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In music, harmony is the concept of combining different sounds together in order to create new, distinct musical ideas. Theories of harmony seek to describe or explain the effects created by distinct pitches or tones coinciding with one another; harmonic objects such as chords, textures and tonalities are identified, defined, and categorized in the development of these theories. Harmony is broadly understood to involve both a "vertical" dimension (frequency-space) and a "horizontal" dimension (time-space), and often overlaps with related musical concepts such as melody, timbre, and form.
A particular emphasis on harmony is one of the core concepts underlying the theory and practice of Western music. The study of harmony involves the juxtaposition of individual pitches to create chords, and in turn the juxtaposition of chords to create larger chord progressions. The principles of connection that govern these structures have been the subject of centuries worth of theoretical work and vernacular practice alike.
Drawing both from music theoretical traditions and the field of psychoacoustics, its perception in large part consists of recognizing and processing consonance, a concept whose precise definition has varied throughout history, but is often associated with simple mathematical ratios between coincident pitch frequencies. In the physiological approach, consonance is viewed as a continuous variable measuring the human brain's ability to 'decode' aural sensory input. Culturally, consonant pitch relationships are often described as sounding more pleasant, euphonious, and beautiful than dissonant pitch relationships, which can be conversely characterized as unpleasant, discordant, or rough.
In popular and jazz harmony, chords are named by their root plus various terms and characters indicating their qualities. In many types of music, notably baroque, romantic, modern, and jazz, chords are often augmented with "tensions". A tension is an additional chord member that creates a relatively dissonant interval in relation to the bass. The notion of counterpoint seeks to understand and describe the relationships between melodic lines, often in the context of a polyphonic texture of several simultaneous but independent voices. Therefore, it is sometimes seen as a type of harmonic understanding, and sometimes distinguished from harmony.
Typically, in the classical common practice period a dissonant chord (chord with tension) "resolves" to a consonant chord. Harmonization usually sounds pleasant to the ear when there is a balance between consonance and dissonance. Simply put, this occurs when there is a balance between "tense" and "relaxed" moments. Dissonance is an important part of harmony when dissonance can be resolved and contribute to the composition of music as a whole. A misplayed note or any sound that is judged to detract from the whole composition can be described as disharmonious rather than dissonant.