Harmony is for the Birds

Let’s face it: some music is really hard on the ears! I don’t mean the noise that’s out there, I mean the real and serious music. What makes music rough is this beautiful, unstable and highly useful thing called dissonance. In a dissonant chord, the notes aren’t aligned harmonically and so the sound is tense and unpleasant. But dissonance doesn’t last. It can’t. A dissonant chord wants to, has to, resolve. And so it’s always in motion toward some new place, some integrated and harmonious place. A still point.

If we look around us and feel into ourselves, our entire universe is flowing between these states of instability and alignment. Our very lives are organized around this phenomenon of tension and release. And as artists we love this! These states course through our craft and the more that we’re aware of them and employ them, the more effective and communicative we become. Where instability is missing, we create it. We set up tensions in music, in dialogue, in movement. We give, we hold back. We show, we conceal. We grate, we soothe.

Consider that everything inside us and in the world around us – the conflicts, let’s say – are there in service to us, seeking to resolve themselves in us and through us. Our very impetus to make art may just be the avenue we’ve chosen to give meaning to life and to nature’s inherent conflicts and tensions, its ebb and flow, its instability and balance. Trust therefore that what you perceive as something unresolved in your life – a task, a relationship, a reality – is right now working its way toward alignment, with and without your input.

This too shall pass. It has to.

The way of chords is also the way of questions. The question that hangs out there unresolved is moving toward the answer. Like a chord it has to resolve itself…and bring another question and an answer after that. And so it goes, like the sun around the earth and all the seasons. Therefore embrace the instability in your life. It’s temporary. Accept it. Use it. Every day, throw yourself off! Leave your still point. Leave something behind – the harmony maybe. Risk that.
What happens next may be the sweetest sound you ever heard.

About Karen Kohler

Born in Frankfurt and raised in New York, Karen began her professional music career in Austin. Since returning to NYC in 2001, she has been a leading exponent of the cabaret arts as performer, director, producer and historian. Her performances blend multiple genres - classical, cabaret, jazz, blues and folk-rock - in six languages. She is founder of the award-winning ensemble, Kabarett Kollektif, and producer of Kabarett Fete, a celebrated international cabaret festival. Karen gives private lessons and conducts master classes in stagecraft, the art of public speaking and creativity coaching. View all posts by Karen Kohler

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