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Thread: What are Discords

  1. #1
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Nov 2010

    What are Discords

    Hi, I know this is kind of a broad topic, but I was wondering what exactly are discords and how they are used. Also, what kind of music are they particularly used in?

  2. #2
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Twickenham, UK
    From an online dictionary (just to help clarify what we're talking about):

    1. lack of concord or harmony between persons or things: marital discord.
    2. disagreement; difference of opinion.
    3. strife; dispute; war.
    4. Music . an inharmonious combination of musical tones sounded together.
    5. any confused or harsh noise; dissonance.

    In music, the word might have any of the same meanings and uses. Despite #5, however, I get a sense that "discord" is not merely dissonance, but an unpleasant or unexpected dissonance. At least it makes sense - IMO - to employ that distinction, so we can discuss and compare them as two different things.

    Dissonance, after all, is a positive, useful and enjoyable effect in all kinds of music. A dom7 chord is dissonant - we use them all the time, even unresolved.

    But "discord" implies a criticism, a value judgement: it's a sound we don't like or don't want - or (perhaps more interestingly) that we imagine some others might dislike or not want.

    IOW, a dom7 chord, or 7b9, or a classical suspension, is a "dissonance". But a bunch of neighbouring piano keys played with the forearm - or one of those dissonant chords played out of tune - that's a "discord".

    A discord, in this sense, is a meaningless dissonance - one we can't understand, that seems unmusical. (Of course there are borderline sounds: complex dissonances that sound discordant to some, but do have a musical meaning.)

    As such, discord definitely has a place in music - you could almost describe most of the history of 20th century classical music as an exercises in various kinds of discord, to throw off the music of the past, and the audience's over-familiarity with the simple interplay of consonance and dissonance featured in earlier music (and still in popular music).

    In brief - define what YOU mean by discord, and maybe we can answer the question . In fact, if you define what you mean, you can probably answer the question yourself - because you will have to give examples. Play something you regard as discordant: THERE is the music you're looking for!

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