Swallow, Reuben (2021) Defining Consonance and Dissonance in Metal Music. Masters thesis, University of Huddersfield.
Abstract

The theoretical phenomena ‘consonance and dissonance’ underscore the ex-pression of many musical disciplines and appear in literature dating back to the ancient world. Consonance is a state of rest, or normalcy, usually instantiated by the starting note of a composition, whereas dissonance afflicts tension against this consonance. Ordinarily, dissonance still bears a strong harmonic relation to the prevailing consonance. Whilst a vast body of literature has been dedicated to this concept, its embodiment in metal music has scarcely been studied despite the traits of this genre depending greatly on the existence of consonance and dissonance.

This thesis overviews consonance and dissonance in metal music, and in particular, metal music’s unusual approach in that its dissonances can not only lack harmonicity but supersede consonance as a state of normalcy. The lack of a comprehensive text on metal music consonance and dissonance is not only a deficit for music theory literature, but also metal, music psychology, and global music literature. In analysing metal music’s approach to consonance and dissonance, this thesis confirms the literature’s notion that consonance and dis-sonance parameters evolve over time.

Furthermore, studying consonance and dissonance in the case of one music genre is highly revealing about how fans derive pleasure and meaningfulness from the music. This is not only relevant to the psychological implications of metal, but to music literature more generally in that scrutiny against theoretical concepts must be maintained if they are to retain relevance to ever-innovating and ever-more creative musical practices.

Detailed analysis of music and listener-perceptions thereof offer important insights into what turn out to be subversive interpretations of consonance and dissonance; although a natural basis for the phenomena is established, their realisation as tension/resolution is shown to be an individual’s experience. Most likely, however, an individual’s definition of consonance and dissonance is enforced by a culture of music. It is shown that metal music favours dissonance highly due to its congruence with aesthetics which transcend the genre; along with analysing music, this thesis observes the overall transgressive, horror-like traits of metal music. Such aesthetics are found to be appealing as they facilitate the exploration and catharsis of negative emotions and ideas in safety, both individually and communally.

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