Atonal: (adj) music not written in any key or mode.dictionary with letter A

His name was Jim.

He was a huge lug of a man–more or less a teddy bear stuffed in a human skeleton, sporting incomplete sideburns.

He wanted to sing. Jim had never sung before.

There were two reasons for that. Growing up as a rough and tumble boy, he felt it was “sissy” to sing, but secondly, he could not carry a tune.

I was young, optimistic and also thought it would be great to make a few dollars giving singing lessons to Jim, with the aspiration that by his sister’s wedding, he would be able to share a song at the reception.

I thought it would be no big deal. I believed that anybody could eventually follow a melody if they just concentrated hard enough on the structure.

Jim was atonal.

Jim understood that there were tones, but his voice was either in rebellion to them or had prematurely gone deaf.

So I worked with him for at least two months, and even though I greatly enjoyed the influx of cash to soothe my weary budget, I eventually had to sit down with him and explain that even though God gives gifts sometimes, that we must be the ones to mature these offerings, to make them acceptable.

When I shared this he looked at me blankly. So realizing that I was not making my point very well, I bluntly spurted out, “Jim, you just can’t sing.”

He was curious if I meant that this was a temporary problem which could be alleviated through further practice. It was time to use even more candor.

“Jim, you will never sing. As a matter of fact, it’s God’s will that you stop trying.”

For a moment his feelings were bruised, but then he started to giggle.

After the giggling subsided, he looked at me with his eyebrows furrowed, and challenged, “Does this mean I get my money back?”


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