Music in a Minor Key

Long before life had shown me sickness, separation, hard times, and loss, I loved music in a minor key. I still do. I set this down here, as a wanderer might put down his bundle, to rest and marvel at the little he owns. I feel it is that significant, and believe my preference for a melancholy strain is a clear sign of how I am wired, which in turn dictates how I see the world, and how I express what I see. I hear more truth in a dirge or lament than in a light-hearted melody. Relentlessly cheerful music seems to be the
by-product of a life that has either met few difficulties and challenges, or that has chosen not to acknowledge those faced by others � almost as if the happiness expressed is not really happiness, but an advantage being enjoyed at someone else�s expense.

The best music, like the best art in general, is a graceful combination of laughter and tears that magically embraces our humanity. It does more than entertain: it awakens, strengthens, reminds, inspires. Even in Beethoven�s great brooding symphonic works, it is impossible not to notice his sense of humor � just as Mozart�s bright melodic line seems like a clear river that once passed through troubled lands.

Many years ago, I helped an Armenian priest conduct a home service for a farmer who had died. In a small room at the local funeral parlor, we faced the deceased in his casket, while members of his family sat immediately behind us and to our side. When, after the opening prayer, the priest and I took turns singing psalms softly in Classical Armenian � an ancient form of Armenian no longer spoken but preserved by the Church and used in all its services � those in attendance began to weep. They did not understand the words. It was the sound of the language itself and the way it was musically expressed, in a melody so old that no one is sure when or how it arose, that gave it meaning, and that gave wings to their grief.

If I were to try to preserve that moment in a poem, I might write something like this:

Music was the road,
and for a short,
timeless distance,
we walked
that road together.

And though we have long since parted ways, I can still hear the music far away, on the breeze � within me, here. It is music in a minor key, sweet wine in a glass caressed by many lips � marriages, funerals, births, deaths � a cradle rocking in the wilderness, the song of earth, our gentle mother, in the pale moonlight.

August 1, 2005

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Also by William Michaelian

Winter Poems

ISBN: 978-0-9796599-0-4
52 pages. Paper.
Another Song I Know
ISBN: 978-0-9796599-1-1
80 pages. Paper.
Cosmopsis Books
San Francisco

Signed copies available

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