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Organizing and recognizing musical tension/release patterns may be culture dependent
Acoustical Institute of Physics Press Room (2005)
  • Pantelis N Vassilakis, DePaul University
Our ability to attach meaningful and emotional qualities to instrumental pieces of music relies, to a large extent, on our recognition of potential musical tension/release patterns within a piece. Such patterns can be set up using a variety of sonic and sonic-organization tools, whose significance and potential to communicate meaning and emotion appears to largely depend on previous small-scale (personal) and large-scale (cultural) learning. Within the Western musical tradition, studies have shown that musical tension/release judgments are linked to contrasts in terms of: i) tonal center (e.g. key), ii) sensory dissonance, iii) dynamics, iv) pitch, v) rhythm, vi) orchestration, vii) performance techniques, etc., with sensory dissonance correlating with the presence of auditory roughness. The term auditory roughness describes a rattling sound associated with certain types of signals such as those of narrow harmonic intervals. The potency of the suggested contrasts depends on familiarity with musical norms that are, largely, culturally defined. As the above list suggests, auditory roughness contrasts within a piece constitute just one of the sonic tools (cues) that help set-up (determine) musical tension/release patterns. In addition, the strong link, within Western tradition, between roughness and annoyance, and the assumption that rough sounds should be avoided, limit the range of roughness variations explored, further reducing the contribution of auditory roughness contrasts to the organization and recognition of musical tension and release. As we will see, the situation may be quite different when it comes to non-Western musical traditions.
  • world music,
  • roughness,
  • dissonance,
  • timbre,
  • mijwiz,
  • sensory dissonance,
  • auditory,
  • expression,
  • musical tension,
  • tension,
  • release
Publication Date
May, 2005
Citation Information
Vassilakis, P.N. (May 2005). "Organizing and recognizing musical tension/release patterns may be culture dependent," Acoustical Institute of Physics Press Room. []