Dissonance and Harmony

“Dissonance, if you are interested, leads to discovery.” ~William Carlos Williams

There are so many unanswered questions about school, church, parks, sports, theater, work, etc. Is it safe or not? Which interpretation of which data is the kind we can trust? There are a million voices trying to insist that their solution is the best. It’s all a cacophony of confusing craziness – in musical terms, it could be described as dissonance.

In its simplest (musical) term, dissonance is a lack of harmony among notes.  Notes played together (harmonic intervals) or in succession (melodic intervals) that cause “tension” in a piece. It is a tool western tonal composers use to bring interest to a piece. Interest? How can disharmony be interesting when it sounds so wrong, so off, so uncomfortable?

The value of dissonance and its resulting tension propels the movement of a piece forward as it begs for harmony, begs for resolution. As students of the performing arts, learning the skill of resolution and harmony is useful in many areas. This skill moves not only music forward, but a story, a play, a dance, really all works of art. Dissonance requires the highest form of creativity and innovation as this skill requires the artist to understand two seemingly opposing forces and to resolve them and make them meaningful for the whole. Can you think of a better time to learn these skills?

During this time of cacophony, let’s see how we can use this time to get creative. Let’s use this time as an opportunity to understand what seem to be opposing ideas and find innovative ways to move forward, to find resolution, to create harmony.

Contributed by Katie Gurney