REMEMBER THAT SONG BY THE NEW SEEKERS? The one the Coca-Cola® marketing department borrowed and mashed up with their own theme song? It seemed so hip in ’71, now it looks like maybe their coke bottles could have been filled with “Kool-Aid”. No wonder the Greatest Generation thought the Baby Boomers were all going to march off the cliff together.
I'd like to buy the world a home
And furnish it with love
Grow apple trees and honey bees
And snow white turtle doves
I'd like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony
I'd like to hold it in my arms
And keep it company
Let’s dial back the idealism for a minute; forget about the apple trees, honey bees and snow white turtle doves. Let’s just shoot for a bit of harmony, even if it’s not pitch perfect.
Before we can talk about metaphorical harmony, we need to spend some time listening to the magical, musical world of real harmony. Let me suggest:
Pentatonix: “Can’t Help Falling In Love”
The Beach Boys: “In My Room” and “Good Vibrations”
The Beatles: “Because” and “Nowhere Man”
The Everly Brothers: “All I Have To Do is Dream”
Crosby, Stills & Nash: “Helplessly Hoping” and “Suite Judy Blue Eyes”
Simon and Garfunkel: “The Sounds of Silence”
I want to give a shout out to my main music sage, Gene “Pops” Chapman. The musical tastes of Gene and myself are in near-perfect harmony, so whenever he makes a recommendation like the one to check out this all-girl trio, I did and was amazed. Click and listen to the NPR Tiny Desk Concert of “I’m With Her”.
Now, can we draw some lessons from the beauty of musical harmonies and apply them to our worlds and the world? Here are a few thoughts I’ve had:
You must have at least one other person to harmonize with, am I right? Sure soloing is great sometimes, but we’re talking harmonies here. All of the people in the group have to sing the same song for a few minutes at least. They have to sing in the same key and at the same tempo. The notes though, while different, the common notes of the correct chord, have to be present. This is the magic. It’s as simple as one note and the note a third above it and maybe the fifth, and somehow it just seems right, and rich. There is a peace to it all, you can sense the beauty of the divine design of it.
Unfortunately, today, at times at least, it seems people only know one note, and even if they know more, they just want to sing their one note, really loud. I’m that way sometimes. There are some people I just don’t seem to be able to harmonize with and others I have no interest in harmonizing with. I don’t like the song they’re singing. Usually my song is better (or so I think).
When you watch a really good vocal duet or ensemble singing in tight harmony it’s sublime. They are synched and connected. And, at the end of a song, there is, at least for me, a sense of purpose, of completion, something worthwhile that makes us all better for having been there.
Sometimes though, singing or playing in unison can be harmonius. Yesterday for example, one of our Grand-Girls, Harper, and two of her friends comprised a cello trio. They sang and played “Jesus Loves Me” in “big church”. There was no harmony, yet there was nearly perfect harmony among the three. You could see it in their six year-old silliness before the service started, in their total trust and dependence on their teacher, and in their common mission. Banded together, there was no stagefright or limelight. Just harmony in unison.
Not to say there isn’t a place for occasional dissonance. This is where I often come in—sometimes intentionally, sometimes accidentally.
One thing about dissonance: it is so sweet when it resolves, steps back into harmony, and even still amazing when it doesn’t. Listen to “Strawberry Fields Forever” by The Beatles. Click this and watch if you want to geek-out on all of this.
One more thing: Watch this video. It’s two sisters from Stockholm, Sweden, singing together a song they wrote, a song about having someone to sing with like Emmylou and Gram Parsons singing “Love Hurts” or Johnny and June singing “If I Were A Carpenter”.