Your Life, The Musical

November 22, 2010 by  
Filed under A-ha! Space

The songbirds are going on... by Per Ola Wiberg - Powi on flickr

It probably comes as no surprise to you that I love movie musicals. I’m one of “those” people who, although we don’t seem to have any distinguishing physical characteristics or markedly different facial features (I don’t think?), we nonetheless seem to radiate an aura of “Judy Garland is my idol. I know every Gershwin and/or Rodgers & Hammerstein song ever written. If I could be Ginger Rogers to RKO’s Fred Astaire, I would do it.”

I saw my first movie musical, The Wizard of Oz, when I was six and my second, Annie, when I was eight. But it was The Sound of Music when I was nine that really changed the world for me. This was the first film I saw that actually made me ache with delight, and I was absolutely heartbroken when the movie had to end.

The Sound of Music paved the way for other movie musicals to follow: The Music Man, Mary Poppins, Meet Me in St. Louis, My Fair Lady, Funny Girl, Fiddler on the Roof, Holiday Inn, White Christmas, Grease, Yentl, the list goes on. The truth was, with The Sound of Music I had been hooked and forever would be. Julie Andrews and her little troupe of von Trapp Family Singers with the first little Do of their Do-Re-Mi had touched the strings of my heart, and I didn’t want the music to end.

Perhaps it is not so coincidental then that, at the age of nine, two other key things also happened:

  1. I began playing my flute, a passion that would endure for 13 years
  2. I began to sing

In middle and high school, there were few activities I engaged in that didn’t involve music of a sort: I was in the school marching and concert bands, a local youth symphony, and the select girls’ choir. If I wasn’t playing it or singing it, I was listening to it or dancing to it. The hills were alive indeed (and the beach and the football field and the … well, you get the idea).

So why am I telling you all of this today? Maybe it’s because over the years, I have discovered a few things about harmony that I think are quite a propos to our lives, and maybe you will think so too. Here are just a handful of them:

Harmony isn’t a solo act. For harmony to occur, there have to be at least two “voices” working together. Except for certain instrumental exceptions (notably, the string instruments … and the harmonica), most harmony can’t occur with just one instrument or one voice alone. Another “voice” is required to produce that tonal difference that we call a chord, and which we call harmony and, therefore, say, “It is good.” So, too, in our own lives do we find harmony not when we act alone but when we act in concert with someone or something else.

Harmony is two “voices” working together. The beautiful sound that we know of as harmony occurs when the two or more voices we’re listening to are not each “doing their own thing.” (We can’t all be opera divas belting out magnificent arias at every turn.)  But while it’s true that our voices may be sounding different notes – and may even be moving at different speeds – there is a method to the madness of harmony that says that, while this may be true, the two (or more) are nonetheless working towards the same end, and this end is something we desire. Here’s a fun example of how two very different voices can nonetheless somehow become one harmonious song:

Harmony involves listening. For many years, the majority of the harmonizing I did was what was written for me on the page of a musical song sheet. All I had to do was read the music, and I could trust that whatever harmony (if any) that was requested of me would be taken care of without so much as a second’s thought from me. But then one day I was thrown into a situation where I needed to be able to harmonize without the gift of a musical score. And that’s the day I learned to listen. To truly find the right note of harmony, the note that will complement the notes of the other people singing or playing around you, you have to first know what note it is they’re singing or playing. Harmony can’t happen in a bubble; it asks of us that we open our ears to the melody going on around us and then, having heard, contribute our own verse or refrain.

Harmony and melody go hand in hand. While it’s true that one can have a melody without a harmony, harmony cannot really occur without a melody – the main line of a song, the theme that we all hear and sing along to. Melody is what we build a song around. Our lives are melodies … made up of the notes of our aims, our wishes, our dreams: the things we move so far toward, the things we sometimes feel so far from. The key to making our life songs soar lies in two things: 1) knowing our own melody and  2) learning to know when to contribute a main verse and when to step back and harmonize … perhaps be an active counter-melody to someone else’s song.

At the end of the day, we’re all a part of the same song. I love that the literal translation of the word Universe is: one song. No matter how different or disparate our lives may be, somehow in the great cosmic scheme of things we are all still moving in the same direction. Shakespeare compared our lives to a stage and said that we are all asked to contribute a verse. I reckon we’re all part of the same symphony, asked to contribute our movement. Imagine what kind of world it would be if we all realized this. Our world might be something like this:

What are some of the lessons you’ve learned about harmony in your life?

What is your life’s song or melody?

photo: The songbirds are going on by Per Ola Wiberg~Powi

Carla Cummins Thomas PhotoCarla Cummins Thomas is “Chania Girl” at her own little blogling, Living Happiness, a personal blog about her daily life. She has taken the summer off, though, to enjoy some time by the sea and in the company of friends and loved ones.

When she is not involved in these pursuits, she is also an EFL teacher in Crete and an online grammar and writing instructor for the University of Maryland’s University College program.

You can follow Carla and Living Happiness on Facebook and on Twitter.


8 Responses to “Your Life, The Musical”
  1. Thank you for bringing joy to my morning!

  2. Chania Girl says:

    @Angelou: Right back at you, Angela. Your comment totally made me smile. :)

  3. What a way to start my Thanksgiving holiday. And how true your words. I grew up with the Sound of Music and shared it with my daughter when she was quite young. She loved it so much that I think the soundtrack of the movie was the soundtrack to her thoughts for years… and it is still what she sings when she isn’t thinking about it. Since then, I have exposed her to activities and art forms and cultures – and she comes back to musical theater, song, and now the Sax. She loves the sounds and the act of creating art… and I am waiting for her to learn the lesson that you illustrate so well with your words – to learn to harmonize.

    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Thank you for this wonderful post.

  4. @The Exception: Hi, TE! It was so great to have you come visit me here today. Thank you for sharing your story about your daughter and her love of The Sound of Music. Like her, I too caught myself singing one of the tunes the other day. :) Isn’t it amazing how music can go right down deep into your soul, becoming part of who you are?

    Wishing a very Happy Thanksgiving to you and your daughter today.

  5. Kevin K says:

    Carla, I love this post. You never fail to bring a smile to my face. Thank you!

  6. Carla, I LOVE this post, and the idea that “we’re all part of the same song.” Such a gorgeous analogy – it really made my day. This line, especially: “Harmony can’t happen in a bubble; it asks of us that we open our ears to the melody going on around us and then, having heard, contribute our own verse or refrain.” Thanks again for a great post! Much love – s

  7. @Kevin: Thank you, Kevin! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. :)

    @Stacey: Thanks so much, Stacey! I appreciate your stopping by here and visiting today. I hope you and yours had a marvelous Thanksgiving! :)