Friday, January 15, 2010

Dissonance and Harmony

I bought a book at the DI a few months ago called "I Didn't Plan to be a Witch: A Guide for Frustrated Mothers Everywhere" by Linda Eyre. It's been in my car ever since for those stuck-waiting-with-nothing-to-do moments, but it's only been opened a couple of times because either I don't wait enough or I always have something to do while I wait.

I got to wait for a bit today, for Jamie and my dad to meet me for a lunch date. Since each chapter is a shortish essay on some aspect of parenting, I glanced through the table of contents, saw one on sibling rivalry, and decided that was the chapter to read. The lesson is good enough to share.

Bach was a genius at putting together chords and establishing new rules to create complex, rich music. Bach used many methods to make his compositions moving and creative, one of which as dissonance. Over and over again, through passing tons and intentional "wrong" notes, he created a brief, uneasy feeling. Most interesting of all was the relief he could make the listener feel through the resolution of the dissonance.

Bach was a master at resolving the dissonance in his music in wonderful ways--sometimes in predictable ways; other times in creative, new ways. A man known for his "well-tempered clavichord," Bach spent a lifetime establishing music as "well-tempered."

So should be our own households. I hope you have a sigh of relief as you realize that dissonance is necessary to contrast with and resolve into harmony. Dissonance actually makes life more interesting. It helps us grow and progress. The important thing is how we resolve the dissonance. If we do it right, a feeling of even more harmony results, whereas the wrong resolution can cause even greater feelings of anxiety.

Think of a recent example of dissonance in your home and decide whether the dissonance was resolved to create harmony or more dissonance.

She shares an example from her home when a daughter wanted to have a friend sleepover, and because of the previous sleepover her answer was a quick "NO." Of course her daughter was upset and complained. Though her answer was final, she had created more dissonance and decided to put herself in her daughter's shoes. Before the daughter left for school, Mrs. Eyre offered a different solution that they were both happy with, which resulted in greater "harmony" between the two of them. She continues:

Dissonance is a part of life. Whether it's only a passing note or a big, out-of-shape chord, we need to expect it, even anticipate it, and sometimes think about resolutions in advance. Other times, we just need to keep working at it until it feels right. Remember: interesting dissonance makes a greater harmony!

I'm sure it's unbelievable (cough cough) to most of you out there, but we do have our fair share of dissonance in our home. It was refreshing that she didn't give some magic trick, saying that it's possible to entirely get rid of dissonance, but instead called it a "part of life." It's even better to know that through dissonance, the harmony can be even more refreshing and beautiful.

Something to think about! It's got my mind back on those great conductors, evaluating again how I can be a better conductor.


  1. What do you think she means by dissonance? Does she mean crisis or arguments? I think crisis are normal, great or small and arguments are also normal but I don't think they are necessary.

    When I handle them correctly they get fewer and fewer until they don't even bother me anymore. It's at that point that I stop handling them correctly and let them slide because they don't seem like a problem. Of course they start fighting again until they fight so much that I remember how to handle it.

    It's a cycle that I can't seem to get out of.

  2. By crisis do you mean problems that spring up that you have to deal with? If so, I definitely think she was referring more to arguments and such. All things sibling rivalryish. "He's touching me," "She won't stop breathing my air," (those wonderful things Elder Bednar talked about at conference) and bigger arguments as well.

    She mentions that she was driving with 10 children (their 9 plus a friend) for 3 hours one day and she decided she was going to count all the dissonance that happened during the ride. After 10 she stopped counting.