Friday, May 1, 2015

What Is Resolution Without Dissonance

What is resolution without dissonance?

This is something I talk to my students about all the time. Music is filled with dissonance—tension, clashes, disharmony. And it is filled with consonance—resolution, release, sounds that are right and pleasing and natural. 

I talk to them about how a passage or a harmony filled with tension, though on its own not always particularly pleasant, is transformed into a thing of beauty by the resolution that follows it. And perhaps more importantly, this resolution is made more meaningful, more gratifying, more pure and special because of the tension it arose out of. 

What is resolution without dissonance?

In lessons I'm so focused on conveying musical and artistic ideas to my students that it hadn't ever occurred to me to apply this same philosophy to my own life outside of music. It wasn't until I heard Seymour Bernstein say it in his documentary that it struck me. My brain was able to zoom out and see that this elemental part of music that I've been coaching my students on for years is one I need to be coaching myself on too. When I play music it comes naturally—I gravitate toward those rich, complicated, moody chords, I lean on them before I move away and then I relish the way they resolve into openness and freeing release. 

But as a Christian, as someone whose faith isn't as a strong as I wish it were, as a human with imperfections and dreams disturbed and a desire to trust in God despite how things are going, I need this lesson to become a bigger part of me.

When life is dissonant I want to lean into it, not away from it. I want to feel tension and longing. I want to recognize and accept it. I want the grace to see struggle as something that can lend strength and goodness and character and godliness if only I let it. I want to wait in joyful hope and with peace in my soul for unrest to end and resolution to take over.

Because when resolution does come, it will be so much more beautiful than it ever could be on its own.

What a joyful discovery that is! I'm grateful—always grateful—for the way music continues to teach me the most profound of life's lessons.

Happy weekend to you all!


  1. Wow. Wise and beautiful.

  2. This. Kate, I loved it!!! So beautifully said, and such a true and remarkable parallel to life. I relate so well. Wish I didn't, but being in a place of waiting, frustration, and "dissonance" myself, I must strive harder to rest here. To "lean in". I like that verbiage. And trust that the resolution WILL come. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! This will be rumbling around in my heart for some time.

  3. I'm so glad it resonated with you. It was cathartic to write! xxo


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