All Together Now
In the spring 2013 issue of Pepperdine Magazine, Austin Chapman ('11), a Seaver College alumnus and filmmaker who was born profoundly deaf, was profiled in an article titled “Sounds Profound” that highlighted his career success despite his difficulty hearing the music and dialogue in his films. In the article, Chapman recalls in powerful detail the feeling of hearing for the first time the soaring and swelling of the polyphonic choir as it performed Mozart's “Lacrimosa” after switching to a new hearing aid with a life-changing technology. “At one point, it sounded like angels singing,” he said, describing the emotional overwhelm that struck him and the others listening to the requiem song in the car that day. “I finally understood the power of music.”
Music is the social act of communication among people, a gesture of friendship, the strongest there is.
The aural sensation that Chapman described is a phenomenon called vocal or choral blend, a product of ensemble singing that features strong fundamental frequencies and creates a sort of supernatural synchronicity where individual voices become indiscernible. While this desired choral sound captures the conformity of the whole, it is often designed in ways that do not sacrifice choir members' individual tone quality or vocal integrity. In fact, a choir director's efforts to honor the individuality of each voice are the key to achieving the type of vocal blend that completely enraptures listeners.
Like the most distinguished choirs, communities aspiring to astound the world with their unity must be concerned with the unique qualities and capabilities that each individual holds and contributes to the collective. In choral activities, those unique qualities have the potential to create a distinct harmony that moves audiences to tears. At a university, they have the power to create a sense of belonging and self-worth in the individual and a spirit of unity among the group that overcomes division and brings about togetherness.