Tension (music)

Last updated

In music, tension is the anticipation music creates in a listener's mind for relaxation or release. For example, tension may be produced through reiteration, increase in dynamic level, gradual motion to a higher or lower pitch, or (partial) syncopations between consonance and dissonance. [1]

Experiments in music perception have explored perceived tension in music [2] and perceived emotional intensity. [3] [4]

The balance between tension and repose are explored in musical analysis—determined by contrasts that are, "...of great interest to the style analyst," and can be analyzed in several, even conflicting layers—as different musical elements such as harmony may create different levels of tension than rhythm and melody. [5]

See also

Related Research Articles

Music Form of art using sound and silence

Music is the art of arranging sounds in time to produce a composition through the elements of melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre. It is one of the cultural universal aspects of all human societies. General definitions of music include common elements such as pitch, rhythm, dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture. Different styles or types of music may emphasize, de-emphasize or omit some of these elements. Music is performed with a vast range of instruments and vocal techniques ranging from singing to rapping; there are solely instrumental pieces, solely vocal pieces and pieces that combine singing and instruments. The word derives from Greek μουσική ; see § Etymology and glossary of musical terminology.

Musicology is the scholarly analysis and research-based study of music. Musicology departments traditionally belong to the humanities, although some music research is scientific in focus. Some geographers and anthropologists have an interest in musicology so the social sciences also have an academic interest. A scholar who participates in musical research is a musicologist.

Rhythm generally means a "movement marked by the regulated succession of strong and weak elements, or of opposite or different conditions". This general meaning of regular recurrence or pattern in time can apply to a wide variety of cyclical natural phenomena having a periodicity or frequency of anything from microseconds to several seconds ; to several minutes or hours, or, at the most extreme, even over many years.

Melody Linear succession of musical tones in the foreground of a work of music

A melody, also tune, voice or line, is a linear succession of musical tones that the listener perceives as a single entity. In its most literal sense, a melody is a combination of pitch and rhythm, while more figuratively, the term can include successions of other musical elements such as tonal color. It may be considered the foreground to the background accompaniment. A line or part need not be a foreground melody.

Harmony Aspect of music

In music, harmony is the process by which the composition of individual sounds, or superpositions of sounds, is analysed by hearing. Usually, this means simultaneously occurring frequencies, pitches, or chords.

Music theory Considers the practices and possibilities of music

Music theory is the study of the practices and possibilities of music. The Oxford Companion to Music describes three interrelated uses of the term "music theory". The first is the "rudiments", that are needed to understand music notation ; the second is learning scholars' views on music from antiquity to the present; the third a sub-topic of musicology that "seeks to define processes and general principles in music". The musicological approach to theory differs from music analysis "in that it takes as its starting-point not the individual work or performance but the fundamental materials from which it is built."

Pitch (music) Perceptual property in music ordering sounds from low to high

Pitch is a perceptual property of sounds that allows their ordering on a frequency-related scale, or more commonly, pitch is the quality that makes it possible to judge sounds as "higher" and "lower" in the sense associated with musical melodies. Pitch can be determined only in sounds that have a frequency that is clear and stable enough to distinguish from noise. Pitch is a major auditory attribute of musical tones, along with duration, loudness, and timbre.

In the branch of experimental psychology focused on sense, sensation, and perception, which is called psychophysics, a just-noticeable difference or JND is the amount something must be changed in order for a difference to be noticeable, detectable at least half the time. This limen is also known as the difference limen, difference threshold, or least perceptible difference.

The precedence effect or law of the first wavefront is a binaural psychoacoustical effect. When a sound is followed by another sound separated by a sufficiently short time delay, listeners perceive a single auditory event; its perceived spatial location is dominated by the location of the first-arriving sound. The lagging sound also affects the perceived location. However, its effect is suppressed by the first-arriving sound.

Consonance and dissonance Categorizations of simultaneous or successive sounds

In music, consonance and dissonance are categorizations of simultaneous or successive sounds. Within the Western tradition, consonance is typically associated with sweetness, pleasantness, and acceptability; dissonance is associated with harshness, unpleasantness, or unacceptability, although this depends also on familiarity and musical expertise. The terms form a structural dichotomy in which they define each other by mutual exclusion: a consonance is what is not dissonant, and a dissonance is what is not consonant. However, a finer consideration shows that the distinction forms a gradation, from the most consonant to the most dissonant. As Hindemith stressed, "The two concepts have never been completely explained, and for a thousand years the definitions have varied". The term sonance has been proposed to encompass or refer indistinctly to the terms consonance and dissonance.

