Scarlet & Grey
Ohio State University
School of Music


Consonance and Dissonance - Index to Notes

The following notes have been assembled by David Huron for the course Music 829B: Consonance and Dissonance. Comments and information was also contributed by Nandini Iyer, Bret Aarden, and Evelyn Hogland.

In general, the subject of consonance and dissonance can be approached via the following questions:

  1. What is meant by "consonant" or "dissonant"? Do these terms differ from terms such as pleasant, unpleasant, euphonious, beautiful, ugly, rough, smooth, fused, diffuse, tense, relaxed, etc.
  2. Is "consonance" simply the absence of "dissonance"? Is "dissonance" simply the absence of "consonance"? Or are these phenomena distinct?
  3. Is "consonance" one phenomenon? Or does consonance entail two or more distinct phenomena? Similarly, is "dissonance" a single phenomenon?
  4. What factors influence the perceptions of consonance/dissonance? That is, what are the main theories and hypotheses regarding the experience of consonance/dissonance?
  5. What is the effect of tuning on perceptions of consonance/dissonance?

  6. What is the effect of context on perceptions of consonance/dissonance?
  7. What is the effect of culture on consonance and dissonance? Are consonance and dissonance "universal" perceptual phenomena or are they enculturated? If consonance and dissonance are predominantly "physiological", to what extent are these experiences culturally mediated?
  8. What is the effect of individual personality on perceptions of consonance and dissonance?
  9. Why do we experience consonance/dissonance?
  10. How do consonance and dissonance relate to musical organization?
  11. How should we evaluate the existing research?
  12. What research questions remain to be pursued?

Keyword Index

A absolute pitch category dissonance, acoustical theories, active,
B Bach, beats, beautiful, Boomsliter & Creel, Butler & Daston,
C Cazden, Cazden's Expectation Dissonance, chordal-tone spacing, chorus effect, complex tones, consonance, consonant & dissonant terms, consonance of scales, consonance vs. fusion, consonance vs. fusion, consonance vs. pleasantness, critical bands & chords, culture,
D defense reflex, definitions, DeWitt & Crowder, difference tones, diffuse, dissonant chord moment, dissonating tone, duplex perception of dissonance, Dutch listeners,
E enculturational theories, enculturation of acceptable tuning, euphonious, evolutionary approach, expectation, expectation dissonance,
F factor analysis, frequency range, frequency ratios, fused,
G genetic influence, Gibsonian approach, Gibsonian interpretation of consonance & dissonance, Greenwood (1961),
H harmonic relationships, Heavy Metal, Helmholtz (1877), high, Hutchinson & Knopoff,
I interval category dissonance,
J Japanese listeners, just tuning,
K Kaestner (1909), Kameoka & Kuriyagawa (1969), Keislar (1991),
L long pattern hypothesis, loudness,
M main theories, male vs. female, Malmberg (1918), Mashinter (1995), musical organization, mistuned intervals, musicians vs. non-musicians,
N Nesse, neural correlates, numerosity conjecture,
O occurrence of harmonic intervals, orchestraton, orienting response,
P pain, personality, phaser, pitch clarity, pleasant, Plomp & Levelt (1965), Plomp & Steeneken (1968), preferred chord arrangements, preferred drone tones, preferred musical scales, psychophysical theories, pure, Pythagorean comma,
R relative dissonance, relaxed, repulsiveness, rough, round,
S sensation-seeking personality, sharp, Simpson (1994), smooth, sounding smooth, sounding as one, sounds-like-one, startle response, stream incoherence dissonance, Stumpf, Stumpf (1898), systemic approach to consonance & dissonance,
T temperament, tense, Terhard, testing Huron's conjecture, thrill-seeking, timbre, tonal center dissonance, tonal fusion, tonal fusion, tonotopic dissonance, tonotopic theory, Tonverschmelzung, tuning,
U ugliness, ugly, unclear pitches, unison, unpleasant,
V Van de Greer, Levelt & Plomp, virtual pitch dissonance, Vos,
W wide, Wright-Bregman hypothesis,