The euphony of cacophony

During the non-FMC months of the year, I am an English teacher. One of my favorite things about teaching English is exploring the language itself; in fact, grammar, vocabulary, and music theory all occupy similar places in my brain. This afternoon, as the strains of many simultaneous rehearsals drifted into my room, the words “euphony” and “cacophony” rattled around in my head as ways to describe the sounds I was hearing.

Cacophony and euphony share the “phon” root that we see also in words like telephone or phonics. It has to do with sound, voice, or noise. “Caco-” and “eu-” are opposites meaning, respectively, bad and good. Therefore, cacophony is often defined as bad or harsh (or dissonant) sounds, and euphony as pleasing or harmonious ones. Cacophony also has an additional denotation as simply a mixture of sounds that don’t really go together; euphony is often applied to words, not music.

On the surface, of course, these words are opposites. But here at FMC, I feel like they work together. At several points in the day — morning practice time and band/orchestra time most specifically — there are dozens of strains of music coming out of all buildings. These strains are played by as many different instruments as we have here, at all levels of playing; they are in many styles from classical to rock to bluegrass; they are scales, etudes, warm-ups, sight-reading, full songs. This mixture of sounds that don’t go together easily fits cacophony’s definition.

However, I find these times to be full of euphony. To me, the noise of all the rehearsals, instruments, styles, levels, is beautiful and pleasing. The sound of so many people making so much different music together is one of the things that most deeply makes me feel like I’m at FMC. It’s one of the hallmarks of music camp, this symphony (“together-sound”) of difference.

–Drea

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One thought on “The euphony of cacophony

  1. Dear Drea,

    I remember having the same buffet of sounds when I visited at the end of camp last year and everyone was performing or practicing for performance. And I had a fun moment of the same (notes flying everywhere) when I found Brandon Cooney’s webpage and listened to Methusalah again, If you do listen, go all the way to the end when the choir members exit the room still singing…..
    webpage: shoutchorusmusic.com

    Dori Middleman

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