Composers thoughts on Craft – On Harmony

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COMPOSERS THOUGHTS ON CRAFT SERIES © BY CATHERINE MEESON MARCH 15 2018

‘Consonance and dissonance is a musical version of Yin and Yang, the two eternal lovers ever relating’ © CM 2013

Harmony is the art and expression of relation, that of the sun and the moon, the stem and the roots, the pollen of the flower- to the bee. It is the wind through the leaves of a forest, the tides of ebb and flow, the motion and rest found in the temporal world.

Hang on a minute weren’t we talking about music?

Nature is music, music is nature. They are inherently expressions of the same thing, one cannot be had without the other, except in the mostly inaccessible ethers to the non musician.

A composers job is to be an arbiter of harmony, the hand that reaps the harvest of available elements, be those elements instruments, voices or other aspects. Composers work with music, sound, idea, light, shadow, shape, form the temporal and the eternal. The micro and macro cosmic forces of creation.

We have long sought harmony of being amidst the turmoil of life. The ages of humanity each, a different arena for growth, within the conditions of time. It produces a different song a different harmony or maybe a discord in the symphony of time and space?. One can liken people to the members of an orchestra or the tribe/clan and the ruling class and governance as the conductors of the symphony of that culture; be it good or bad. It is all about the play of forces through form. Form being the mind, heart and soul of the people. Force being the energy, the chi being compelled, and the aspect of human will. Force is like the intention, form is the music.

Music is a supreme art of relation, as one can see the expression of perfection in its ability to form geometries as beautiful as snowflakes- the synthesis of prima materia into form  (see the work of (Emoto, 2007) & (Reid, n.d.)). Music is an expression of mathematics and physics as well as one of the highest art forms. To the Hindus it is a sacred spiritual path. The Hindus speak of the Nada Yoga- the way of sound that incorporates the domain of voice, mantra and instrumentation. It is a path whereby devotion, contemplation and action become an expression of union with the divine.

In the ‘Call of Oma’, I am seeking through electro orchestral samples and other synthesiser timbre s and voice/ lyric prose, to express notions of a cosmic nature and the harmony of the elements necessary for the balance of life on earth, through the relationships expressed in story and sound . Harmony is something we are – each, as a host to billions of cells and microorganisms that live within. Yet the question becomes are we in harmony with self, world and the divine (Heaven, Earth, Humanity)?, Or are we in the ever present moment in a state of discord?, out of alignment with the natural order? The words reveal the way.

Musically, harmony is the sounding of two or more simultaneous notes, pitches, or sounds (I will take it beyond music into the world soundscape, see (Schafer, 1994). Discord is a clash of two or more notes, sounds, or beings who are in discord, existing in a transitory state on the way to harmony. Harmony is our norm – discord is our passage. Such is the nature of life and relation.

Musical consonance and dissonance in a compositional sense (within harmony) is slightly different to psychoacoustic consonance and dissonance. One built on the rules of harmony the other within the realm of human perception.

I began to write this article on the train away from my books and references and I decided to detour from the first article which was a lot more academic. The first article on melody was also quite philosophical. I find it difficult not to venture into such realms when they pour forth from my being  as easy as water trickling from a waterfall.

In music harmony can take many tonal qualities with major, minor, 7th, augmented and diminished dominant chords, etc, etc  the crazy list of endless possible chords one can play on guitar keyboard and to some degree harp and other stringed instruments. I am not an expert in world music’s and more exotic instrumentation from other cultures, so do not know what is possible within the realm of harmony on lutes and Chinese Zithers and so forth. Presumably various other string instruments can express similar harmonic arrays dependent upon the tuning of the strings or the combination of notes available in the capacity to be both played and expressed by the player.

Harmony can be found in the interplay of relation between dark and light in tonal language, the bass and treble clefs, in the high and low registers or frequency domains. Some harmony is consonant and pleasing to us and others are dissonant. This depends on the tuning system of our culture whether equal temperament versus what I understand of ancient Middle Eastern and Hindu quarter tones systems. Please correct me if I’m wrong. Harmony is  somewhat like possibilities; the scaffolds to build upon with our composition to explore the concept of relation. It also depends on personal prejudice.

I was not schooled in classical theory, but Western pop rock and electronic music and all its permutations in the modern era via the ear. I expanded my sonic palate later as I grew and my tastes evolved. One does not need to logically understand classical theory or even jazz to explore, express and feel one’s way, (though such knowledge is invaluable and gives great advantage). Without it we are only limited by our own resources, we can still articulate relationships on our analog instruments and in our MIDI scores and analog recordings, we are ideally always learning and growing creatively.

It is all choice – melody, harmony, rhythm, built from and as the primary elements of trade. Notes, pitches, instrumentation – expression and embodiment, feeling.  I was mostly self-taught. In later years when I went to Tafe I had a few lessons in voice and guitar to get me where I wanted to go and make up for my many deficits in knowledge and skill and to increase my confidence. I still maintain I cannot play very well. I cannot play on keyboard with both hands together with different rhythms at the same time other than very simple ones. But I can program in and create layers of instrumentation augmenting what I hear in my head via midi. Guitar is much easier for me.

An expression of Harmony- from the Contemplating Buddha album launch 

Harmony can only exist- in relation to. The Call of Oma seeks to unify the soul with ancient remembrance and an enlarged sense of relation. It seeks to return us to a conscious harmony. Can I do this within the composition? I do not know. I’ll ask help from the universe each time I sit and play and record (i.e. compose). The sweetest of harmonies allows a soul to ascend and the spirit to descend into the playing fields of earth.

It is with sadness that I’m not presenting another Earth Day event on April 22nd this year as intended. I simply do not have any new works ready to match the scope of what I presented last year whilst launching I Am (Song of the Earth) or the year before in the play By the Mandate of Heaven. I also do not have the time at the moment to devote to organising the harmony of contributing artists. The theme was to be and maybe still can be for 2019 next year Heaven Earth Humanity -Be The Bridge, or maybe it is something I give focus to on an individual level and share the thoughts on why it is important to me and for us all. I wanted it to be an effort to bring many members together to share, collaborate and initiate action and initiatives from earth centred consciousness that promote and nurture the reality ‘of that harmony’ that we so easily forget, but that exists nonetheless as the foundation for being for life on earth.

Life on earth is an expression of perfect harmony… As long as the players know their place and understand their role. That is our great task – understanding. All life depends on it.

The earth will thank you with leaves that whisper

birds that sing

And a heart filled with contentment.

Contact me directly if you would like to be involved in such an event or collective of artists, free thinkers, healers, way showers etc for 2019. 

 For access to the first Composers Thoughts on Craft Series 1 – On Melody go here https://www.catherinemeeson.com/blog-2/composers-thoughts-on-craft-on-melody/

For behind the scenes exclusive video links sign up here https://www.catherinemeeson.com/ship-mates/

With love and in harmony and relation always in all ways , kindly Catherine

References

Emoto, M., 2007. The Miracle of Water. Atria Books, New York, NY.

Reid, J.S., n.d. Home of the Cymatics [WWW Document]. Cymascope. URL http://www.cymascope.com (accessed 12.27.17).

Schafer, R.M., 1994. The Soundscape- Our Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World. Destiny Books, Rochester, Vermont.

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