Multidisciplinarity in practice: a reflection on consonance, dissonance, or perhaps, noise?

Ferreira, G. M. d. S. (2006). Multidisciplinarity in practice: a reflection on consonance, dissonance, or perhaps, noise? International journal of the humanities, 2



The notions of consonance and dissonance have come to provide a topic of common interest to a multiplicity of well-established and emerging disciplines alike: music theory, music psychology, acoustics, to name a few. Dissonances in tonal music have particular functions that assumedly create variety and interest, which is, nevertheless, normally referred to as ‘tension’ that must invariably lead to ‘resolution’ in a consonance. An extreme position associates dissonance with ‘noise’: the loud, the inappropriate, the unwanted. Nevertheless, these are notions that are context-bound, historically and culturally grounded. In this paper I would like to exploit, with basis on post-structuralist theories of discourse, some of the discipline-oriented ways in which those notions can be conceptualised, presenting a reflective case-study that draws upon a particular educational setting which I have personally integrated. This setting, an instantiation of ‘multidisciplinarity’, has been provided by the developmental stage of a distance learning course on the technology of music, which has counted on the contribution of specialists and professionals from a variety of different disciplines and areas. Drawing, in particular, on the implications of Foucault’s conception of discourse, this paper examines that setting in its political and ideological aspects, construing participants as representatives of different ‘institutions’, namely, academic disciplines, professional groups, music-oriented groupings, and/or institutional departments and units. In accord with previous deconstructions of the dichotomies consonance/dissonance and art/technology, the paper concludes by drawing a parallel between a notion of ‘multidisciplinarity’ and contemporary notions of ‘noise’ that transcend those dichotomies and construe ‘noise’ as legitimate musical material.

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