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Cognitive Dissonance and Musical Dissonance

How am I going to connect this to film?

A:  I don’t have to

However, it will always come back there.

Even more so, it will always come back to music.

My first love.

My first degree.

Dissonance is set in opposition to consonance.

Play two notes which are very close to one another and you get dissonance.

More precisely.

Press two keys of a piano which are side by side (for instance, C and Db…in this case, one white and one black) and you have struck what is arguably the most dissonant interval in Western music:  a minor 2nd.

In equal temperament (the tuning system which prevails in Western countries), no two pitches can be closer together (in terms of hertz…vibrations per second) than those pitches which constitute a minor 2nd interval.

Even a major 2nd is usually considered less dissonant than a minor 2nd.

And all that has changed is that the two pitches are a little farther apart in a major 2nd interval.

This trend continues.

Minor 3rd (more consonant that a m2 or M2 interval).

Major 3rd (quite consonant indeed…at least in comparison to m2, M2, and m3).

Perfect 4th.

Ahhh…we come to a truly consonant interval.


But before we can arrive at another, we are foiled by the dreaded b5/#4:

the tritone.

Indeed, nothing quite so piques the Western ear (aside from the minor 2nd) as the tritone.

It was called the “Devil’s interval” long ago.

And though that superstition has largely passed (at least in its literal sense), a tritone is likely to make a Western listener uneasy.

Now, I could keep going with this tour of intervals.

[which doubles back on itself until a true “repeat in history” is achieved at the octave]

But I sense that your attention is fleeting (unless you are a muso…picking apart my imprecise music theory).

So I will get to a point.

Q:  What is cognitive dissonance?

Is that like believing p and not p at the same time?

For instance, Salman Abedi bombed the Ariana Grande concert…and Salman Abedi did not bomb the Ariana Grande concert.

Is that cognitive dissonance?

I’m being parably (not parabolically) coy here.  Fey.



Let’s go back to that formula (in symbolic logic).


Is that cognitive dissonance?

If we formulate it ¬(p&¬p), then (conditional) we’ve successfully ideated the law of non-contradiction.

So important to Leibniz.

From Aristotle.

And thus, we are well on our way to disavowing both “fuzzy logic” and “quantum logic”.

Let’s get fuzzy first.

As a prelude, we will clarify another bedrock law of classical logic:  the law of the excluded middle.

[both this and the previous (non-contradiction) law are expansive ways of saying “one or the other”]


In English, p or not p.

There is no middle.

There is no in-between.

There is no nuance.

It is either one, or the other.

Either Salman Abedi bombed the Ariana Grande concert, or he did not bomb the Ariana Grande concert.

There can be no other option.

[in classical logic]

But if subatomic particles do not behave according to classical logic (and they don’t), then why should we assume that classical logic will best explain the events of our world (which is made up of subatomic particles)?

A:  we shouldn’t

We shouldn’t assume such.

Though it tease the mind, we should entertain shades of meaning…and thereby get the REAL truth.

In fuzzy logic, if the phrase “Salman Abedi bombed the Ariana Grande concert” is 51% true, then it is true (though it is 49% false).

Conversely, if the phrase “Salman Abedi bombed the Ariana Grande concert” is 51% false,  then it is false (though it be 49% true).

[at least that’s my interpretation of fuzzy logic]

Like musical dissonance, fuzzy logic can be represented by points on a continuum.

51% true is (all things considered) NOT VERY TRUE 🙂

But if the statement changes (assuming the account is accurate) to “Salman Abedi really did bomb the Ariana Grande concert”, perhaps a numerical equivalent would be that the statement is now 52% true (or even, say, 75% true).

This train of thought continues upon the same track.

If we were to encounter (and it were to be borne out be evidence) “Salman Abedi really fucking did indeed bomb the Ariana Grande concert”, then our point on the continuum would plot closer to certainty (or pure truth…if there is such a thing).

Thus, the last statement would be 53% true (or, God forbid, 100% true).

If we reach the end of the continuum (either end), then we are not dealing anymore with fuzzy logic…but rather, we are back to classical logic.

One or the other.




But I wonder if we could describe cognitive dissonance (not fully appreciating the contradiction of beliefs held in one mind) as the root of confirmation bias?

Such that confirmation bias could be called “applied cognitive dissonance”.

The word “applied” (at the beginning of a phrase) has such an august pomp about it.

But if it puts a bad out in the world (as opposed to a good…singular of goods…in an economic sense) in its appliance, all manner of absurd situations can be assumed to follow.

What about “applied schizophrenia”?

Is that possible?

Or even the more mundane:  applied anxiety (hmmm…could be an asset…depending).

Applied depression.  That might be harder.

But it could be thought of as a weaponization.

Weaponized depression.

A person so glum that they destroy the morale of an entire enemy battalion.

So how would we get such a clinically depressed soldier…out of bed…and into the other side’s army?

Backing up to confirmation bias.

Even the contradicting evidence supports our case.

That’s confirmation bias.

That U.K. authorities have stated that 22-year-old Salman Abedi killed 22 people on May 22nd by means of a bomb may actually (and it does) further convince me (and provide proof of something afoot) that NOBODY DIED IN MANCHESTER.

If I follow that path, I am engaging in confirmation bias.

Or, as we said, applied cognitive dissonance.

I’m taking in new information (which contradicts my Ur-theory), but I’m merely incorporating the new information into a more and more twisted tree of mosaic logic.

Perhaps only the Sorities paradox can explain what happens as we dwindle down from the heaping certainty of 100% true to 51% true.

Indeed, in fuzzy logic, there is no excluded middle.

So 50% true would also be 50% false.

A statement with those truth values would be both true and false (equally) and neither true nor false (each being equally negated).

[like the liar’s paradox, it is an infinite (infuriating) loop]

As for quantum logic, perhaps only one film I know of can represent it and that is Mulholland Drive.

Then again, the films of Stan Brakhage might equally symbolize this realm of alternate reasoning.

When we watch films, we see through the director’s eyes.

Yet none of us with see the exact same thing…because our minds (and all our memories) are engaged in the viewing process…giving everyone (truly everyone) a unique viewing experience.

I would add that art operates by its own logic(s).

Then the question is this:  do we intend to play our brains like pianos?

Do we intend to apply our cognitive dissonances?

First we must visualize the keyboard.

Locate our peculiar, clashing beliefs.

But can we than “apply” them by way of confirmation bias?

Well, of course.

But learning the scales will be the toughest.

For that will take a very thorough mindfulness which, I reckon, not many of us possess.





Operation according to their own myriad logics.

And the logic of each auteur structures the world(s) he or she brings us in film.

And how important PLAY and FREE ASSOCIATION become in the mixed up soup of art.

Even to get the right pigments.

Might have to throw your shoe into the vat.

Bulk quantities of paint.

To paint the waterlilies a million times.

Every day.

And the crows in the field.

And back to the church stones glowing at different times of day.

Shades of light.  Degrees of day.  Heat.

One word must weave into the next.

Know that we should never stop dreaming.

Never stop learning.

Never stop questioning.

And have the bravery which Plato counted as truly a virtue.



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