The Emancipation of Legal Dissonance

93 Pages Posted: 1 Feb 2009 Last revised: 11 Jun 2010

See all articles by Alexander Somek

Alexander Somek

University of Iowa - College of Law

Date Written: January 1, 2009


The article explains how an example drawn from the history music can help to illuminate the situation of legality in the European Union. The example refers to a decisive step that was taken by Arnold Schönberg in 1908. In the history of modern music, it came to be known as the “emancipation of dissonance”. It amounted to putting consonant and dissonant sonorities on an equal footing in the composition of music.

The article argues, firstly, that methodologically unwarranted but, as regard their effects, “interesting” or “appealing” judicial divinations of law are to be considered the legal equivalent of dissonance in music. The article goes on to claim, secondly, that the European Court of Justice has become the chief purveyor of the emancipation of legal dissonance.

The remainder of the article discusses different ways of coping with the situation that has been thus created for legality in Europe.

Keywords: European Court of Justice, European Union Law, rule of law, legality, law, music

JEL Classification: Z00

Suggested Citation

Somek, Alexander, The Emancipation of Legal Dissonance (January 1, 2009). U Iowa Legal Studies Research Paper No. 09-02, Available at SSRN: or

Alexander Somek (Contact Author)

University of Iowa - College of Law ( email )

Melrose and Byington
Iowa City, IA 52242
United States

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