Thursday, November 4, 2010

Dissonance

It’s turning out to be one of those weeks. One of those “Would-you-please-let-me-off-the-rollercoaster-and-let-me-walk-for-a-while” weeks. We started the week with illness—both my husband and I were barely functional. And when I get sick I tend to also get discouraged. Little things, like when your eight year-old gets excited about seeing a picture of Bach on the wall in a movie (“You know, the guy on the one dollar bill!”) are devastating, because you don’t know if you should be excited that she esteems Bach so highly or concerned about the holes in her knowledge of American history. Or both. (Now that I’m feeling better I’ve decided to be glad of the connections she made—she recognized the picture on the wall as the same picture on a $1 bill and figured it was the man in a white wig with whom she is most familiar. Not bad for barely eight years old. She has plenty of time left in her education to iron these things out.)

There have been glimpses of grace along the way this week, too, like the snowflake mobile the kids made out of the ceiling fan, and hugs from my ten year-old son, and the offers from all three children to take over meal preparations. There have been articles like author Alison McGhee’s on why she writes for children and Jessica Griffith’s on parenting, being different, and artistic vision.

I remember what a revelation it was when teachers pointed out to me that the music of Bach and Mozart was full of dissonances. For a long time, I had thought of Mozart, especially, as a composer who wrote perfectly logical music—what came next always made sense to me. In fact, though, part of his brilliance was how he played with his listeners’ expectations, how his music was peppered with sharps and flats that weren’t part of the key he was writing in, how melody and form took unexpected turns in his compositions. Bach, too, held notes together that clashed, moving through dissonances I never thought I expected in his music, but that in reality make his music fresh and rich and relevant.

It turns out that much of what I respond to in art has to do with tension and release, light and dark, devastation and redemption. And yet I keep thinking that I don’t want those things in my life. That I want some sort of easy straight line to live. And yet the light that you get when you are in the dark is so very lovely.

2 comments:

  1. Outstanding and thought-provoking post!
    So true! It's the difficulties in life that make us appreciate the good times, the illnesses that make us appreciate our health, the pain and sorrow (tears) that make us appreciate our joy (laughter). . .

    I love the way you correlated it to dissonance in music. You captured it perfectly!

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  2. Thanks, Shonya! I appreciate your comments so much!

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