WORDS: NICK MARTINO ('15)
Sonata form (also sonata-allegro form or first movement form) [i]
is a large-scale musical structure used widely since…the standard definition focuses on the thematic and harmonic organization of tonal materials that are presented in an exposition, elaborated and contrasted in a development and then resolved harmonically and thematically in a recapitulation.
The term is most …the exposition typically establishes the music's tonic key, and then modulates to, and ends in, the dominant. If the exposition starts in a minor key, it typically modulates to the relative major key, or less commonly… There are many exceptions—for example…the exposition may include identifiable musical themes (whether melodic, rhythmic or chordal in character), and may develop them, but it is usually the key relationships and the sense of "arrival"…the exposition in classical symphonies is typically repeated…
This is the composition, seeing the place.
I will do my best to account for what happened. I got beat up. I’m fine. Several fists pummeled the back of my head, mostly. My shirt was pulled over my head. That’s dignifying. I didn’t know if I said anything. I recall thinking: I can run/fight. I chose the latter. Went down.
Was I asking for it? No. I got randomly jumped in the street by some dickwads. They didn’t even steal my wallet. Please, dickwads, if you’re going to jump me, at least have the decency to steal something. I want purchase greater than scabbed knuckles and clotted blood. A robbery would have been easy to forget; clear motives, easy conclusion. This was an onslaught for no sake. A trap door. Something about it felt vaguely familiar. And also absurd and also incomprehensible in that hair-raising-prickle-the-back-of-your-neck way, or like a nasty joke designed to be offensive. Maybe it was the shock but I laughed in the ambulance.
And so the question becomes: how do I deal with trauma?
The major key: it’s all about memory. As in: composition
Denied my indispensible right as an assaultee: Vicodin, or at least Percoset, jesus, I called my mother. This is not a call I recommend making to a sleepy mom. The tone went from slumbery to alarmed in about five seconds. So I low-balled it. “Mom, it’s not a big deal,” was probably the wrong thing to say at the time, I admit that. Still, that’s the way I felt. And after I got off the phone with her, in the brief rejuvenating telecommunicatory repose I took between calling her and then my father, I thought about why I felt the way I did.
In the hospital room I told the doctors that the worst part about the whole ordeal wasn’t the blows themselves but the having to describe with skull-shatteringly tiresome repetition exactly what happened to every one who asked. Because, truth is, I don’t know really. Whether it was the brain-blows or just the sheer rapidity of the whole thing, I don’t remember much. But I noticed that in recounting the story over and over to EMTs, police officers, nurses, etc., something peculiar was happening: The more I told the story the less I remembered, and the better I got at telling it. Here goes:
Yeah so anyways I’m on the sidewalk, by myself, walking up Lawn towards Pine, headed to Warren. In, maybe, like, three minutes I’ll be bleeding out of my head and mouth. For now I’m just walking though, right? But then at the peak of Lawn I come across 8-15 kids headed down in the opposite direction towards High. Yeah, I can’t remember how many people were there, but they seemed to be like part of a big crew of friends or something. They’re drunk, I’m drunk, so I think there’s some camaraderie there. So I’m smiling dumbly at them and they’re hooting and hollering and what not like any other drunk kids in the street on a Friday night.
And at this point, conjuring an image in my head like light through a glass slide:
So there’s this white sedan that stops or was stopped, can’t remember, and I can see the driver has gotten out and is hugging some other dude? Yeah, I don’t know why I have that image in my head particularly. Whatever, cause then here’s where it starts, see there’s something moving in my left periphery. I turn and look and there’s like three guys walking towards me across the street, maybe 5 feet away now, saying something. I don’t remember their faces, and I don’t know what they said. It’s all garbled. I stop and say: what? Then they start hitting me.
Recounting this story in Pi, in Wesshop, to my friends on the phone, via email, FaceBook chat, and even in class, I tried to discern what it was that the trauma reminded me of. Something waiting behind a curtain or around the bend. Meanwhile, I got better at telling the story. Rough patches were smoothed over, a few choice words were sprinkled in for emotional levity, I practiced flexing my funnybone, and also my dispossessed-of-the-desire-for-vengeance bone. A clear narrative emerged, and a villain too, and not who you’d expect. But still, I knew there was something I couldn’t remember. And then, making the bed one day, I did. But more on that later.
