Musician, Teacher, Scholar

From Theoria 12 (2005): 69-92


For centuries, thinkers have attempted to explain why some combinations of pitches are more pleasing to the ear than others. While Hermann von Helmholtz's theory of consonance is regarded highly even today, most of the older consonance theories, developed before about 1850, are generally disregarded or disparaged. Numerous 20th-c. consonance theories, though, are actually very similar to some of these older theories, and most of these newer theories either fail to acknowledge the precedent established by the earlier theories or claim to be without precedent. A large proportion of the 20th-c. theories contain ideas strikingly similar to those contained in the coincidence theory of consonance. The coincidence theory has had a substantial influence on theories of consonance throughout the centuries, and it therefore deserves to be given more credit for its continued contributions to the explanation of the phenomenon of consonance.