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
Harmony is in all that is
The seen and unseen
Conceptions of existence.
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 https://www.catherinemeeson.com/music/store-2/ or going to Bandcamp. Thesis is also available.