Abba and the last supper

Easter is so replete with contrasts of every description that the soul is almost knocked off balance. The sound of the cheering crowd on Palm Sunday competes in our mind with the baying of Good Friday’s mob. The blast of the resurrection trumpet seems to rise alongside the kaddish for a dying saviour; and a mother’s quiet weeping seems to mingle with a disciple’s cheerful greeting. Is this discord, or a kind of harmony so sophisticated that we can barely pick it out?

In an emotionally complex Easter week I have been thinking about all the different melodies playing at once around the Last Supper table:

  • Passover and rescue
  • Ancient liberation
  • Impending captivity
  • Old covenant
  • New covenant
  • Bitter wine
  • New wine
  • Sorrow
  • Joy
  • Final banquet
  • Passover hymn
  • Betrayal
  • Friendship

Can we learn to combine all these things into some kind of cohesive whole? Can we do as we seem to in the rest of life – combining the sombre notes of sorrow with the shrill sounds of joy into one melody?

At this point I was reminded of a documentary half forgotten about the secret of Swedish supergroup Abba’s distinctive sound.  Their key sound engineer had been fascinated by how some older groups sounded good, even on cheap mono sound systems. Digging a little deeper he discovered that the backing instruments had been recorded several times over and then combined like an entire orchestra. He decided to do the same with Agnetha and Anni-Frid’s voices. However, he also decided to ‘offset’ the tracks slightly from each other – effectively putting them ever so slightly out of tune. It is this careful dissonance which gave the group its utterly distinctive sound.

Filter out the 1970’s look of the video below, and listen to the women’s voices. You will soon hear what I mean.

Can we find harmony in discord this Easter, I wonder?

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