cluster chords

Some people are difficult. Something about their attitude or actions makes coexisting challenging. And often times, I realize that if I could change that person, I would end up making them more like myself. I would take the differences and make them no more.

If I wrote music, I’d probably write boring music…one melody line, one volume, one speed. I like things to go as expected. I like harmony and peace. I like it when everyone gets along.

I was sitting in the balcony of my church tonight, singing at choir practice when I found myself plugging my ears. Now, normally, our choir sounds real good. Made of young pups like me and 70 year old men with voices as smooth as butter cream, our group usually blends well. Except for this one chord in this one song. Our director called it a cluster chord because there are several notes clustered together. It sounds as though each note is fighting with the others and no one really wins. Ironically, this chord is held as we sing the word “peace”. Singing my F while the person next to me sings a F#, I don’t feel any peace. I am tempted to just sing the F# and end the pain in my ears. But I don’t.

Because this cluster chord reminds me of life. Dissonance is our reality. People are created, not duplicated. Peace is the aim, but not the norm. Life is not always a harmonious arrangement, with conforming ideas and beliefs. Cluster chords speckle our days and lead us to a decision. We can continue singing our own note, or we can abandon it and begin singing someone else’s note. There is a time to get along. There is a time to cooperate and compromise. But not every time. Sometimes, disagreements are good. Sometimes anticonformity is beautiful. Sometimes, disruptions lead to wholeness.

Music is not supposed to always be the same. The weird moving notes, the descants, the key changes make the song interesting. They keep the listener alert, anticipating the possibilities within the song. That’s how life is supposed to be. Difficult people don’t have to leave me frustrated. Circumstances don’t have to leave me discouraged. Disagreements don’t have to chase me away. There is a chance to learn, a chance to grow, a chance to hope. Unison is good. But cluster chords are better. A song can always end in unison. But a song would never end in a cluster chord. Cluster chords mean the song isn’t over, there’s more…just keep listening. It will get better. But it may sound worse before it sounds better…just keep listening.

My life isn’t over. The cluster chords continue to pepper my lifesong. So I’ll unplug my ears and embrace the sound.

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