Pulsed radio-frequency transient phenomena of resonant two-level spins are often described by the Bloch equations where the phenomenological dipole (T2) and population (T1) decay times appear. A similar description has been carried over recently into the microwave and infrared regions as well. At visible-ultraviolet wavelengths, however, a more general solution is required because the transition levels do not constitute an isolated system and also spontaneous emission can no longer be disregarded. As a consequence, the lower (1) and upper (2) transition levels are characterized by vastly different decay rates (γ1γ2) and the lifetime T1 is no longer a defined quantity. In view of laser-induced coherent transient phenomena now being observed, we present general solutions of the density-matrix equations of motion for an optically resonant two-level system in contact with a multilevel reservoir where γ1γ2. Particular and perturbative solutions involving intensity-dependent damping and frequency shifts are included with applications to echo and nutation phenomena. © 1976 The American Physical Society.