So back to the beat up lowdown:
I’m lying on the ground, right, and there are people around me telling me not to move, and a flashlight shines and a voice says: what did you do? A little round head pops into my view and it’s a PSafe officer. What did I do? What do you think I did, beat my head into the asphalt and wait for help? Asshole. I’m, confused, shocked at his question, laughing, hysterical, but like what the hell?. Did you really just ask me that, PSafe officer, and victim-blame me? So I’m lying on the ground and
In general, the development starts in the same key as the exposition ended, and may move through many different keys during its course… it will usually consist of one or more themes from the exposition altered and on occasion juxtaposed and may include new material or themes…alterations include taking material through distant keys, breaking down of themes and sequencing of motifs…developments in the classical era… how much composers of that era valued symmetry…a greater degree of tonal, harmonic, and rhythmic instability than the other sections…
babbling real fast in this high-pitched sorta-whine like I didn’t DO anything, I was attacked, should I get up or what oh- yeah a little hysterical, sure, sue me. Then he says, get this: ok, don’t get so excited. He said that, I think. Yeah, I know. Yes officer, I am so excited, positively thrilled that my jaw is bent and I can’t close my mouth that’s filling with blood. Like did he really just say that? I’m excited, I know. I get it. I exaggerate sometimes, like anyone, like, say, I’m exaggerating when I say there’s a city near my hometown, a monument to the the middle center of Wisconsin that occupies a peculiar space in my memory, one carved out of airport hangars and coiled around the mad intestinal piping of an oil refinery.
The Wisconsin Dells touts itself as “The Waterpark Capital of the World.” That is misleading. There are also boat tours, golf courses, mini golf courses, go kart tracks, horseback riding, a water ski show, amusement parks, and a casino. Think Las Vegas with the hedonistic strip, insane arcadium neon funneled into the thousand astonished little mouths of the kind of impressionable children who live for this kind of me-me-me spectacle. As in: all children.
While I must have visited the city upwards of ten to fifteen times, most of my memories have eroded into a collage of splintered sensory impressions. I remember standing with my father beneath a thirty-foot rhinestone-encrusted chandelier in a tessellated marble plaza eating a chocolate-covered strawberry fatter than a hummingbird and watching a man in a tuxedo vest hold a yellow boa constrictor around his shoulders.
I can feel the inertia pooling in the soles of my feet, see the toothpicks of light issuing between the bifurcated, glorified PVC waterslides whose pitch black bowels I hurtled through, howling, losing track of myself for fifteen seconds in the dark then emerging from the mouth of the slide into the sun-dappled pool, my father’s extra pair of swimming trunks ballooning splendidly in the white-crested tumult of iceberg-blue water.
I can’t remember ever feeling fear in the Wisconsin Dells, except for the following event that I’ve never told to anyone, one that I’ve only remembered recently while making the bed, dubbing it the “Dreaded Go Kart Incident” in my damp head and one that, for all intents and purposes, appears to be true and to have actually taken place at some point in my childhood on what I remember to be a go-kart track that whorls in and out of a mammoth wooden simulacrum of the Trojan horse:
The sunken mouth of the wooden ramp spits me out sidelong into the wall. In this still image, not unlike a glass slide on a projector, there is a point beyond which I cannot see. Did I mention the battery’s dead and I’m in a blind spot? It might not yet’ve occurred to me what will happen. Then the first hits; my body smashes into my body. A curse in doppler and they’re gone…
The recapitulation occurs…typically presents once more the musical themes from the movement's exposition. This material is most often recapitulated in the tonic key of the movement…many sonata form movements…incorporating a secondary development section, or varying the character of the original material…or rearranging its order, or adding new material, or omitting material altogether…
As in music, there is orchestration.
Harmony, form, rhythm, timbre, melody, mode, tonic. In my defense a pattern always seems to emerge. Hey, life can be tough. I need this like the photosynthene! I draw towards it; it is designed for me. From a vague sky, a bright splinter between void/void.
I love the pattern. Symmetry is neat, and beautiful. It imparts its own meaning. Any choice I make is affected in accordance with this attunement. And coincidence is a seductive phylum of pattern, a phenomenon that imparts a superstitious gravitas upon recurrence. Nabokov says the spiral is a spiritualized circle. Traveling clockwise, completing a hemicircle, doubling back, passing within a hairbreadth’s, and on…a message emerges, as from the bottom of a lake. It says: this thing is special and to be taken note of. A wellspring of deeper meaning, if we can manage to decipher it. The game is afoot. Let us try our hand at it!
