The emancipation of discordance
MetadataShow full item record
This study proposes a primarily esthesic, listener-oriented approach to discussing music that is "out of tune" or discordant. The paper is divided into two main sections: in part one I work to define discordance as a type of qualia experienced when a hypothetical listener perceives something as "out of tune." I then present a classification scheme for categorizing different varieties of discordance qualia, based on the perceived intentionality behind discordant events. This system details three primary categories of discordance: 1) incidental, whereby discordance is introduced via a performer's mistake or oversight; 2) expressive, which includes discordances introduced intentionally by a performer; and 3) structural, whereby the discordance is systemic, resulting from factors outside the control of any individual performer. In part two, I present an analytic essay on a movement from Easley Blackwood's 1980 Twelve Microtonal Etudes, a work that invokes structural discordance qualia in listeners enculturated in twelve-tone equal temperament. This analysis explores Blackwood's attempt to mimic functional tonal syntax in nineteen-tone equal temperament, and describes the impact of the structural discordance qualia on familiar varieties of tonal ambiguity.