Does dissonance exist?
Aug 05, 2020
Hi Ash, Interesting stuff. I'd say dissonance does exist, but it's purely subjective, and like other subjective qualities, is mutable. I found in my own guitar playing that conventional tuning really began to grate, because as the 'default', my ears grew tired of hearing it and I came to associate it with my basic lack of conventional musical ability. So there was baggage there: a sound heard way too often, tied up with the frustration of not being able to do much from that starting point. Hearing open strings on a conventionally tuned guitar now makes me wince far more than hearing 'bum notes' ever did. I'm not saying I don't enjoy 'harmony', but I don't enjoy that specific combination of notes because of their association, and I find that unusual combinations are interesting to me because of their unusualness. With an unconventionally tuned instrument, there's much more chance of stumbling upon unusual combinations. Plus there's something about beats that I find so satisfying, which you won't get with normal tunings: after some experiments with sine waves, I've found that my favourite beats happen at 8Hz. Ha ha. I was listening to some of Ivan Wyschnegradsky's quarter-tone piano music a few days ago, as it happens. What I found interesting was that at first, it sounds awful and jarring, but over the source of an album-length session I became acclimatised to it as my brain adjusted. Easy to see how we could unlearn our traditional concepts of consonance and dissonance.