Tension (music)

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In music, tension is the perceived need for relaxation or release created by a listener's expectations. For example, dissonance may give way to consonance. Tension may also be produced through reiteration, increase in dynamic level, or gradual motion to a higher pitch.[1]

Experiments in music perception have explored perceived tension in music [2] and perceived emotional intensity.[3][4]

The balance between tension and repose may be explored in musical analysis, for it is determined by the contrasts which are, "of great interest to the style analyst," and may be analyzed in several, even conflicting layers, as different musical elements such as harmony may have different levels of tension than rhythm and melody.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kliewer, Vernon (1975). "Melody: Linear Aspects of Twentieth-Century Music", Aspects of Twentieth-Century Music, p. 290. Wittlich, Gary (ed.). Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall. ISBN 0-13-049346-5.
  2. ^ Fredrickson, W. E. (1999). "Effect of Musical Performance on Perception of Tension in Gustav Holst's First Suite in E-flat", Journal of Research in Music Education, 47(1), 44–52.
  3. ^ Brittin, R. V., & Duke, R. A. (1997). "Continuous versus Summative Evaluations of Musical Intensity: A Comparison of Two Methods for Measuring Overall Effect", International Journal of Research in Music Education, 45(2), 245–258.
  4. ^ Sloboda, J. A., & Lehmann, A. C. (2001). "Tracking Performance Correlates of Changes in Perceived Intensity of Emotion During Different Interpretations of a Chopin Piano Prelude", Music Perception, 19(1), 87–120.
  5. ^ White, John D. (1976). The Analysis of Music, p.15. ISBN 0-13-033233-X.