Dissonance In The Morning

Posted by AJ Harbison at 1:26 am

At the suggestion of my roommate Mike, I added my last post about Target to the social bookmarking site Digg. If you use Digg, and you liked my post, head on over and give me some props. Search “thelisteningblog” by URL in Upcoming Stories. Can you Digg it? (ha ha ha….)

As I was getting ready for work a few mornings ago, the vent fan in my bathroom was going, and I was preparing to shave. When I turned my electric shaver on, the note it created sounded as a minor ninth above the pitch of the vent. It was strange enough that I heard both of those sounds as pitches, and even stranger that the interval was a minor ninth. The strangest thing, though, was that the dissonance between the two pitches was a severe one, and I almost turned off the vent fan because the clash was so unsettling to my ears.

(In jazz, a musical language in which most conventional musical dissonances have become acceptable, the interval of the minor ninth is the one remaining taboo, the one dissonance jazz composers and performers must avoid at all costs–a new diabolus in musica.)

A minor ninth is the musical distance encompassing an octave plus a half step, as in the distance from B to the second C above it:

Melodically, it works because it’s simply an octave displacement of a half step, but harmonically (both notes sounded together), it’s a pretty bad clash. (Listen to an example by clicking the play button on the player below.)

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Now imagine that played by a vent fan and an electric shaver, and that’s what I heard.



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    Ryan Fleming on 06.27.2008

    Its pretty crazy. When I listened to the little clip, the melodic version of the minor ninth (the first two notes played) were very appealing. It sounded like something very intense was about to happen. However, when the notes were played together it lost that feel. I felt very tense and shocked by the harmony. But once the harmony was played an octave lower, it moved in a direction of resolution. I felt that the minor ninth could be used in a musical piece followed by the same minor ninth an octave lower, and then resolved to a pure octave. This might just be my personal taste though.


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    Mike Morabito on 07.02.2008

    AJ, I went back and dugg your Target post. Pretty cool stuff.

    As for this post, it was kind of hard for me to get it but I love how you provided a visual as well as auditory example to explain it.

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