What does it mean to be out of tune?

This blog article is the first in a series of articles addressing ideas, issues and possibilities of being in or out of tune with oneself or one’s surroundings. Hopefully, you can apply insights you may find here to different areas of your life, whether in your personal relationships including the relationship you are in with yourself, your work life, your creative pursuits or your spiritual development. Ideally, you are already on the path to converging these facets of your life and so when things get a little out there later in this article you can slip and slide between your left and right brain and have fun with the abstractions as they unfold.

Firstly, we must understand what it means to be ‘out of tune’, as there is often a lack of clarity surrounding the importance of ‘dissonance’ as a necessary counterpart and experience of ‘consonance’. As we go about our daily lives, the feeling of being in tune or out of tune, experiencing consonance and dissonance are all intrinsic to a deeper understanding of harmonic awareness and harmony in general.

Consonance and Dissonance

From a ‘human being’ perspective, lets work from a definition of consonance referring to that feeling everyone’s chasing — ‘it all just coming together’, or things ‘just working’. Dissonance, therefore, being it’s opposite, when ‘things fall apart’ or just ‘don’t work’. At a slightly more meta level, let’s examine consonance and dissonance from two interlinking perspectives — the sonic perspective and the perspective of being a human. We may even find some important insights and confluence between sonic theory and human experience.

“Pitch is a perceptual property of sounds that allows their ordering on a frequency-related scale, or more commonly, pitch is the quality that makes it possible to judge sounds as “higher” and “lower” notes in the sense associated with musical melodies..” (Wikipedia)

Consonance speaks of a combination of notes which are in harmony with each other due to the relationship between their frequencies. Now, all notes are in some kind of harmonic relationship to each other so logically we can say to varying degrees all notes are in harmony with all other notes.

At what point can we say that a combination of notes is no longer consonant and therefore dissonant, or even irrelevant? In the realm of sound and music, consonance speaks to the ‘pleasing’ nature of degrees of scale sounding together. However, the experience of something being pleasing is subjective or at the very least on a spectrum related to any number of variables.

So what is the ultimate aim of organising degrees of scale in harmonic relationship? Simply to please and thereby provide pleasure? Perhaps… I would interject that ultimately the pursuit of harmonic expertise for the pursuit of perishable pleasure is a shallow variant of a heightened conscious awareness utilising the role that the spectrums of sound (and light) play as fundamental components of consciousness itself. I’ll publish write a separate article on this point at another time.

From the perspective of human relationships (including the relationship with self), consonance speaks of agreement or compatibility or incompatibility between ideas, opinions or actions. This is not always as straightforward as it may seem, as compatibility, opinion and action are always in a state of flux; Which brings us to the crux. To say that consonance and dissonance are two sides of a single coin would be an oversimplification, as it would be to state that sadness is the polar opposite of happiness. What is important to note here is the different qualities of the relationship or relationships existing between degrees of consonance and dissonance. Let’s break this down a little.

For a moment we’ll look at some perspectives on consonant and dissonant action from the view of Psychology studies. The term ‘Magnitude of dissonance’ states:

“The reduction of the psychological stress of cognitive dissonance is a function of the magnitude of the dissonance caused by the existential inconsistency between two contradictory beliefs held by the person; or by the contradiction between the person’s beliefs and an action he or she has taken.” (Wikipedia)

Okay. Before I dive into my own personal opinions on the need for innovative wholistic assistance alongside conventional psychological methods for treating so called dysfunctional behaviour arising from culturally cognitive bias, let us dig a little deeper with this conventional line of thinking.

“Two factors determine the degree of psychological dissonance caused by two conflicting cognitions, or by two conflicting actions:

  1. The importance of cognitions: The greater the personal value of the elements, the greater the magnitude of the dissonance in the relation.
  2. Ratio of Cognitions: The proportion of dissonant-to-consonant elements.” (Wikipedia)

Ratio of Cognitions presents a very interesting intersection that requires some more ‘open-minded’ thinking, taking into account my previous point about the different qualities of relationship existing between degrees of consonance and dissonance. From a sonic perspective we can interpret “Ratio of cognitions” to a term called ‘phase relationship’ between frequencies. Before reading further take a moment to see/feel the effect of the following two images has on you.

Consonant Phase
Dissonant Phase

Interesting when we consider phase relationships as an analogous example of consonant or dissonant personal relationships we experience and why we may fall into or out of phase with others who are also ‘phasing’ at different rates for different periods of time. It is also possible to fall out of phase with oneself. Some call this, cognitive dissonance. I call it, ‘not being in tune’.

