Lying in bed, listening to the rain patter on a tin roof. A heavy, rhythmic, tapping. Tap-tap-tap. Tap-tap-tap. When water droplets get too heavy to stay suspended in the cloud, they have no choice but to fall to earth as rain.
Just recently, I learned that raindrops come in different sizes. As such, each droplet, depending on its size, produces a different sound when it meets the ocean or the ground. Yet collectively, these droplets make the most soothing and relaxing sound. A harmonic tap dance.
This is what harmony essentially is: different units merging together to create a beautiful melody.
Unlike raindrops that have no choice but to fall, however, in music, the choice to decide how many notes fall on a chord is ours. The result of those choices is either harmony, or chaos. We prefer harmony, of course.
In the same way that we choose to take a leap to follow a vocation, in the same way that we choose the company we keep, in the same way that we choose a life partner. We choose to add notes and inject our lived experiences to a chord in order to find harmony. The melody that makes sense at the end. That thing that resonates with our soul. A harmonious balance.
Jazz is a great example of having the courage to make a choice. In contrast to playing music that is read from notation, or recalled from memory, it’s improvisational–yet, very much so intentional. Jazz improvisation demonstrates that harmony is more than just notes of a chord. Harmony is the deep mastery of the function and movement of each chord within a larger key. A keen understanding of where a chord comes from, where it's going, and how its progression fits together to make sense.
Similar to our human journey, it probes us to think how we connect to the larger world, what our purpose is, and how we choose to evolve.
Harmony, like jazz, can be orderly disorganized. But everything unfolds as it’s meant to.
Same goes with life.
Well, just because two simultaneous pitches produce a harmony does not mean they sound ‘harmonious’ together either. Harmony is an expression of what we’re trying to say emotionally. Thus, the feeling we want to convey needs to match the progression of our chord. Like rain, consonant intervals and chords produce a feeling of calmness. And like jazz, dissonant intervals and chords produce a feeling of tension and movement. Harmony requires knowing what we want to say, emotionally.
Despite what we want to say, however, we can’t wait for harmony to find us in life. We have to go out into the world to find it. Like jazz soloists that take a leap to strike a chord first, instead of waiting to find what strikes a chord with them.
The question is, do we have the courage to make that choice.