Consensus vs. Individuality

An Un-Newsletter from November 2004.neonmusic

Consensus vs. Individuality

I did something completely new to me a couple of weeks ago, and was completely amazed by the whole experience. In the grand scheme of things, nothing major or life threatening, but to me was really moving and was astounded – I went to my first classical music concert with a very special friend of mine. I’m one of those people that listens to music and it usually evokes colours in my imagination, it’s not synesthesia as it’s going on in my head, not my eyes –  REM are typically “purples, blue and green” for example, but this was the entire spectrum all at once, completely overwhelming and uplifting.

I also spent a fair amount of time at the beginning, studying the orchestra, just getting used to it all and figuring who was doing what, watching the conductor and again was intrigued watching him conduct with not just his baton but entire body and facial expressions*. All were in perfect synchronisation – each of the violinist bow arms moving in perfect harmony with one other like a series of pistons in a human machine. Briefly I grinned to myself, wondering if they all tied their own bowties or if they were on elastic or even if they all queued up outside the rather striking woman from the third row of the violins’ dressing room asked her to tie them. But then slowly as I became acclimatised to the whole experience, and became immersed in the whole evening.

A day or so later I received an e-mail from a list I subscribe to – the jist of it being that there seemed to be a need within the group to all agree, and where was the individuality and diversity going. Usually I would agree, personally much preferring the need and rights of everyone, my self included, in being themselves, rather than conforming to convention and what is deemed normal, but from the after glow of the concert, a realisation dawned on me – you can have both – in spite of the apparent synchronicity and the fact they were all dressed identically, each one of those musicians had maintained their own individuality, each responding slightly differently to their combined instruments, and yet at the same time were still perfectly contributing their part to the whole.

So perhaps there is no truth in the apparent mutually exclusivity of the duality of consensus vs. individuality – there is a third way, and both can sit quite comfortably within one another.

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