Creating Tension: Blending Consonance and Dissonance

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Creating Tension

In the image above, the piano begins in the low-mid register with an ascending phrase using a few notes from the D Half-Whole Diminished Scale. With the sustain pedal down, one by one the notes accumulate into a harmony. The last note in the first measure (A♭) is a tritone away from the bass note D, furthering our sense of instability.

When the four notes D, B, E♭ and C are stacked, they yield two major 6th intervals (D-B and E♭-C) that are offset by a minor 9th. The mixture of consonant and dissonant intervals creates a richly unsettled feeling. Altogether, these notes create a harmony outside of the “conventional” major and minor scale systems.

To demonstrate the technique we covered, here’s an example piece. You can access the full score, audio file, and a comprehensive score analysis here.

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