Longing for Form

I loved music in high school. So much so that my first year report was set in C Major.

Allegro con Vivace

By my second year, I had discovered chromatics and minor keys: C#, C#, D, C#, C#, B, C

I liked my home key.
O, my gorgeous mentor, asked me why I seemed so unconcerned about grades. He was a Lenana man: muscular, soft-spoken, authoritative without bullying, rugby playing, top-five student, and eventual popular school prefect.

During my first term, he taught me how to fall in rugby. I would run toward him, and he would lift and plant me. I’m sure there was a life lesson there.

He felt responsible for me.

In response to his question, I calmly replied that I could be in the top ten of my class anytime I wanted. And returned to my music.
Moderato cantabile

Two years later, I made good my boast, and infuriated my then roommate.

E was like O: puritan in his work ethic. He would dutifully wake up at 4 in the morning to study, would study well into the night, played sports, and, predictably, became a prefect.

He was neat and orderly, frustrated by my slacker ways. And more importantly, he had A PLAN!

He is now a medical doctor.

I slept in, barely did my homework, and spent most of my time playing piano, loudly and badly, into the wee hours of the night.

And I still beat him in exams. And was made a prefect.

In fact, I was so good that I won the award for best—and only—music student in my class.
Dolce e staccato

I distrust the myth of individual genius. I consider it to be the most pernicious of Kenyan myths, one that impoverishes us as it seeks to elevate “the best and the brightest.”

I could not have known then, and barely do now, how music allowed me to grieve. Bach’s fugues anchored my recursive turns and Wagner’s volume gave voice to cries I could not acknowledge.

Music also gave me form, though I did not know it then. Because I understood the shape of a rondo, I could intuit the structure of an argument. Listening for a theme and its variation helped me map relations between and across structures. To know something of how form worked. This training stays with me, though I have lost all my music.

What is the musical notion for loss?
Ritardando e pianissimo

I still like my home key. Years of other listening have not taken away the pleasure of those first rudimentary lessons in C Major. That slide home that always feels so comforting, so elementary. If now, I have learned to persist in the un-harmonic, in the persistently un-melodic, in the unreproducible hum that demands a pang.

If now this. Also, that.

A story that might have started. Something about an average student learning about form.

I speak of semibreves and minims in my U.S. classroom, only to learn that we hear time in differently sounded lengths.