Four-Part Harmony

I do wonder where my ideas come from. The other day I was having trouble sleeping – it was early morning, and all of a sudden I was thinking about Elmhurst College and the Glee Club. Yes, sports fans, I sang in a Glee Club, and we were actually pretty good. The Director was David Austen – a very cool guy nearing retirement when I knew him. We called him “Coach.”

I’d sung solos in Church growing up – my mom had an excellent soprano voice and I grew into a middling Tenor. I sang in the Choir, and always had trouble staying on track with my part of the melody. I decided that a couple of my friends were in Glee Club, and that I’d join up and learn to sing four-part harmony.

Let me tell ya, it’s not an easy thing. I have pretty good pitch when I’m on my own, but toss in those other parts, and things would begin to disintegrate and quickly. I did learn, though. Partly by listening to my Section Leader (actually, standing next to him with my ear 6 inches from his mouth,) partly by force of will, and mostly by completely trusting “Coach.”

So, are you guessing where I’m going with this?

Back to me, abed. I started imagining that a person is also a four-part harmony with a Coach. Let me repeat: I do wonder where my ideas come from. The weirdest part is that this actually makes a bit of sense. Here’s how it goes.

The Bass is the anchor in four-part harmony. The Baritone adds deep colour. The 2nd tenor carries the melody and the Top Tenor (me!) adds the interpretive colour – the “over the top” part. And all of this is “kept under control” by none other than the Coach.

OK. Now, if you mash in Carolyn Myss’ Chakra theory, a bit of Bodywork and our Watcher Booklet, what you get is yet another “system” of understanding re. how life plays out.

And here’s the last piece: you also have to throw in “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” and specifically “too hot, too cold, and just right.” Getting here whilst abed, I forced myself to a standing posture and gave myself a shake. No good. The thoughts stuck.

You’ll know, if you’ve been reading Into the Centre for a while, that we like metaphors. So, if we say that groundedness is located in the legs and pelvis, you understand, don’t you, that we’re speaking metaphorically, and also that this metaphor matches theories in Chinese and Indian medicine, which are also metaphors. What follows, then, is a metaphoric division into four parts plus a Coach. In practice, the 4 things described are parts of all of us, and the metaphor is a convenience.

Picture, if you will, the body.

  • The legs and pelvis make up Zone 1 – the grounding and passion Zone, and is represented by The Bass.
  • The belly from the navel to the sternum is Zone 2 – the sense of self and self-esteem Zone, and is represented by the Baritone.
  • The chest and neck is Zone 3 – the seat of emotions, purpose and expression – and is one of the Tenors.
  • The head is Zone 4 – the intellect, reason, and also those “pain in the ass” voices in your head – and is the other Tenor.
  • The Coach is a construct – Freud’s superego, The Phoenix Centre’s “Watcher.” This might also be thought of as conscience and that which provides Spiritual Direction.

Now, think about it. We have the following characteristics represented: balance and groundedness, passion for life, sexual energy (passion for passion’s sake), self-knowing and self-esteem, motivation, emotional expression, and our thought processes and interpretations, all kept in perfect harmony under the watchful eye and ear of the Coach. Hmm. Interesting metaphor.

And perhaps every system of thought, in its own way, has been saying that the goal of the wise soul is living life in balance and harmony, and that this balance and harmony is an internal process. As we’ve said endlessly in Into the Centre, there is no outside. Outside is interpreted and acted “against” from inside. We can’t change what’s “out there.” We can endlessly play with what’s “in here.”

Just as a good Glee Club needs a variety of music, it also needs to be able to sing at different volumes and with different emphasis. This is the “too hot, too cold, just right” part. As I view the people I work with, and society in general, what I see is “people running hot and cold.” Over the top or dead flat. Fighting or apathy. Hyper or bored. What’s missing is balance, with the emphasis on “just right.”

If you listen to music, in general there is a ton of “just right,” with elements of “too hot” and “too cold.” Unless the piece is meant to wring emotions out of us. Think of the choral ending to Beethoven’s 9th. This is a “hot” piece, and is emotionally draining and physically exhausting. On the other hand, Debussy’s “Claire de Lune” is a “cool” piece throughout.

Perhaps “just right” might be thought of not as a middle state between to polar opposites, but rather as a state of “appropriateness.” There are, as we see in Proverbs, “times and seasons for everything.” Rather than being stuck in overdrive or perpetually planted in the ground, immobile, there is the free range of expression. There is balance, and in balance, harmony.

So, for the next few weeks, we’re going to be exploring the parts, the blend, the harmony and the Direction. Oh. You may have noticed up above that I didn’t locate Top and 2nd tenor in the body. A quick note as to why.

Remember, 2nd Tenor is the “lead” and carries the melody. My present thinking is that, unlike a Glee Club, the lead “in life” may switch between the heart and the head.

I’m working this one out as I go along. I think that I think that the head leads and the heart provides the counterpoint and the colour, and I suspect that’s where I’ll stay, but as they say, the jury is out on this one.

Let’s get to it, then, and let’s get grounded!!

The Phoenix Centre for Creative Living - © 2019