A Beautiful Dissonance: Bach and the Art of Conflict Resolution by Janet Youngdahl
Bach solves everything. Resolves anything. Even the thorniest, most convoluted Bach melody filled with angular motif and dissonant harsh sonority is taken through a brilliant creative process, a process that holds the potential to solve difficult issues in music and beyond.
Once again, I find myself weeping when listening to one of Bach’s profound fugues, this time at an organ concert given at a small church in Alsace by the young organist Olivier Wyrwas. Why do the fugues move me so much, what do I hear in them that pushes me into a realm capable of reconciling deep sadness and intense joy? Why are Bach’s fugues so painfully effective at eliciting a feeling of extreme hope and possibility in the face of difficulty?
Bach left us conversations in musical form. His scores are realistic navigational charts, comprehensive maps for forging respectful and meaningful dialog leading to resolved destination. Bach articulates problems in the human condition, supplying audible cues that create enriched landscape where musical gesture provides both geography and momentary weather events. He moves past simple solutions and suggests a procedure for the intimate understanding of conflicting points of view. In particular, his fugues can be mined as being functional examples of what we need to do to work together; they offer a process for working out solutions and resolutions to ancient and desperate disputes that require serious attention.
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Janet Youngdahl has published essays in Writer’s Digest, Malahat Review, and the Friends Journal. She is a voice professor at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, and appears on more than a dozen recordings on the RCA, Deutsch Harmonia Mundi, BMG, Phillips and BIS labels, including the Grammy nominated Chants de l’extase. She has recently attended artist residencies at the Banff Centre for the Arts and the American Academy in Rome.