So my kart faces traffic, dead on the lip of the top-floor curve of the tight spiral that serves as the spine of the sphinxlike megalith. They don’t know I’m here. Soon I’ll realize that collision and sight are to be simultaneous. A gasoline drone lifts from the belly of the horse. Behind the clamorous, serrated bronze alarm of the engines, the tumbling somewhere beyond slow curve of vision…
I bring it with my million selves. As it is, it is only with the bad ones. There are some memories of childhood that reverberate- the mold is impressioned deep enough to leave a lasting mark. I have many memories of dubious authenticity, like a child who thinks they’re following the right parent at the airport, but this is not one.
So, regardless, here I am on Lawn getting beaten to a pulp. See how the scarlet beads flick from my gashed lip? See how they punch me in the back of my head, over and over, the white bulb blessure, crown of the skull splitting open and the bees flying out? I see white sunspots. On the pavement, they have me by my hair. Vainly, and with the horror/humor (a likely pairing) not lost on me, I’m grabbing one of the dickwads’ legs and trying to bite him. So close; too bad. Now here I am in the fetal position and they are gone. I uncurl like a lazy flower, hemorrhaging in the street, see a car and call out for help.
But I still can’t get over that PSafe officer and here’s I think why:
I have always been aware of a certain degree of orchestration behind my memories. That is, remembering seems less like referencing a filing cabinet and more like painting from a photo. Only on any consecutive painting (or recall) I reference the last painting I painted instead the original photograph. My memory is plastic and open to manipulation. A slow process of distortion. There is artifice, omissions, false mirrors and colored smoke.
So here’s the theory:
After the tumult of the attack I was left in a severe mental and physical shock, destabilized and dislocated from any self-orienting comprehension. That is a lot to ask of me, ok. So the way in which my mind reestablishes stability is to 1) scapegoat someone I can pin down for a faceless, remorseless act that robbed me of agency and 2) draw parallels to a similar incident in my childhood that fixes it within a sphere of contextual understanding, masquerading under the reverberant, familiar aura of coincidence, pattern, echoes and ripples. By 1) I mean I’m not sure the PSafe officer said those things. Fact is I remember him and I remember his face, and I remember my hysterical, paroxystic reaction to something said, but I can’t hear the offending words. So maybe by unconsciously reaching out in the wake of the trauma for something to lean on and orient myself by I remembered this apocryphal wrongdoing and actually had a face to put on the perpetrator and so fixed upon it, allowing that bizarre exchange to eclipse the blind hatred of the actual attack. I don’t know. By 2) I mean that I’ve come to recognize that I synthesize complex sensory input into binary systems, coincidence, triptychs, motifs, and even classical musical forms- any arbirtrary pattern - in order to better comprehend it. Understanding through either a comparative relationship to something familiar or through the scaffolding of a mental framework whose very composition imparts meaning and comprehension. Whatever. There is the chaos and its coding. Facile methods of understanding. Pick a form, any form- anything will do.
There, super. There’s the red thread I’ve been looking for.
Coda (Italian for "tail", plural code) is a term used… to designate a passage that brings a piece to an end… in a sonata form movement…the recapitulation often ends with a passage that sounds like a termination…any music coming after this termination will be perceived as extra material, i.e., as a coda…suggests that the reason codas are common, even necessary, is that…a coda is required to "look back" on the main body, allow listeners to "take it all in", and "create a sense of balance.”
I can remember, with an exactedness that continues to surprise me, a singular moment that night which I partially spent in an echo chamber, a.k.a. the Usdan Late Nite scene, with laminate tables stark and orderly, chairs in their rightened places squared to the rectangular room; and how, listening to my friend loom syncopated melodies atop one another with a loop pedal, I found an intoxicating staring-place in the wall before which he was standing, the one in the left wing of the dining hall that’s closest to the central cafeteria itself, the wooden wall sentried by two gleaming racks of silverware bouquets in tin cups, and finally, most importantly, the one cratered by a score of 1.0in² squares in 50 rows of 5 and 5 columns of 50, and that iteration of squares and rectangles itself extended and multiplied and redoubled in 15 some such rectangular square-arrangements so as to completely fill the entire wall before which my friend was standing, so that as I looked at him I looked into a thousand dark portals opening their mouths.
[i] All Sonata form entries taken from Wikipedia