OSU Course Info
Ohio State University
School of Music

Music 829B: Consonance and Dissonance

Course Description

Course Description:

A review of the theoretical and experimental literatures related to the concepts of consonance and dissonance.

Detailed Description:

The concepts of "consonance" and "dissonance" are among the oldest and most contentious ideas in the history of music. Consonance and dissonance remain important concepts that are thought to be important in harmony, orchestration, contrapuntal organization, and melodic embellishment. Both music scholars and hearing scientists have proposed a number of theories to account for consonance -- such as the concept of simple frequency ratios. Most of these theories are highly problematic.

The term "consonant" is often associated with the experiences of pleasantness, euphoniousness, purity, or smoothness. However, it is possible that "purity" and "pleasantness" (say) are different experiences. To what extent are these experiences innate and to what extent are they culturally determined or culturally mediated? How does a person's individual listening history contribute to these experiences? How does the specific musical context influence the perception of consonance/dissonance? How does listener disposition or personality transform these experiences? What is consonant and what is dissonant?

In this course, we will review classic writings pertaining to consonance and dissonance. The emphasis is on gaining an in-depth knowledge of the issues, paying particular attention to the experimental literatures.


The course has no formal pre-requisites. Graduate standing is required.

Meeting Times:

Class times will be established by arrangement. An organizational meeting will be held on Tuesday January 5, 1999 at 4:30 PM in Mershon Auditorium Room 503. Classes are held on the Ohio State University Campus.

Course Objectives:

The course objectives include the following:


The course objectives are pursued through weekly readings, seminar discussions and presentations.


No text is required for this course. Reserve readings will be made available through the Music/Dance Library.


The workload for Music 829B entails three hours of seminar participation each week, plus approximately six hours of reading (roughly 30 pages) per week. Seminar participants will take turns leading the discussion of the week's reading material.

In addition, final research papers will require roughly twenty-five hours over the course of the quarter.

Method of Evaluation:

The final course grade will be based on the following:

Class participation and presentation(s)30%
Mid-quarter draft of research paper35%
Final draft of research paper35%

Topics for final research papers must be approved by the instructor. Students will be expected to meet individually with the instructor throughout the quarter in order to discuss research issues.


Dr. David Huron
Mershon Auditorium, Room 502
Telephone: 688-4753 (Wk.) 268-8992 (Hm.)
E-mail: hüron.1@osü.edü [Please ignore the umlauts; they are present to foil web crawlers.]

Meeting with the Instructor:

Students are encouraged to arrange to discuss any aspect of their course work. No appointments are necessary, however meeting times can be assured by telephoning Prof. Huron to make an appointment. If you are unable to reach the instructor by telephone, remember to leave a message giving your name and telephone number.

This document is available at http://dactyl.som.ohio-state.edu/Music829B/descript.B.html