I just couldn't get it right. I'd switched the appropriate sharps to naturals and naturals to sharps. I'd checked the notes I was playing meticulously, playing it so slow it wasn't really music, to make sure I had it right. I did. But it just didn't feel right.
Try as I might, the minor-key version of the old hymn didn't sound beautiful, the way I'd pictured it in my head.
I love minor key. People say minor keys are sad, but I think, rather, that they're deep--maybe deeper than we want to look into ourselves. The minor keys understand me. Major keys sound happy, sure, but they also sounds shallow, making for a cheerful, ignorant, listless tune. Minor keys sound like my heart: thoughtful and yearning. It takes in the whole breadth of human experience, from the greatest heights to the deepest sorrows, and finds beauty in all of them.
In playing the piano, I mostly learn minor-key songs. When I don't, I often take the songs I know and put them in a minor key. Like I was trying to do with For the Beauty of the Earth that afternoon.
I played with three of the notes that were supposed to form the basic chord to the melody. They sounded pretty together. I held one of them and daddled with the other two. There was something in there. I daddled some more.
That's when it came out.
The song started with three notes. Then it became four, making the chord more complex. One note formed a simple background, a second made the rhythm, and the other two danced around each other. Then they gained a partner. Then the song took off.
It was sad, not with the fury of desperate loss, but sad like raindrops pattering a window. Sad in a way that knew you. It was a sadness that didn't forget the good in the world--it knew, perhaps, that it, like all things, was temporal.
As the song drew on, storm clouds gathered on its horizon. The notes grew dark with the shadow of cloud and thunder. A battle struck up between two lesser melodies and they played off against each other, back and forth. The song grew passionate and furious.
And then. A white light hit the keys. One note 'linked down, high and piercing. A hero, but not in shining armor. A hero within the song, within the music itself. It didn't fight the other notes; it changed them, swelling them into something more. Something more beautiful than before.
If you can believe it, the song grew.
It was like a tree that grows tall in an instant of passing years, bark growing thick and leaves crowning the foliage with eager life. It is green; it is not happy, it does not feel--it is merely green; but it causes us to feel. So the music. It felt nothing, it just played on; but I felt it. Like a story, it rolled on inexorably, independent of the characters bounced about within, of my heart storm-tossed in its wake, yet at the same time it loved us more fully than anyone else in the world could.
It reached its crescendo. It hit its crowning notes, a simplistic legato of the original, sad notes and the one note that changed them. The last notes drifted away, my minor key fading back into grey.
Music is the thing through which our heart speaks to us of who we are. Songs come when we feel them. I can't compose a song if I want to. They only happen when I'm not thinking.
Music requires a letting go; and music is one of the few things that can cause us to let go. We trust music. We release ourselves to music. Music is impersonal and intimate and understanding and distant all at once.
Through music, I think, we touch the divine. Maybe because the divine can only be touched when we let go; maybe because in music we see the greater story beyond ourselves. It is a hint of the tapestry that finally makes sense of our lives.
Music is the only nonlanguage through which true meaning can be communicated, and the only time that communication is perfect.
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