“To function in the reality of a modern society, human beings continually adjust the correspondence of their mental attitudes and personal actions; such continual adjustments, between cognition and action, result in one of three relationships with reality:

  1. Consonant relationship: Two cognitions or actions consistent with each other (e.g. not wanting to become drunk when out to dinner, and ordering water rather than wine)
  2. Irrelevant relationship: Two cognitions or actions unrelated to each other (e.g. not wanting to become drunk when out, and wearing a t-shirt)
  3. Dissonant relationship: Two cognitions or actions inconsistent with each other (e.g. not wanting to become drunk when out, but then drinking more wine) (Wikipedia)

At this point, we could say that the consonant relationship between two cognitions or actions is being in tune and that being out of tune relates to two cognitions or actions inconsistent with each other. However, lets now focus on apparently irrelevant relationships of degrees of cognitive consonance and dissonance. The example being — not wanting to become drunk when out, and wearing a t-shirt.

Hypothetically, let’s say that 2 different men called ‘This Guy’ and ‘That Guy’, who know nothing of each other, are provided with the same number and colour-spectrum of t-shirts.

  • Both of these men have a drinking problem. In Melbourne, Australia, this is almost a cultural norm. However,
  • Both of these men are not wanting to become drunk when they go out.
  • Before they go out they go to their respective wardrobes and from a matching spectrum of t-shirt colours and both pick out a slightly different hue/shade of yellow, as follows:
‘This Guy’ on the Left, and ‘That Guy’ on the right.
  • ‘This Guy’ on the left picks out one particular hue of yellow t-shirt, without the intention not to drink. This is different from having the intention not to drink. Intention, is a conscious direction of the Will. Although his choice of t-shirt is apparently irrelevant to not wanting to drink, he doesn’t end up drinking.
  • ‘That Guy’ on the right picks out a different hue of yellow t-shirt with the intention of it being an aid to him in not drinking because some design blog told him that yellow t-shirts have magical powers to ward off alcoholism. The choice he makes in affiliating this yellow t-shirt with not drinking is not irrelevant. However misinformed his choice is here, his process is a series of consonant choices in accordance with his ‘tuning. He ends up drinking himself under the table. ‘That Guy’, is most guys…

So why would a man who is concerned that he is drinking too much alcohol wear a t-shirt or more specifically a particular hue/shade of yellow t-shirt in an effort to drink less? Unless there was a convincing reason for this choice we would be right to call this action an irrelevant cognitive relationship with regards to not wanting to drink alcohol whilst out that evening. Even in the case of ‘That Guy’ being convinced through the use of effective marketing that he could negate his alcoholism by wearing this yellow t-shirt thereby creating a formulaic cognitive intention, process and outcome based on a false transactional relationship with himself to alter his behaviour.

Let us take a closer look at ‘This Guy’ on the left. ‘This Guy’ selects another (or even the same) particular hue/shade of yellow. His choice with regards to that yellow having anything to do with wanting to drink less is non-existent, however, the particular hue of yellow he chose was deeply personally linked to non-conceptual heightened experiences of a sonic harmonic field that facilitated a shift in the man’s awareness; a recalibration.

This recalibration ‘experience’ affected his cognitive ability to make choice based on an awareness of a certain quality existing between degrees of consonance and dissonance present in his mind and body that day. That particular day, that particular yellow, clearly reflected a wavelength linked to being totally in tune himself, negating the need to take any action that is not in tune with his heightened awareness. Using the language of Sanskrit one might say that the choice of both “This Guy” and “That Guy” is linked to their Karma, and yet only the choice made by “This Guy” expresses Kriya in tune with his true nature.

In Sanskrit, the word Kriya is the activity along with the steps or degrees and effort in action, while karma is the executed action as a consequence of that activity, as well as the intention of the actor behind an executed action or a planned action (described by some scholars as metaphysical residue left in the actor). A good action creates good karma, as does good intent. A bad action creates bad karma, as does bad intent. ‘Good’ and ‘bad’ in this example relate to a more in-depth concept of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ where ‘right’ action stems from a heightened compassionate understanding of the role a certain action plays beyond identifying personally with the action. Where we are not heading in this line of thinking is towards black and white or even grey areas of ethics and morals. Nor are we able to retreat into the safety of deferring the wish for a positive outcome from actions based on our acceptance of the intention of another as our own. We are instead, diving into harmony; into colour. We must not be afraid to step outside of the conceptual and into the experiential to understand the different qualities of relationships existing between degrees of consonance and dissonance and the role that the spectrums of sound (and light) play as fundamental components of consciousness itself.

In conclusion, consonance and dissonance, pleasure and displeasure, action and inaction are spectral terms, as are sound, light, moods and emotions. The more we dive into spectrums as fields for integrating awareness and action the more we can understand what it truly means to make decisions that are in tune with not only yourself but also with your surrounding environments and this beautiful planet that supports and nourishes you. May you be nourished.

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Originally published at nurobodi.com on August 20, 2018.