Patterns of Tension/Relaxation in Music: A Consideration of Psychoacoustic and Cognitive Influences
AbstractPerceiving patterns of tension/relaxation is essential to the comprehension and appreciation c>f music. Since music exists both as a collection of psychoacoustical events and as a system of hierarchical relationships understood at a cognitive level, it is reasonable to explore different influences on the perception of tension. To what degree do psychoacoustic and cognitive factors influence listeners' perception of tension in music? Recent work (Bigand, Pamcutt, & Lerdahl, 1996) has addressed this question using short chord sequences. The present studies pursue the issue using an excerpt of real music that has received much attention from music theorists—the first nine bars of the second movement of Beethoven's Waldstein (Opus 53) piano sonata. We evaluated the psychoacoustic dissonance conveyed by isolated elements of the excerpt and compared perceived dissonance with perceived patterns of tension/relaxation conveyed by the musical context to musically sophisticated listeners.
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