Food for Thought (and for the Ears)

This comes from Ola Gjeilo, a contemporary Norwegian composer I’ve been exploring of late:

There isn’t anything wrong with dissonance, as conflict and discord is a natural part of life and necessary for all positive development and maturation. And in most areas of society, conflict is something we very much want to resolve. But in a great deal of avant-garde art, the goal seems to be to stay in the conflict itself, which to me becomes a way of just inflicting the listeners with our own neurosis. Dissonance and high chromaticism is important to explore; the Modernists were brave to delve into parts of the human psyche that are dark and edgy, but I do think they got somewhat stuck in that. A lot of art pushed audiences away for some time. I think people naturally and instinctively want to experience transcendence, resolution and the feeling of redemption, joy and peace that the resolving of discord can yield.

Here’s his setting of “Ubi Caritas,” which shows him to be most definitely practicing what he’s preaching. Lots of dissonances to be heard, but resolution is the overwhelming “take-away” impression, in my opinion. (That might have something to do with the extraordinary “Breaking Into the Sunlight” moment of the final “Amen.”)

About Joseph Susanka

Joseph has been doing development work for institutions of Catholic higher education since graduating from Thomas Aquinas College in 1999. A grateful resident of Wyoming, he spends his free time exploring the beautiful Wind River Mountains, keeping track of his (currently) seven sons, being amazed by his (currently) lone daughter, and thanking his lucky stars for Netflix.


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