© Chris Courtney Photography
The minor key
One of her favourite stories growing up was Tubby the Tuba. A charming tale about a Tuba in a symphony who dreams of playing a melody line, like all of the other wind instruments in the orchestra. She felt an affinity with Tubby, she longed to find her own melody, but it was elusively out of reach.
She was always the outsider looking in, and she didn’t understand why. She didn’t see herself as different, but everyone else did. The notes she played were in a completely different, minor key to all their mainstream, major chords.
She knew she could enhance their playing, not with harmony but through the complexity of her discord. If they would just take a moment to hear her haunting notes and accept that she offered something rare, and brave, and transcendent, but every time she tried to hang out with them, all they heard was jarring, and hurtful, and difficult.
She tried to be more like them. She tried to harmonise, but that only made things worse and incited their ire, and indignation, and ridicule. She tempered her sound in a melodic minor key for a while but then she started to fade. Her notes weren’t clear anymore, her pitch was either sharp or flat but never on key and her timbre lost its intensity.
For a long time, she stopped making any sound at all. She enjoyed the silence of her own voice, and she shut them out completely. No one missed her tune. No one came looking for her din. It was as if they were all better off without her. No one ever reached in or inspired her to play because they wanted to hear the sounds of her making. No one ever wanted to know of her, they only wanted her to know of them. And as she continued to listen to the song of the world, she noticed it was constantly narrowing and collapsing until everyone sounded and played exactly like everyone else and all the music everywhere sounded exactly the same.
She decided that her silence had become detrimental, so she endeavoured to try and accompany one melody at a time rather than associating herself with an entire opus. She went in search of a variation on that theme. A strain that would accept her exactly as she was, and when she thought she found him, his serenade was so exceptional that no one but she could hear it. He played his rhapsody for her, and she matched him as best she could. Their music was unconventional, abstract and passionate, but her minor variations were still subordinate to his major movements, like the faintest of refrains that is written but never actually played out loud. It was merely a different kind of silencing of her.
And as his sound grew, others began to hear it, and they joined in, until she was relegated to the shadows once again. When she screamed her dissonance at him, he shunned her cacophony, and she was set a drift on barren seas between the waves of consonance and resonance. She tried to find her place in every measure she encountered, but invariably the chorus drowned her out and left her stunned and static. She wondered why they all wanted her to sound like them, but they never wanted to sound like her? And then she knew.
They had never heard her aria in its own frequency, as the solo it was meant to be. She had always been trying to play with them, but it never occurred to her to be the clarion voice of her own key signature. She never realised that she must stand alone and apart and play how she was born to play so they could hear the difference. Hers was not a harmonic or melodic destiny, but an oppositional one. Defiant, and subversive, and intense. And strikingly unforgettable.