Not all dissonances come with an – albeit slight, in some cases – whiff of diabolic sulphur; some have been fully integrated into polite society. Here’s a case in point: the dominant seventh (known as V7 for short). It can be encountered anywhere from staid Lutheran gatherings in Leipzig’s Thomaskirche through to rather louche evenings in Belle Époque Paris (did I write polite society? Ah, well…)

Why V7? The dominant is the fifth note of any scale, hence the ‘V’ and the dissonance is seven notes away from the dominant – V7.


One of the most famous series of dominant sevenths is this…

… the unsettling, key-shifting beginning of Beethoven’s First Symphony.


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