The creation of consonance and dissonance

Yuko Arthurs

Yuko Arthurs' PhD research investigated the consonance and dissonance perception of musical chords. She examined the influence of musical context, instrumental timbre, anchoring and listeners' familiarity with chords.

Yuko is affiliated with Bath Spa University as teaching associate and with Sheffield as Honorary Research Fellow.

Thesis abstract

This PhD study investigates how our perception of musical chords, both in isolation and in musical context, is influenced and shaped by our knowledge of the tonal hierarchy and tonal syntax in terms of consonance/dissonance, pleasantness/unpleasantness, stability/instability, and relaxation/tension. Six experiments were conducted to gather behavioural data on the perception of chords from listeners with varying levels of musical training and experience. The first study is principally concerned with the influence of frequency of occurrence on the perception of twelve types of chord in isolation, including both triads and tetrads. It also examines to what extent factors besides frequency of occurrence, namely listener familiarity with the timbre in which chords are played and the acoustic features of chords, predict listener perception. The second and third studies concern the perception of chords in musical context. The second study focuses on musical contexts in which diminished and augmented chords appear, and on the harmonic functions of chords in short sequences of IV-V-I. Using sequences containing an augmented chord, the third study investigates the ways in which a non-diatonic tone can be anchored by its succeeding tone, and considers how the perception of these sequences is influenced by the harmonic function of its succeeding chord. These studies all reveal that the way in which chords and chord sequences are perceived is not completely predetermined by their acoustic, physical dimension. In addition, we impute on them a fluidity and elasticity as a result of our knowledge of the tonal hierarchy and tonal syntax in our musical schemata.