Confines of Harmony

Composition is building, and what your building needs some type of framework to create support. There needs to be an underlying idea to support the structure being built upon it. There are many different types of structures in the world. A structure to one, maybe considered just a hole in the ground to someone else. The reason for this is lack of understanding. Lack of understand is often the main road to fear and prejudice. A short project for a website led me to search for harmonic structures of music in different countries. I had done something like this once before while a student at Berkley. The first short film we scored was footage of refugees heading to Ellis Island. In the beginning of the footage you see individual groups of like dressed people, keeping as much space between them as possible. As the ship draws closer to the United States, the groups draw closer as well. Once the Statue of Liberty comes into view, these many groups become one huddled mass. One common point of focus drew these groups together. Through the course of time, sharing the same experiences and goals, the groups were drawn together. They began to understand each other, and in turn, fear and prejudice began to diminish. Stepping out of ones normal confines of harmony takes a bit of daring. My harmonic structure search revealed the names of a few musicians who dared to step out of the accepted confines of harmony. Many of them were laughed at, some where even threatened by angry listeners. Musicians like Ornette Coleman; Dizzy Gillespie; Charlie Parker and John Coltrane were simultaneously mocked and lauded. Through the course of time listeners put aside their fear and prejudice and began to glean a bit of understanding of what their music was conveying. Much like the people traveling to Ellis Island, the courage and conviction of these musicians where the key to expanding the confines of harmony. By taking a half step out of the box, Ornette Coleman made ears light up like fireworks in the sky. By looking upwards, Dizzy, Charlie, and John wove musical tapestries on the overtone series and expanded musical horizons. By looking outside of what we consider normal and accepted practices, our worlds can expand and we can begin to have new and exciting experiences.