Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Commonplace: Atonality


This is the second post for commonplace. The features in this section are different from that of my usual features. Click here to read what the various posts filed under this section are about.
On 19th September of this year, I was fortunate enough to attend a concert entitled "La Noche" (the night in Spanish) which is a collaboration between Roberto Alvarex (Flute) and Katryna Tan (Harp). The duo premiered eight pieces by various composers comissioned to compose a duet for Flute and Harp based on their perceptions of the night. As all the pieces are written by composers that are still alive, most of them were atonal (ie. the piece of music is not written in any key).

Before playing one of the songs, Katryna Tan mentioned that most people would view atonal music as a piece of music that is composed of random notes. But to the composer of that particular piece, atonality means that every single note that is written is just as important as the other. That got me thinking...

If one were to extrapolate this idea to society as a whole, isn't this a statement about embracing diversity? It is definitely a good thing to embrace a difference in culture and opinion and accord the same importance to every single member of society. The more important question is, how do we harness this diversity to produce something productive and beautiful such as the duet I heard in the recital hall? In writing music, there is a science to it but is there one in a societal construct?

If we were to water down the construct to a mundane one such as a project group, another question pops up: where do we draw a line in embracing a difference of opinion and decide on the way forward? It is easy to say that the leader should take charge and decide. But in doing so, it negates the diversity that we are embracing in the first place.

While I do not have an answer, I love how the concept of atonality triggers off such thoughts. A beautiful metaphor too!

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