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|Complexity Choir - Page 2|
Finally I ask the singers to choose a song most of them are likely to know and then to sing it together, harmonizing freely as the spirit moves them. This may be the ultimate pickup ensemble, but it's remarkable to hear what happens as a group of teachers or psychotherapists sail into "Oh! Susanna" or "Amazing Grace" or "Row-Row-Row Your Boat." (And it's fascinating to me that more than half the time, the group chooses "Amazing Grace"—which apparently is one of the most harmoniously balanced songs in the Western tradition.) Once the melody is established, individual voices begin to emerge, weaving their harmonies above and below, playing off one another, moving intuitively toward a crescendo before the final notes. Faces light up in choir and audience alike; we are all swept into the flow of the singers' energy and aliveness. At these times, people have said—and I've experienced this as well—there is a palpable sense of vitality that fills the room.
At that moment we are experiencing integration at its acoustic best. Each member of the choir has his or her unique voice, while at the same time they are linked together in a complex and harmonious whole. One is never quite certain where the choir will take the song, but the surprises simply highlight the pleasure of a familiar, shared melody. This balance between differentiated voices on the one hand and their linkage on the other is the embodiment of integration.
And what about the first two exercises? As you surely could predict, the single-note humming is unchanging, rigid—and after a while, dull and boring. The initial excitement and risk of volunteering gives way to the monotony of the task. The singers may be linked, but they cannot express their uniqueness, their individuality. When differentiation is blocked, integration cannot occur. Without the movement toward integration, the entire system moves away from complexity—away from harmony—and into rigidity.
On the other hand, when the singers close their ears and sing whatever they want, what emerges is cacophony, a chaotic outpouring of sound that often creates a sense of anxiety and distress in the listeners. Now there is no linkage—only differentiation. When integration is blocked in this way, we also move away from complexity, away from harmony. But this time we move toward chaos, not rigidity.
As the singers settle into their seats again, I sum up the point of the exercise: It is the middle way between chaos and rigidity—the flow of independent voices linked together in harmony—that maximizes both complexity and vitality. This is the essence of integration.