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Reflections On Dissonance

Reflection One:
While we strive for consonance and harmony in our lives, the truth is we live in a world where we are often bombarded by sounds dissonant to our bodies. Cell phones, computers, the flat line of electricity, trains, planes and automobiles all have dissonance foreign to our biology that can have a damaging effect on our systems.

Reflection Two:
We seek nature but often arrive out of tune. Many people on a walk with a friend talk about problems. Cell phones are within reach in jacket pockets. I have often been with someone at a sacred site and their cell phone's electronic melody is amplified by the space. Joggers often are plugged into IPods. We often don't take the time to stop and listen in silence to be tuned by the music of the land and be harmonized.

Reflection Three:
I have specialized in helping people find their voices through vocal toning, chanting and improvisation. Often the first sounds of group toning are dissonant, expressing the many different conflicting energies and emotions stored in the body. This first level of toning is akin to compost. It feels good to sound out stress though can often sound cacophonous. Once the group is entrained, sounds begin to shift, but not always in consonant harmony. There can be dissonances similar to the sounds of a Balkan choir. My experience of this dissonance is delicious, it feels like it scours the aura. When consonance arises out of dissonance it can be profound. The group sharing after such a toning is often deep and meaningful, and people report being transformed by the experience.

Reflection Four:
All great western classical music is built upon consonance and dissonance. Harmony reflections the build of tension and the release of tension which has a healing effect on the listener. Leonard Bernstein also brilliantly used the tritone, called the Devil in Music by the early church Fathers, in his song Maria where he resolves the tritone with a Perfect Fifth. Sing it yourself extending each syllable of Maria. Feel the effect on your body. Try it with just the first two notes Maaa-reeee and stop. Listen again to how that feels.

Then go back to singing Maaa-reeee-ahhh and feel again this movement of dissonance to consonance.

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