Monday, August 30, 2004

Consonance-the beautiful ones

Consonance is generally used to describe the stable intervals. Consonant intervals are those that for whatever reason are most pleasing to the human ear. Criteria for choosing which intervals are consonant and which aren't (dissonant or unstable) have changed greatly over the centuries of musical thought and theory. During ancient Greek times, only the P5, P8, P5+P8, P4, and double octave were considered consonant. In the mid thirteenth century, the major and minor third were added to the group of consonant intervals. A swap occurred during the 14th century that changed P4s to dissonances and major and minor 6ths into consonances. A problem that emerged with this classification system is that it only worked with two voices. During the 17th and 18th century another revolution occurred: seconds and sevenths were added to the consonant intervals. During the 19th century, composers such as Wagner began to explore other chords once considered dissonan, and today many of those intervals once considered dissonances are essential to composition. Every culture and music style has its own definition of what is consonant and what is dissonant. In my opinion it is up to the listener.

Source: The New Harvard Musical Dictionary, 4th ed. Editor: Don Randel Article: Consonance