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Topic: Your reflections about dissonance in music

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  1. #1

    Your reflections about dissonance in music

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    I just noticed a few people picked Bartok's "Concerto for Orchestra" as one of their favorites, and i concur on this choice a truly beautiful work.
    Reflecting on that work made me think back to the first time i heard it, it was at a time when contempory classical music was totally new to my ears, so all the major master pieces were introduced to me all at once.
    The Schoenberg school, the different stages of Stravinski, Hindemith all at the same time. What seems strange to me now is that i can still remember thinking that the more neo-classical stuff, like Prokovief's, Romeo+ Juliet, Shostakovich's 7th symphony were atonal !!!
    My ear totally freaked out when i first heard Schoenberg so i couldnt even distinguish between even lesser levels of dissonance,the more radical stuff was so far away from my ear that it made no difference at all, because even the less radical was beyond me at that time.
    Off course now Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra seems almost popular the language has totally entered my Unconscious so to speak. What are your reflections on how your ear and musical experience developed?

  2. #2

    Re: Your reflections about dissonance in music

    I played guitar in high school and learned I, IV and V really well. Then I discovered Bach's organ music and even saw Virgil Fox and the Filmore East. After that it was a voyage of discovery and there's plenty of fine music to be found. However, Milton Babbit, Elliot Carter and the like just never spoke to me. HPSCHD was just so much noise. I could make sense of Stravinsky and Bartok, the harmony while stretched had tonal centers that allowed me to perceive movement and progression. I never got that with the atonal stuff, that always sounded static with increases in volume or speed, but never motion. It was just noise. From this I've concluded I have no use for atonal music, but I love dissonance, there just has to be a reason for it.

    Does that help?

    Steve

  3. #3

    Re: Your reflections about dissonance in music

    I kinda agree

    To me music is like food. When your young you just want the sweet things but as your taste's develop you get a little more adventurous. However tweleve tone is like eating a bowl of raw chillies.


    (except for Berg)

    ed

  4. #4

    Re: Your reflections about dissonance in music

    Quote Originally Posted by pantonality
    I played guitar in high school and learned I, IV and V really well. Then I discovered Bach's organ music and even saw Virgil Fox and the Filmore East. After that it was a voyage of discovery and there's plenty of fine music to be found. However, Milton Babbit, Elliot Carter and the like just never spoke to me. HPSCHD was just so much noise. I could make sense of Stravinsky and Bartok, the harmony while stretched had tonal centers that allowed me to perceive movement and progression. I never got that with the atonal stuff, that always sounded static with increases in volume or speed, but never motion. It was just noise. From this I've concluded I have no use for atonal music, but I love dissonance, there just has to be a reason for it.

    Does that help?

    Steve
    I think its also an issue of Culture and Psychology. To many notes is a common complaint against composers who were ahead of their time, and i believe this is caused by the Density of thought not entering the unconscious level suffiecently enough to cause recognition of the language, that is why i reflected on the Bartok piece because i remember a time when the musical language was alien even though i took a liking to it from the start as with the Rite of Spring.

    The problem is how do you differentiate noise from dissonance levels that are advanced, or how do we determine appropriate dissonance levels.

  5. #5

    Re: Your reflections about dissonance in music

    I think Dissonance is "distorted Consanace". Otherwise it's just noise.

    ed

  6. #6

    Re: Your reflections about dissonance in music

    You know Charles I'm not sure I agree. The best composers take a multilayered approach, there's something the average listener can grasp and appreciate, but there's also sophistication that requires a more nuanced ear. This is what makes Le Sacre and the Bartok Concerto masterpieces. Another example could be Barber's Adagio, its lucious and grippingly emotional, but what heightens the emotional impact is the way Barber stretches the harmonic progression. What an impatient composer would fit into 8 bars he stretches into 32, but effectively. The voice leading is exquisite too.

    My issue with atonal music is that with atonality an effort os made to avoid or obfuscate completely references to tonal centers. Wagner does this to some degree, but the lucious beauty of his hermony makes it delicious. When the predominant harmonic language is unrelentingly dissonant the lack of tonal centers causes the music to become incomprehensible noise to my ear.

    So I've decided that I require either tonal centers to allow the dissonances to be acceptable sign posts in the harmonic progression or less dissonant harmony which allows me to more freely obfuscate the harmony. Or some combination of the two. that's why I chose the moniker Pantonality because I like having a freer sense of harmony but maintaining some semblance of tonality as opposed to none.

    If you look at the intervals we generally find consonant they are close harmonically and share overtones. Generally dissonant intervals do not share overtones. Throw a lot of dissonant intervals together and the randomness of the overall combination of sound waves can begin to approach noise.

    I'll stop ranting now.

    Steve Chandler
    http://www.audiostreet.net/stevechandler
    http://www.soundclick.com/stevechandler

  7. #7

    Re: Your reflections about dissonance in music

    Steve how do you explain Indian and Eastern musical traditions?
    If what your saying is essential to our sense of beauty and how we identify with cultural symbols than why have other older cultures not adapted the western sense of time and harmony?

  8. #8

    Re: Your reflections about dissonance in music

    Hi Charles,

    I can't claim great familiarity with Indian and other musical traditions. What I have heard has had generally thinner textures than your typical orchestral piece. I find high levels of dissonance much easier to tolerate in thinner textures. However, I'm not sure what you're saying, you don't characterize Indian and eastern musical traditions. Heck Arab ears often deal with quarter tones, but the music is often a single melodic line. You mentioned very general terms very briefly, try to be more detailed and specific.

    Steve

  9. #9

    Re: Your reflections about dissonance in music

    Quote Originally Posted by pantonality
    Hi Charles,

    I can't claim great familiarity with Indian and other musical traditions. What I have heard has had generally thinner textures than your typical orchestral piece. I find high levels of dissonance much easier to tolerate in thinner textures. However, I'm not sure what you're saying, you don't characterize Indian and eastern musical traditions. Heck Arab ears often deal with quarter tones, but the music is often a single melodic line. You mentioned very general terms very briefly, try to be more detailed and specific.

    Steve
    Difficult really to discuss within the limitations of a forum, but these are just my reflections. I thnk it was Goethe who said that "Architecture is Frozen Music".

    Now i dont know if your familiar with Australian Aboriginal music, and i dont claim to be an expert, but if you are familar with the digeridoo and the unbelievable sparsness of the interior of Australia, you will start to make the corelations that Goethe makes , especially if you compare it to the development of European cities.

    I believe a relationship to harmony and dissonace is more a factor of our relationship to space and the history of the development of how our consciousness has adapted to the density within that space.

    Thats why i see dissonace as more an issue of Culture and Psychology, the chord changes and centre of tonality that you need is part of our relationhip to the use of space within our culture.

    The cities that developed a greater density also had that density reflected in growing dissonance, i would say that the history of Western harmonic practises is related to the growth of populations and the greater need to accomadate that growth, but also that the relationship we form to time is also relative to the needs of the city, even a simple example as the pop song as a reflection of a piece of entertainment to fit within a certain sociological level within society where time is essentially controlled for economic production.

    Could the form of a Symphony naturally developed within a nomadic culture where the relationship to Architectural density and time are alien to its sense of movement?

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