Meter and Dissonance in Early Twentieth-Century Music
Beats are grouped into patterns we call rhythms, which are organized into frameworks called “measures.” Typically, a measure is made up of a repeated pattern of strong and weak beats. The rhythmic patterning formed by the measures is called “meter.”
When the number of beats in a measure equals two it is called “duple meter”; three beats per measure is “triple meter.” These numbers continue to “quadruple meter,” “sextuple meter,” etc. The strongest beat, usually found at the beginning of a measure, is called the “downbeat.” Longer measures may have additional stressed beats in the center.
Chords fall into two broad categories associated with the listener’s response to the music. Chords are often labeled “consonant” or “dissonant,” but the difference is highly subjective and depends on the cultural and musical context.
A consonant chord is stable and restful and can accentuate the end of a piece. A dissonant chord is unstable and uncomfortable. It creates tension that requires the music to move toward a consonant chord for resolution. Sequences of chords throughout a piece can profoundly influence its impact and direction.
Listen to the following music selections:
Schoenberg, Pierrot Lunaire, Op. 21, Part 3, No. 15, “Heimweh,” 1912
Stravinsky, The Rite of Spring, “Sacrificial Dance,” 1913, excerpt
Early twentieth-century music moved away from traditional forms to explore innovative ways of using elements of music such as meter and dissonance. Listen to the selections provided to see how music has evolved.
Respond in writing (200 words) to the following question after viewing the videos above.
How do the changes in music reflect those of art, architecture, and literature of the time? Provide specific examples.