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Thread: Teach me how to sound dissonance/atonal/weird

  1. #16
    Senior Member Saturnus's Avatar
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    I totally disagree with everyone who is shouting out "just use diminished 5ths", because a diminished fifth can sound smooth as silk in the right context with the tonality, while major 3rd or a pure fifth can sound like poison covered thorn in the the right context with the tonality.
    The best way to sound weird or dissonant is to eliminate all feeling for tonality and the easiest way to that is to use:
    Multitonality: Write for 4 voices, the first in C melodic minor, the second in E Octatonic (E-F-G -G#-A#-H-C#-D), 3rd in F# major and the 4th in 3rd Messiaen mode from Ab (Ab-B-H-C-D-D#-E-F#-G).


    Or: Contrapuntally, use parallel 2nds, augm.4ths and 7ths and on odd numbered beats (heavy) always have one of those intervals between the bass and most audible voice. Harmonically, avoid the minor and major chords, you can use them, but only with minor second in the bass. Then use cords based on 4ths (with preferably one augmented) and 5ths (with preferably one diminished), and just plain odd chords, like the french one (major 3rd, major 2nd, major 3rd) and fully-diminished/augmented cords with a random added/shifted note, just be careful not to get any major/minor/dominant cords.
    Last edited by Saturnus; Dec-11-2010 at 02:26.

  2. #17
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    Quite the contrary. You will have a harder time sounding dissonant if you do not establish a tonality, since it wouldn't clash with it. It will be harder to sound dissonant in a truly atonal piece than in a tonal piece, since in a tonal piece you can build expectation and therefore sound extremely dissonant when going against those expectations.

    As for your criticism to diminished fifths, I don't think that's reasonable. Yes, it can sound well, but then anything can. On the other hand, diminished fifths have a good chance of sounding dissonant, likely more than a lot of other intervals - minor seconds aside.

    Dissonance is a matter of context, and in classical music's theoretical context of harmony and fear of tritones, then a tritone would be well thought if your goal is dissonance.

  3. #18
    Senior Member Saturnus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jean Christophe Paré View Post
    Quite the contrary. You will have a harder time sounding dissonant if you do not establish a tonality, since it wouldn't clash with it. It will be harder to sound dissonant in a truly atonal piece than in a tonal piece, since in a tonal piece you can build expectation and therefore sound extremely dissonant when going against those expectations.

    As for your criticism to diminished fifths, I don't think that's reasonable. Yes, it can sound well, but then anything can. On the other hand, diminished fifths have a good chance of sounding dissonant, likely more than a lot of other intervals - minor seconds aside.

    Dissonance is a matter of context, and in classical music's theoretical context of harmony and fear of tritones, then a tritone would be well thought if your goal is dissonance.
    When I wrote my reply I also kept in mind the OP request of sounding "weird", and for that it's best to eliminate traditional tonality.
    I agree that dissonance is less noticeable without tonality (as we can hear with Messiaen) but it's 95% about context, if there are few dissonant intervals in the piece the few that are will sound more dissonant, where they are in the beat is also very important. For an example, you can find endless examples of dissonant notes on weak beats in pieces you find very transparent and non-dissonant, while the same dissonance will sound really harsh if shifted to a strong beat.
    I also agree that the diminished 5th and the minor 2nd are naturally most likely to sound dissonant, I was just speaking against the oversimplification. But I think this "fear of tritone" is a myth, there are tritones all over the place in all classical pieces, since it's a part of the dominant seventh cord and the diminished cord, and tritones frequently appear in what we call beautiful melodies.
    Last edited by Saturnus; Dec-19-2010 at 23:11.

  4. #19
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    I think the problem is the word "dissonance" in itself. It refers to two quite different contexts; intra-dissonance and inter-dissonance - with the same applying for consonance as they are opposites. For reference, I made those up to mark my point more easily. Intra-dissonance refers to the consonance and dissonance within a single musical event; a chord, an arpeggio, etc. In this sense, it refers to the physical idea of consonance as referring to the interval quality; the more partials two notes share, the more consonant they will be felt when viewed as an independent musical event. However, the second type, inter-dissonance, is contextual. It refers to the degree at which a musical event is expectable at a certain moment. To borrow your example: If one keeps on playing cluster chords of minor seconds, a high degree of inter-dissonance will be felt when a triad unexpectedly follows. In this case, were we not to continue with a triad but rather end on one of those previous clustered chords, we would have a high degree of consistency in interval usage - traducing to inter-consonance in the piece - whereas internally, the piece would be qualified as intra-dissonant.

    In a piece that is purely atonal - that is a piece in which no interval or note prevails - inter-dissonance is impossible, as no interval is perceived as "dominant" - N.B. I am referring to the general concept of dominance and not the musical concept - so I believe that no interval should ever be felt out of place. In such case, only intra-dissonance is possible.

    On the other hand, most will agree that pure atonality is excessively hard to produce and rarely achieved because of its lack of quality to the ear. As a matter of fact, if atonal pieces were purely atonal, all of them would be the same qualitatively. The result would be chaotic as the emotion would not be going anywhere. That is why I tend to consider atonality as a lack of traditional tonality or rather as a lack of distinctive tonal centre, as opposed to the absolute lack of tonal centre.

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