In music cognition and musical analysis, the study of melodic expectation considers the engagement of the brain's predictive mechanisms in response to music. For example, if the ascending musical partial octave "do-re-mi-fa-sol-la-ti-..." is heard, listeners familiar with Western music will have a strong expectation to hear or provide one more note, "do", to complete the octave.

Music education

Music education is a field of practice, in which educators are trained for careers as elementary or secondary music teachers, school or music conservatory ensemble directors. As well, music education is a research area in which scholars do original research on ways of teaching and learning music. Music education scholars publish their findings in peer-reviewed journals, and teach undergraduate and graduate education students at university education or music schools, who are training to become music teachers.

Music psychology, or the psychology of music, may be regarded as a branch of both psychology and musicology. It aims to explain and understand musical behaviour and experience, including the processes through which music is perceived, created, responded to, and incorporated into everyday life. Modern music psychology is primarily empirical; its knowledge tends to advance on the basis of interpretations of data collected by systematic observation of and interaction with human participants. Music psychology is a field of research with practical relevance for many areas, including music performance, composition, education, criticism, and therapy, as well as investigations of human attitude, skill, performance, intelligence, creativity, and social behavior.

Sound Vibration that propagates as an acoustic wave

In physics, sound is a vibration that propagates as an acoustic wave, through a transmission medium such as a gas, liquid or solid.

Musical memory refers to the ability to remember music-related information, such as melodic content and other progressions of tones or pitches. The differences found between linguistic memory and musical memory have led researchers to theorize that musical memory is encoded differently from language and may constitute an independent part of the phonological loop. The use of this term is problematic, however, since it implies input from a verbal system, whereas music is in principle nonverbal.

Cognitive musicology is a branch of cognitive science concerned with computationally modeling musical knowledge with the goal of understanding both music and cognition.

Psychoacoustics is the branch of psychophysics involving the scientific study of sound perception and audiology—how humans perceive various sounds. More specifically, it is the branch of science studying the psychological responses associated with sound. Psychoacoustics is an interdisciplinary field of many areas, including psychology, acoustics, electronic engineering, physics, biology, physiology, and computer science.

Culture in music cognition refers to the impact that a person's culture has on their music cognition, including their preferences, emotion recognition, and musical memory. Musical preferences are biased toward culturally familiar musical traditions beginning in infancy, and adults' classification of the emotion of a musical piece depends on both culturally specific and universal structural features. Additionally, individuals' musical memory abilities are greater for culturally familiar music than for culturally unfamiliar music. The sum of these effects makes culture a powerful influence in music cognition.

Music and emotion

Research into music and emotion seeks to understand the psychological relationship between human affect and music. The field, a branch of music psychology, covers numerous areas of study, including the nature of emotional reactions to music, how characteristics of the listener may determine which emotions are felt, and which components of a musical composition or performance may elicit certain reactions. The research draws upon, and has significant implications for, such areas as philosophy, musicology, music therapy, music theory and aesthetics, as well as the acts of musical composition and of musical performance.

In music cognition, melodic fission, is a phenomenon in which one line of pitches is heard as two or more separate melodic lines. This occurs when a phrase contains groups of pitches at two or more distinct registers or with two or more distinct timbres.


  1. Kliewer, Vernon (1975). "Melody: Linear Aspects of Twentieth-Century Music", Aspects of Twentieth-Century Music, p. 290. Wittlich, Gary (ed.). Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall. ISBN   0-13-049346-5.
  2. Fredrickson, W. E. (1999). "Effect of Musical Performance on Perception of Tension in Gustav Holst's First Suite in E-flat", Journal of Research in Music Education, 47(1), 44–52.
  3. Brittin, R. V., & Duke, R. A. (1997). "Continuous versus Summative Evaluations of Musical Intensity: A Comparison of Two Methods for Measuring Overall Effect", International Journal of Research in Music Education, 45(2), 245–258.
  4. Sloboda, J. A., & Lehmann, A. C. (2001). "Tracking Performance Correlates of Changes in Perceived Intensity of Emotion During Different Interpretations of a Chopin Piano Prelude", Music Perception, 19(1), 87–120.
  5. White, John D. (1976). The Analysis of Music, p.15. ISBN   0-13-033233-X.