Consonance and the Fabric of Time

If you are a musician or a listener (or both), you’ve gotta love this, from the American Heritage Dictionary, a truly beautiful noun, consonance:

  1. Agreement; harmony; accord.
  2. Close correspondence of sounds.
  3. The repetition of consonants or of a consonant pattern, especially at the ends of words, as in blank and think or strong and string.
  4. Music: A simultaneous combination of sounds not requiring resolution to another combination of sounds for finality of effect and conventionally regarded as harmonious or pleasing.

It is firstly about agreement, a wonderful experience when it happens. There is a story in an extraordinary book, The Elegance of the Hedgehog (Muriel Barbery), about consonance; a young girl character, Paloma,  is watching synchronized diving on TV, where two young Chinese divers simultaneously perform the exact same dive at the same moment. As she is watching, the two girls take their turn- after a few graceful bounces they plunge off the high board — Paloma holds her breath as the divers spin through the air, miraculous in their consonance– but just then, something happens, they get out of sync. “One of them is going to reach the water before the other! It’s horrible!” What was potentially a ‘magic moment’, a work of artistry, crashes down, Paloma’s heart drops- she practically has to look away before they reach the water, it is almost too much to take.

Paloma records this incident for her “Journal of the Movement of the World”, where she is keeping her innermost thoughts- even at her young age she is frustrated by “all those things that pass before us, which we miss by a hair and which are botched for eternity…”

As a player, in a band, I know just how the divers feel, how Paloma felt watching: the never-ending quest for those moments of consonance, when it all comes together, and the uneasy feeling when its not. But the quest never ends, as aspiring artists continue to search for the “odd moment of beauty, where time is no longer the same…a sort of interlude in time, something suspended, an always within never.”

“Beauty, in this world.”

Rave on, Paloma, rave on…


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