composition: "Harmonic" progressions of "non-harmonic" sonorities. Perspectives of New Music, 32 (2), 1-42.

For #1-#4: I would recommend Huron (2001), Note and Tone, Music Perception as a starting place.

For #3 and #4: Lerdahl, Fred (2001), Tonal Pitch Space, Oxford University Press.

Finally, in response to the debate on Schoenberg that's been going on, Schoenberg's own views on whether dissonance was natural or learned were nuanced. James K. Wright has an excellent book covering this, called Schoenberg, Wittgenstein and the Vienna Circle (Bern: Peter Lang, 2005). Yes, the same author who worked with Al Bregman on auditory scene analysis and the control of dissonance in polyphony back in the 1980s.

Hope this helps.

Alfred Cramer
Dept. of Music
Pomona College
Claremont, CA 91711

------------------------------------------------------------- This message has been scanned by Postini anti-virus software.