Terhardt, E. (1984). The concept of musical consonance: A link between music and psychoacoustics. Music Percept. 1, 276-295

This paper is a presentation of the essentials of a new concept and foundation of musical consonance described by the present author in German in Acustica 36, 121-137 (1976). Musical consonance is considered from the terminological, musical, conceptual, and psychoacoustic aspects. An appropriate definition of musical consonance is given, based on the principles governing tonal music. Recent results on psychoacoustic evaluation of consonance, which at first glance appear to be in conflict with musical experience, can be reconciled by a two-component  concept of musical consonance. The first component is called sensory consonance; it represents the graded absence of annoying factors and is not confined to musical sounds, that is, not music specific. The second component of musical consonance is called harmony; it represents the typical, music-specific principles of tonal affinity, compatibility, and fundamental-note relation (root). This concept is discussed in the context of Helmholtz's work on Konsonanz and Klangverwandtschaft. Helmholtz's work turns out to be an excellent basis of modern solutions to the consonance problem, as much of it is still valid, while the remainder can readily be replaced by more appropriate new solutions. The psychoacoustic foundations of sensory consonance, as provided by modern psychoacoustics, are largely identical with those found by Helmholtz. With regard to harmony, that is, the music-specific component of musical consonance, a new psychoacoustic foundation is provided by the established principles of virtual-pitch perception. Several consequences and prospects of the concept for musical science are briefly considered.

main page