The emancipation of consonance: a pedagogical approach to distinguishing between consonance and harmonic stability

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Christopher N. McDaniel (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
J. Kent Williams

Abstract: Modern pedagogical approaches to consonance have three problems in common: they often conflate consonance with subjective cultural factors, they do not account for the most recent psychological research, and they do not adequately explain musical phenomena as they are idiomatically written in musical compositions and how they are perceived by both naive and trained listeners. The approach presented in this thesis balances historical considerations, theoretical speculations, and the most recent research in psychoacoustics to offer a more comprehensive and comprehensible definition of consonance than currently available in pedagogical approaches (such as in undergraduate theory texts). Most importantly, the approach advocates a separation between consonance, defined as an aspect of the sonority itself, and harmonic stability, defined by the musical and cultural context. Given these two ideas, sonorities and passages of music may be described as either stable consonances, unstable consonances, stable dissonances, or unstable dissonances. The approach presented uses schemata theory, Gestalt psychology, and Fred Lerdahl's theories in Tonal Pitch Space. Further research extends the approach using Schenkerian analyses of jazz and suggestions for experiments in cognitive and developmental psychology. The approach itself is a simple pedagogical tool meant to affect the way consonance is taught in undergraduate music theory and aural skills textbooks. A thorough discussion of musical examples and methods of teaching is included.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2012
Consonance, Harmonic Stability, Music Cognition, Schemata, Sensory Consonance, Tonality
Consonance (Music)
Music theory $x Study and teaching
Musical perception

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