The Preludes

Oh, what are the words I could use
To express the feeling this music arouses?
It is a single instrument, a lone piano,
And yet...
Its humble sonority was made for night-music:
Not the shadows of terror and darkness,
But rather the mystery and serenity of an eternal evening,
Perfumes and light gusts through an open window;
And I am transported to the childhood scene
Of an old dame—who it seems I never knew—
Solemnly playing beneath the spiral of a wooden staircase
Beneath my bedroom as I listened from the top stair.
Of course I didn't understand then;
It was a ritual, comforting yet strange,
These evening recitals.

I never understood anything then,
I realize now—
I who displayed a natural talent for music,
A sense of melody, even.
I had my fare of piano lessons for little more than a year
Before losing interest.
But the soul of Music would not be so easily scorned:
In my adolescence, it crept into my house—
Or should I say marched?—
In the thunderous guise of heavy metal,
Courted me with the smoke and lightning of battle,
Showed me a gleaming instrument,
Whose notes screamed like a siren,
Or roared like a sea of armed men:
And I took up the electric guitar and
Raised forth my own hymns of glory.
This I have not forgotten, oh no!
But where She had opened the door with great fury,
The cunning lady Music began to instruct me
In subtleties,
Scales, harmonies,
And I was drawn into her deeper mysteries:
Art-rock with its new profundity,
Then finally the classics themselves:
Holst, Vivaldi, and Grieg first,
Later Wagner and Debussy.
Debussy, whose eloquence now echoes around me as I write.

And now I have come full-circle:
It wasn't so long ago
That piano music aroused at worst boredom in me,
At best a faint, uncomprehending curiosity.
But now I see
The true poetry of the instrument:
Not the tremulous passion of a violin,
Or the formidable ire of an electric guitar,
Or the sweeping lushness of a full orchestra,
But the sound of colored raindrops on a quiet night.
Notes descend from Aristotelian spheres;
Reason and contentedness,
Patter in Runic hymn,
And I come to know the Lady's thoughtful aspect.

George Chadderdon © 1995