Inner Michael » I thought of Michael

I thought of Michael

It was a bright sunny Autumn day, The campus lawn is sometimes used for art shows, annually for graduation and sometimes for outdoor concerts. This is, after all, a Kodaly school of music. There are frequent concerts, student recitals, musicals and plays, auditions and after hours jams – the performing arts get a lot of appreciation here. We are an Ivy League Music College town.

We have one of the best percussionist professors in the country. That’s one of the reasons I am a percussionist; I was inspired by his work. In earlier years on campus, there was a time when original composers with Jazz roots and fusion minds wrote compositions that made their way to professional circles via our annual our annual fundraiser peace concerts for Sister Cities. We brought performers together to bring the world together. We held concerts for solidarity, for peace.

Those were the days of creativity and improv and when the performing arts came together and brought tears and standing ovations—from performing mimes to photos essays, from Jazz to folk guitar with choral pieces and intricate virgin Jazz rifts thrown in. We always began with a planning session where art and minds intersected and creativity ran open and free; I wanted cultural diversity and gathered artists from backgrounds that would not ordinarily perform together and put them on the same stage. I often did the marketing art and performed myself and was Mistress of Ceremony more than once. Oh the things I got away with! Oh the artistic license we were conferred!

I am not sure that can happen again. At least, not in that way. Not in the ways that brought disparate pieces of art and its artists all together to represent something global to an audience bonded together for the space of a couple hours, one mind, one heart, one planet.
So when Michael and his brothers asked: “Can You Feel It?” I could answer then with a resounding “Yes!” Down to my soul. Up to a standing ovation.

So when I walked on the campus on Sunday and saw the variety of people and the percussion instruments scattered on the green expanse of lawn I got that feeling in my stomach of anticipation. You know the one. Like a stomach holding a trembling virgin—timid but flushed and expecting something to rock the world. Your world at least. God knows our world needs to be rocked or at least shaken so that our souls can spill out again, be found, reclaimed and rescued once more. It feels like they’ve been lost for a very long time.

So it started. A few instruments that capture wind—a conch shell, horns that blew soft oral breezes that never reached crescendo but morphed into the booms and bangs of scattered drums, cymbals and gongs and then at the end the lighter instruments-  flutes, piccolo, Irish whistles, xylophones and then it was over. Applause.

I couldn’t. I was waiting for something else. Listening for something else. As each instrument was featured and joined the performance, the player of that instrument was doing his or her own thing. One drummer was playing huge Japanese drums and congas while another played only cymbals and gongs. The sound came from everywhere and made no sense. It was in fact, dissonant for me. I waited for the homogeny. I waited for the melding. I waited for the wave of solidarity that I imagined would sweep from one end of the campus to the other and incorporate all the instruments, all the musicians—into one huge sound excursion, to crescendo into one huge integrated theorchestronic whole.


People walked. And walked away.

I left, I walked, I pondered. And I wept for what didn’t happen and for what could have been. Maybe it was supposed to have represented abbreviated pure improv—I wasn’t sure. It appeared to be deliberately avant garde- if that’s not an oxymoron.

Something didn’t happen. And I left unsatisfied, unfulfilled. I left with a dissonant experience that I had not invited and did not want. And I left without the ending that could have been easy. The instruments were there. The people were there.

And so much like the world, nobody was listening to anybody else. Nobody was playing along, playing together. Everybody was doing their own thing. Their own thing. No harmony. No homogeny. No “we.”

With just one mind, one person, a little guidance, direction and one idea, that disjointed dissonance where everyone was performing in their own world, doing their own thing could have congregated full circle and full bodied and satisfying into an organized and euphonious whole. How easy it would have been to bring it all together in the end…

One person, one idea. One performer with a vision.

I thought of Michael.

Michael was pure Kodaly.

He would not have left me here.




  1. Lynaire Williams said . . .

    Oh, Barbara, I have been waiting, it seems so long, for something to bring me to tears.
    The dear little seal almost did, but not quite. The recent orchestrated litany of lies from AEG. No. The unethical behaviour, constant battering of the kindly and gentle soul, who did nothing but love, understand and forgive their human nature. No. The flimsy verdict and words of the jury, whose (cleverness, in their own minds) attested to the inanity of a pitifully worded question. ( What, exactly does unfit mean anyway?) Did they not have a dictionary in there? Once again nothing, my heart was numb.

    Then your post “I Thought of Michael”.Those few words were all it took, something in their resonance and meaning dissolved me and I feel my soul once more.
    Thank you for that privilege Barbara.
    I can well empathise with your feelings in the park that day, as you pondered on another loss for mankind. The Carnival really is over, isn’t it?


    Posted October 9, 2013 at 7:07 am | Permalink
  2. Kim said . . .

    Barbara thank you. You captured so beautifully what is so very wrong in today’s world. I also wept while reading because what you say is what I have observed as well. There is such a disconnect. It is nice when we experience something that brings everyone together. I felt your pain when you described what you saw. How in the world did we get here? We need to fix it. My goodness Michael was very wise. I will do everything in my power to be part of the solution as hard as it is sometimes. All lightworkers must keep trying. Keep the Faith!

    Posted October 10, 2013 at 7:04 am | Permalink
  3. Monica said . . .

    I am forever grateful for your posts, Barbara. And I can only agree with Lynaire. God bless!

    Posted October 10, 2013 at 9:03 am | Permalink
  4. gertrude said . . .

    The grandchildren. They’ll bring it back. They have been born, as we all were, with the carnival inside them, and they will rebel. If we teach them well. We’d best work to make sure there is still a world for them to spill their carnival into, Michael is with us on that

    Posted October 16, 2013 at 2:39 pm | Permalink
  5. B. Kaufmann said . . .

    I have heard this same or similar thing more than a few times. The millennials, I’m told, will change the world. They follow the Indigo children and they see what “old white men” have done to the world. They think “old people are weird” with their divisions and all their isms. Yes, they will rebel.

    Now what I need from you all is for you to send me your definition of “carnival” and what “the carnival inside you” means. I’ll leave the light on. ~B

    Posted October 16, 2013 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

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