Re: CIMESP-Results Fwd:

Subject: Re: CIMESP-Results Fwd:
From: Richard Wentk (
Date: Mon Nov 07 2005 - 06:21:20 EST

At 00:43 07/11/2005, you wrote:
>Richard Wentk writes:
>>...tension and release - which are really just synonyms for frustrated
>>and confirmed expectation.
>I don't think these are perfect synonyms.

I think you're right.

>While frustrated expectation may create tension (what I called 'structural
>tension' in my doctoral thesis), an entirely 'logical' chord progression
>can also produce tension- it happens all the time in classical music- as
>can 'predictable' processes (accumulation, acceleration, increasing
>dissonance, etc).

This is all true - except possibly for logical progressions, which I think
mostly will still thwart expectation at some point. Although the scope may
be larger than a few tens of bars. E.g. a chorale phrase that ends I V
still implies a V I somewhere down the line. Or with Wagner, where
chromatic meandering continually thwarts the apparent tonality.

Isn't it still true though that accumulation etc are all ways of adding to
information density and complexity to what's being heard?

I won't argue that it's also possible to create tension by slowing down and
thinning out the music too, which might seem counterintutive.

But in both cases there's still the sense of changes being made with
respect to some reference of what's happened before, which implies creating
tension by undermining the perceptual momentum. From the point of view of
information theory it's still about changes in the default assumptions of
what's coming next.

Or in other words perhaps it's the rate of change of information density
that matters, not whether or not the change is positive or negative.

>In addition, certain sounds are 'tense' by their very nature, regardless
>of whether they satisfy a listener's expectations- a human scream, a loud
>attack, etc.

Loud attacks seem to have a kind of expectancy associated with them. But I
agree we're shifting away from model building here and into more visceral
reactions to specific sounds, which is a different aspect of musical


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