March 22, 2008

The Beauty of Dissonance

It may seem like a couple words thrown together to sound cool, but my blogs title is in fact the very focus of my writings: the beauty of dissonance. So as promised, I shall explain it. Starting, of course, from the beginning.

Dissonance. The term is used mostly in reference to music, poetry, or psychology. In it's most basic form, dissonance is when things don't go together perfectly. In music, using certain notes in a certain key is dissonant, easily distinguished by the fact that it just doesn't sound right. Many haunted house themes and other forms of music representing fear and horror use dissonant chords, as does hardcore music. You know what it is, when the double bass is pushing on as the guitars forcefully put down a seemingly improvised melody, until that one note blares that kind of makes you twitch a bit, and the song transitions to the bridge. In poetry its practically the same, words that just don't sound right to pretty much anyone when put together. In psychology its a mental disorder known as cognitive dissonance, where the truths of the world and the truths in your mind just don't match up right. In all three cases dissonance is bad. Dissonance is the essence of ugliness. Dissonance is wrong.

But why? Why is dissonance frowned upon so quickly? Why is assonance good and dissonance bad and thats all there is to it? Well I've noticed that this subject has been the theme of my writing over the past few years. In one form or another, I always seem to be quick to defend the looked down upon side, to see the beauty behind disorder. We live in an entropic universe, eternally driven towards chaos until order does not exist anymore. Why are so many people attracted to the fleeting sanctity of perfection? You can't live your life like that, you cant only find happiness when things move the opposite direction of nature itself. One of the most important discoveries I've made in my thoughts is that dissonance is the most beautiful thing in existence, both literally and figuratively.

A very easy to understand social-cultural example of this is races. Assonance was the dream of Hitler and the Aryan race. Dissonance is the beautiful reality of this planet. The skin tones, the heritage, the cultures, and the interactions all make us who we are and force us not only to accept difference, but see ourselves in a new light as well. Another simple example is art. A picture of columns in a row forming a symmetrical house is boring. Ask an artist, symmetry is overrated. But take rooms, windows, staircases, and twist and turn them in different directions and dimensions until looking at the picture blows the mind. That, my friends is beauty. That's the Beauty of Dissonance. I could share a million more examples on this never ending topic, from quantum physics to mathematics to every day life. But considering the short attention span we are all burdened with, I will save that for another day.

And seeing as every time I write something I see those four words in the corner, I will no doubt return to the subject a few times.