An Undark Secret
Some people have secret talents. These special abilities are so mysterious, the people affected by them often keep them hidden even from themselves. Tucker had at least one such talent. It lingered in the background of his mind for almost his whole life.
He was not aware of it even when he talked about it. The first time I heard him reveal his musical ability was in 2018, immediately after he heard a barbershop chorus concert featuring the Frederick Catoctones, the Frederick Children's Chorus, and Parkside Harmony.
"It sent chills down my spine, man," he gushed. He pushed forward through the crowd after the show to give me a handshake.
"What did?" Something was different in his face. He had a relaxed, open expression most of the time but now it had grown even more intensely relaxed and yet more alert. He was more calm and more eager than ever with a twinkle in his eye about it. I had no understanding of what had made for the emotional change in him.
"I don't know what it was but I could hear the chords and sometimes they weren't right. I mean, they were good chords." He glanced apologetically at me as if he were listening to himself and trying not to sound insulting. "You guys were singing well. But the music was missing something. It was weird. I wondered what you all were getting at. But then one note changed. And suddenly they were. They were right. The chords, I mean. Everything just resolved to be perfect. It was amazing."
Not many people have such a visceral reaction to listening to a progression of chords resolve into a final chord in its sequence. For many talented musicians, hearing or playing the progression is merely pleasant. For a few, though, it's ecstasy. The difference makes some musicians great. They stand out from the others, over time, because they are so moved by the music. It inspires them to higher levels of artistry. But you have to have the right complexity of mind to hear it.
It's not a matter of being more intelligent or less. It's a matter of being the right kind, of having a precise match of ear and brain.
Tucker talked and checked himself and talked some more. He had almost no musical terms to describe what he was hearing. He kept stumbling through his sentences. But I understood. And I was jealous.
"You were so good," he said, as my jealousy turned to feeling flattered. "When the whole chorus came together, my god, it was something else."
It was not in the plans for Tucker to come to the cast party. Barbershop afterglow events are not much more than thank-you speeches and spontaneous singing. But when he heard there would be more singing and that I had an extra ticket, he invited himself. It was almost impossible to stop his eagerness and his joy over the chord progressions in the music. He needed to hear more singing. He couldn't bear for it to stop.
"It was rapture," he said at the party. He repeated it.
I kept waiting for him to say that he wanted to sing. It would have been nice to hear. I hinted at it. But he turned down the suggestion with a flip of his hand. He didn't think he could do it. As far as he was concerned, performing music wasn't for him.
There are only a few people, a small percentage of us, who hear chords in a certain way. I don’t get that emotional effect from them myself. To me, they're nice, not soul shaking in the way they were for Tucker and a few others, most of them professional musicians of some sort.
He could hear the tension in the chords as they progressed and were deliberately left unresolved. And then resolved to a new cord, the right one. Tucker knew, absolutely, what was happening. He was waiting for the final chord in the sequence each time.
He knew. And spent the rest of the night trying to tell me how gorgeous it sounded.