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Academic Paper: Consonance vs. Dissonance – A Physical Description

November 5, 1998

by Benjamin D. Summers

ABSTRACT

Fourier synthesis has been applied to the comprehensive set of just and equal temperament acoustic intervals and triads to uncover unique, objective relationships between constituents of consonant chords. Beat frequencies have long been considered a significant contributing factor to the categorization of consonant and dissonant harmonies, but not absolutely so. Music theorists have generally concluded that compositional convention is largely responsible for molding human perception of what sounds “pleasing”. This computational approach to acoustic waveform analysis has found that beat frequency relationships alone can be utilized to effectively define consonance and dissonance; beat frequencies themselves must be considered as an additional pitch relative to the specific frequencies comprising diatonic intervals and triads.

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Consonance vs. Dissonance - A Physical Description

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