Narrative Resonance

Wow. How had I never heard this term until today? Narrative resonance basically refers to people responding to or feeling a connection to a story.

I think that the physics definition of resonance is applicable here. Resonance, that is, defined as "The reinforcement or prolongation of sound by reflection from a surface or by the synchronous vibration of a neighboring object." In this sense, something within a story (or painting, or film, or even a song) strikes a chord within the audience. That chord, having been struck, proceeds to resonate further. Perhaps the moment of resonance extends into days, weeks, months, or even, in some cases, years.

Some friends and I were discussing various Rush albums and how well they have aged. Recalling some of those lyrics that were so precious and formative to me as a teenager indeed caused them to resonate once again, albeit at a different frequency. The person in their 50s may not feel a lyric with the intensity of their younger self, but they may be able to notice subtleties that they couldn't all those years ago. Nonetheless, the work still resonates.

I don't need a song to sound like I could have written it to strike a resonant tone in my heart. It can be something far removed from my own experience. There are even songs in other languages that resonate strongly for me. Some songs by my favorite Japanese pop band, Spitz, have a sense of melancholy and youthful longing that brings me to tears, even when I have little to no idea what the song is really about. Maybe that is due to the confluence of words, melody, and harmony that makes up a pop song. Maybe I'm just misinterpreting everything. Both scenarios are equally plausible.

Regardless of narrative resonance being simple or complex, direct or vague, intentional or magical, it is one of the powerful aspects of connection between people. We tend to overlook the beauty of creative pursuits, all too often at our own peril. Maybe it is good to be reminded that, at their core, many creative undertakings are an attempt to connect with others. We are driven by a need to reach out and hear others' stories. We are driven by a need to share our stories. In some moments of grace, those stories resonate.

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