Light and Heavy Tensions



You’ve been getting to know the overall feelings of the neutral, lighter, and heavier moods, so now, let’s start to think a little more about what’s going on inside a mood, that is, about the individual notes that make it up.

[neutral tonescape]

So all the tensions in the tonescape are the [play: anchor, 2nd… 7th]. And by changing just one of these tensions, we create a different mood.

So when I move from the neutral to the lighter mood, I’m changing the 3rd, the 3rd gets lighter. So we have [play: anchor, 2nd, 3rd], then in the lighter mood, [anchor, 2nd, 3rd]. [Switch between: heavy 3rd, light 3rd].

And when I move from the neutral to the heavier mood, I’m changing the 6th, the 6th gets heavier. So we have [play: anchor, 7th, 6th], then in the heavier mood, [anchor, 7th, 6th]. [Switch between: heavy 6th, light 6th].

One way to describe what it means for a tension to get lighter is that it’s stretched a greater distance upward from the anchor. So you can imagine that distance as wider, or expanded. And a heavier tension is closer to the anchor, or contracted. You can actually feel this kind of expanding and contracting in your body as you move through the lighter or heavier moods.

So there’s a relationship between the overall lightness or heaviness of the mood, and the lightness or heaviness of the individual notes that make it up. Making a note inside a mood lighter makes the whole mood lighter, and making a note inside a mood heavier makes the whole mood heavier.

In fact, the lighter and heavier moods represent the sum of the light and heavy tensions that make them up. So in the lighter mood, both the 3rd and 6th are light. In the heavier mood, the 3rd and 6th are heavy. And in the neutral mood, the 3rd is heavy and the 6th is light.

Zooming out, you can start to notice some symmetry in all of this. The note getting “lighter” is two higher than the anchor, and the note getting “heavier” is two lower. So the notes that change are equal and opposite distances from the anchor. This is the case when you orient yourself to the neutral mood, which is made up of an equal number of light and heavy tensions. And it starts to show you an overall structure for the different modes: a spectrum of lightness and heaviness, with neutral in the middle.

So to make these names a part of your listening, now, when you hear a 3rd or 6th, also say whether it’s light or heavy, like this [demo].

Nothing is changing in the sound of the notes, only in how you’re naming them. You’re being more precise and distinguishing which tensions are changing to create the differences between the moods.

And even though you’re making the names a little more precise, it’s worth noticing that the numbers of the tensions still stay the same. So whether a 3rd is light or heavy, it still has the feeling of being a 3rd. Because the feeling of position in the overall collection of notes is something broader than whether it’s a light or a heavy version of that feeling.

So choose a random mood, name the tensions you hear, and then when you’re comfortable doing that, there’s one more exercise that takes all of these tensions, that is, both kinds of 3rds and both kinds of 6ths, and mixes them together with the neutral tonescape, like this [demo].

Now, the light 3rd and the heavy 6th aren’t a part of the neutral tonescape, so they really stand out when you hear them.

But putting them together helps you start to compare all the tensions side by side, which you don’t get to do when you’re listening in any single mood.

So give it a try. When you’re comfortable naming the tensions in each mood, and all together with the neutral tonescape, that’s when you’re ready to come back for more.

Tonescape Exercises

Level 21 Exercises