Definition of dissonance in English:


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  • 1Music
    Lack of harmony among musical notes.

    ‘an unusual degree of dissonance for such choral styles’
    • ‘the harsh dissonances give a sound that is quite untypical of the Renaissance’
    • ‘Most of all, he shows a flair for matching the climaxes in the action with musical climaxes, using dissonance, the singer's virtuosity, or instrumental sonorities to create the sense of heightened emotion.’
    • ‘Abandoning the preconceived notions of tonality, and immersed within a musical state of dissonance, Coltrane's music became a communicative attempt at reaching a higher plane.’
    • ‘The music's density is intriguing, its rhythmic energy is compelling, and its harmonic complexity and dissonance is unusual for Reich.’
    • ‘This leaves the orchestra without a conductor, and a musical cacophony verging on dissonance.’
    • ‘Melancholic melody, harmony, subtle dissonance, throat vibrato and asymmetric rhythms make up their choral, ‘a cappella’ style.’
    • ‘This study used mild emotional stimuli, those associated with people's reactions to musical consonance versus dissonance.’
    • ‘Grainger also intensifies dissonance from the normal ‘melody’ instruments and draws an acidic sound from the winds, by emphasizing the double reeds.’
    • ‘As well as being finely crafted there is a unifying mood that reaches a peak in an expressive pedal point, sustained dissonance in the horns with side drum interjections, preparing for a pensive conclusion.’
    • ‘Around the turn of the century, composers began to experiment with atonality, dissonance and primitive rhythms.’
    • ‘Grimaud's ability to evoke both sensitive tonal shadings and clangorous dissonance made this movement an overwhelming experience.’
    • ‘Horowitz disdained the expressive and formal role of dissonance in this music, and attenuated the pugnaciousness and philosophical implications that this repertoire must above all convey.’
    • ‘A polarity is a relation between two broadly contrasting dynamic musical tendencies - say, between consonance and dissonance or continuity and discontinuity.’
    • ‘It's another example of how Ives associated dissonance and technical demands with masculinity, overcoming challenges, and prowess on the baseball field.’
    • ‘That is, the composer was liberated from the constraints of ‘voice leading rules’ whereby dissonance was subordinated to consonance in traditional harmony and counterpoint.’
    • ‘Penrose's device offers a way for anyone to see the harmony and dissonance that musicians can readily hear.’
    • ‘The first of these is the pedal, typically a sustaining or reiteration of a note in the bass while harmonies change above it, creating dissonance with the bass in the process.’
    • ‘The echoes that the harsh dissonance produced were cut short with the ongoing volume.’
    • ‘Or to put it the other way around, an elaborate contrapuntal texture with emancipated dissonance is a perfect metaphor for the urgent but ineffectual efforts that Pierrot is making.’
    • ‘Much of its punch derives from new-minted, surprising chord progressions and pungent dissonance, an idiom Barber carries to the end of the setting.’
    • ‘Tippett uses dissonance, but it sounds like music.’
    • ‘I really like watching his HK films with that dissonance in mind, looking for the different ways Chinese culture expects stories to be told.’
    inharmoniousness, discordance, atonality, cacophony
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    1. 1.1A tension or clash resulting from the combination of two disharmonious or unsuitable elements.
      ‘dissonance between campaign rhetoric and personal behavior’
      • ‘But prolonged looking, both comparatively and at individual works, revealed to this viewer raw emotional dissonances that were in tension with what would otherwise have been an esthetic of easy consumption.’
      • ‘And if I spoke louder in the Garrel film, it was once more to create a clash, a dissonance.’
      • ‘Yet it carries an element of dissonance, especially in light of the reputation Americans have for being political pragmatists, not ideologues.’
      • ‘The dark, pessimistic feeling in me was clashing in dissonance with my attempt to rationalize at the time.’
      • ‘Many psychiatric illnesses flow from conflicts arising from the dissonance between the rhetoric of trusted authority figures and what they themselves have experienced in their families.’
      • ‘It pertains to our Safety and Happiness, to the dissonance between the two, and our wistful expectation of feeling simultaneously at home in our bodies, in the world, and in society.’
      • ‘Well I say that if you make that choice, you don't have the right to complain when the dissonance between your political position and your personal one are pointed out.’
      • ‘I'm well aware of the dissonance between substantive law and procedural law, and how the former tends to trump the latter.’
      • ‘The famines in Africa today reveal the dissonance of reigning attitudes.’
      • ‘Injustice is a sort of dissonance that has to be resolved.’
      • ‘The dissonance will be increasingly difficult to maintain.’
      • ‘The dissonance and contradiction of the educated daughters and the wages of sin that financed them shocks Suzy into a recognition of all she has done without for the sake of what she has.’
      • ‘They are products of a culture in which to tell a lie… creates no dissonance.’
      • ‘What I find most disappointing is that even those technical adapt and aware of the details of the DNS implementation manage to sustain this dissonance…’
      • ‘It is an instance of dissonance between weather and tragedy.’
      • ‘A period of increased cultural dissonance caused by social stratification, economic exploitation, foreign domination, slavery, and moral decay preceded each leader.’
      • ‘The factors that produce motivation may be strongly influenced by the creation of social and intrapsychic dissonance which may be important to sustaining the quitters intentionality.’
      • ‘Such dissonance discredits our global institutions.’
      • ‘Likewise, changing existing beliefs reduces dissonance if their new content makes them less contradictory with others or their importance is reduced.’
      inharmoniousness, discordance, atonality, cacophony
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/ˈdisənəns/ /ˈdɪsənəns/


Late Middle English from Old French, from late Latin dissonantia, from Latin dissonant- ‘disagreeing in sound’, from the verb dissonare.