317. Music Theory

Circle of fourths. Circle of fifths. Flats. Majors. Major chords. Minor chords. Augmented Chords. Diminished chords. Roman numerals. Scales. Tones. Semitones.

I’m hardly there, but I’m getting there.

After many years of fooling around with music, I thought that it was a good time to get serious and start thinking about our future together.

I’m not like my elder sister. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think that she’s a demigod who inherited all the godlike powers, leaving me with crumbs. She started learning how to play the piano when she was 4, and I swear that when she plays the piano, it’s like she grows extra fingers.

To put it simply: she’s Michaelangelo, and I just chipped a vaguely square-ish block of marble out. And it’s falling apart in my hands.

On account of my elder sister being the maestro of the family, I pretty much resigned to the fact that I’ll never be the best musician in this house. It’s probably a good thing, or I might not have ventured into writing. But still, it’s hard to resist the allure of being able to speak the language of the soul.

I sort of learned some piano tricks via visual osmosis when watching my elder sister play, and I had a couple of good friends who were willing to teach me a couple of things on the guitar. But these things were mostly just for my own enjoyment. I would not, no matter how drunk, think that I am anywhere near good enough to perform before an audience, much less charge them for it.

But then a couple of weeks ago, a musician friend of mine – a real hardcore, gig-playing, wedding-singing, piano-playing, guitar-strumming, drums-crashing, bass-thumping sort of fellow – announced that he would be having a little class of sorts for us church musicians, where he will be teaching music theory.

Why, I thought it was as good a time as any to learn some basic vocabulary.

Yesterday was the second class out of four, and we talked a little bit about the construction of chords and how to translate from one key to the next. If there’s anything surprising so far, it’ll be that I’ve never expected music to be so mathematical. I’m practically doing rapid calculations in my head to figure out the 1-3-5 of different scales and going up and down semitones, all the while visualizing the black-and-white keys in my head. I’m beginning to learn that music is not so much the language as it is the arithmetic of the soul.

But in the end, it’s all interlinked, isn’t it? Music. Maths. Words. Our songs and equations and novels are, in the end, part of our never ending quest to make sense of this strange world that we live in. I’d like to think that at the end of all things, the world does not fall into oblivion: back into the darkness before creation. No.

I’d like to think that the world comes into completion. When the last equation is solved and the last note is sung and the last word is written. I’d like to think that, like the hands on the clock returning to twelve at midnight, it is hardly the end.

It is only the beginning again.

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