Music is harmony; it is a universal public good that knows no boundaries. In the wake of tragedies both in France and Lebanon, along with the almost weekly news on domestic threats, I cannot help but feel helpless. What are we, those with creative skills, to do? How can we express harmony when there is so much dissonance? Politics are not something I will discuss in these articles, nor will I discuss religion. But, I would like to talk about harmony and its vibrant unquestionable truth.
The word harmony is defined as "a combination of simultaneously sounded notes to produce chords having a pleasing effect." This is the proper musical definition of the word. Outside of music the word is defined as "a consistent, orderly, or pleasing arrangement of parts." Throughout my studies I have always been fascinated with the concept of harmony. I have taken years of music theory, diving further and further down the rabbit hole. The way music works, the laws that govern the pleasing and memorable songs of our lives is beyond beautiful. It is perfect. As previously stated, a combination of simultaneously sounded notes producing a pleasing effect is a chord, and a chord is one piece to harmony. A chord is most often built of three individual, but specific, notes. When played together we perceive these notes as pleasant, or harmonious. If we put one chord after another, we have a progression, which is also considered harmony. On top of our progression we add what is called melody, and this too is part of the larger picture, which is harmony.
A full symphony orchestra consists of anywhere from 70-100 musicians. These musicians can all be playing together, on different instruments, in different time signatures, reading different clefs, and still…still…be playing together, in harmony with one another. In 1909 Gustav Mahler composed Symphony No.8 in E Flat Major, which is often referred to as “Symphony of a Thousand.” This piece has over a thousand musicians and singers all performing together in harmony.
Music is a universal language, spoken by few, but understood by all. It does not have borders. It is perfect, and the example that it sets in its perfection should not be overlooked. With that said, it is also just a vehicle. Music cannot exist without the human spirit. With that spirit, it can soar over the seas and into people's hearts. It can unite, and it can heal people, cities, countries, and nations. For students and parents alike, the simple songs of popular culture, past and present, are socially and culturally profound in ways we may not even know. Simply put, the skill to play an instrument or song is important.