Harmony as function and aspiration

HARMONY AS FUNCTION AND ASPIRATION- MUSIC CULTURE NATURE May 2014

© Catherine Meeson 2014

I keep coming back to my more philosophical musical writings, informed by the last 17 years of research into music and sound on a more spiritual level, examining the effects of music/ sound and how music/sound can heal and harm. I return also to my honours work, because at a deep deep level the patterning of rhythm, harmony, melody and form has come to us though our co-evolution with nature. We grow in the ‘World soundscape’ (to quote R.M Schafer), and our health is intricately linked up to its  audible voicings on the world stage. Out collective harmony stems from the worlds harmony.

Harmony is the wind through  trees

Life as it breathes

Essence into form

Harmony is the waves that flow

Tidal movements that show

The great currents of life

Harmony is the note that sings

Of the orchestra of things

That play the day

Harmony is in the way we be

Both you and me cultured historically

Humanity one family.

Harmony is in the content of life

That consists of love and strife

That makes us whole

Harmony is in the dwelling fields

Of all life revealed

In relationship

Harmony is in all that is

The seen and unseen

Conceptions of existence.

Japanese Garden- Photography Emo Goto with permission

Japanese Garden- Photography Emo Goto with permission

The field of acoustic ecology  which underpinned  a lot of my honours research and its application in composition and education exists for me as an extension and modern translation of the laws of harmony of the ancients.

‘Harmony as a function and  aspiration’ embodies a broad philosophical, theoretical and practical ethic whereby we are ever seeking its way;-  harmony existing as a state  of being and as a field of dwelling. Harmony as an expressed consciousness , as an integrated understanding of person, place and relation. The subjects of inquiry within acoustic ecology are about sound relationships, and all sound has a universal essence of harmony or discord when perceived by sentient beings, a bit like the yin/ yang dance of forces.

In music as I understand it, harmony is a principle, tool and practice, it is embodied in the combined elements of musical voice and choice, of combined interval relations, instrument groupings, stylistic elements and  cultural nuances. With computers we are unlimited in our digital exploration of harmony and with our palette of compositional voices- all sound phenomena becomes available,  morphing and changing as we explore harmonic relationships.  A harmonic is as multiple by way of relation to the fundamental ground of being. I have gained from ancient perspectives on sound and how we perceive it, as is defined  in relation to music and experience. Some of this can be found in great ethno-musicological data and in the emerging field of archeo-acoustics and megalithic studies.

To create instruments we had to be practitioners  and explorers of harmony, which means we have a very long history of experimentation and contemplation of its essence . This would be in no doubt informed by the tactile and experiential sense of concord and discord . This is why I title this article ‘Harmony as function and aspiration’. In music and in culture in the ancient world, harmony was a critical function of divine and social order and a guide to musical worth and structure. It was both aesthetic and cultural, political, philosophical and traditional.

As an aspiration it was about seeking to find balance and bring security to an often chaotic world, of dynamic forces ever playing out. All people need harmony to feel content. All people feel ‘content’, though with varying degrees of resonance and affinity, influenced of course by both subjectivity and conditioning. This was modelled in form, through  instrumentation and sound. Sound reveals relationship and harmony in a multitude of ways, from the purely aesthetic, to the  interval,  and cymatic representations of the geometries of form. Some sounds generate chaotic forms, others more beautiful crystalline structures like snowflakes and mandalas.

In my honours work ‘Oriental Temple Gardens Complex’  and thesis An Approach to Soundscape Composition Incorporating the Therapeutic and Moving Aspects of Music and Sound’,  I explored the nature and essence of harmony and relationship  in music, guided by comparative cross disciplinary content.  This study allowed me to delve into the nature of sound from all angles, the nature of being and how sound affects us physically emotionally, mentally  and spiritually  crowning 17 years of private study. All these areas are implicated in the area of harmony.

I invite you to explore this  more in an embodied soundscape  walk into the Oriental Temple Gardens Complex through visiting http://www.catherinemeeson.com/music/store-2/ or going to Bandcamp. Thesis is also available.