Monday, March 02, 2015
The Lost Chord: Chapter 48
(a classical music appreciation comedy thriller by Richard Alan Strawser: you can read it from the beginning, here.)
In the previous installment, Fictitia has managed to escape from her captors. Kerr is trying to figure out how the Knight's Tour applies to the quest for a solution. Dylan is abducted by a strange old woman outside Lincoln Center. Kerr has bad feelings about Tr'iTone once he explains the map. With Lionel's help, Tr'iTone discovers the apparent goal he's been looking for is at the Festspielhaus.
= = = = = = =
"He's left me alone in here!" Kerr thought. "I'm going to die!!"
Wasn't this an affront to a gentlemanly agreement? Not that Dr. Kerr would ever have confused Tr'iTone with a gentleman...
Feeling triumphant after Kerr told him that the statue was a map, Tr'iTone strapped Kerr back into the chair.
"Wait, you're going to let me go, now, right?" Dr. Kerr asked as he resumed fussing against his restraints. "I gave you the solution. Maybe you might need some more help?"
"I'm sorry, I can't hear you, professor. The music's getting too loud. Let me go sort this out, first."
Tr'iTone smiled as he grabbed the statue.
"Thanks, dude – enjoy the concert!"
He shut down the air circulation fan, then flipped off the light, an evil grin dancing across his lips.
With a flash of superiority like a winner strutting at the Oscars, Tr'iTone glanced back before yanking the door tight. He tilted his head but his laughter died in the stagnant air. Once he replaced the cover over the practice room's lone small window, Kerr was again left in total darkness.
"No, you can't," he shouted, "you're not playing by the rules of..." but then he stopped. "What's the use...?"
Kerr felt anger, then disappointment, then realized he'd soon need to pee.
Despite long hours sitting through performances of Mahler symphonies or Wagner operas, Dr. Kerr found himself hard-pressed to withstand the onslaught of the music now filling the space of his prison.
"What tortures did they use four hundred years ago in this dungeon that could be any worse," he wondered.
How often had he told his students if they didn't like a piece to find something to listen to that would give them something to process, at least occupy their minds.
The problem Kerr faced, however, was how little there was to process, what little he deemed worth the effort. Rather than expectations expertly resolved, he was faced with amateurish missed opportunities. Ignoring the flow of music's underlying force, the composer earned few points by inadequately following his own inner logic.
He was reminded how old Brahms had told off young Hugo Wolf who'd come to him for some supportive advice only to be told what no struggling student ever wanted to hear.
"First you learn something, then" the master said, handing back his scores, "we'll see if you have any talent."
Was there nothing positive to point out, no well-turned phrase or motive, no instrumental color nor nicely voiced chord, something that couldn't be mentioned with at least a nod toward accomplishment?
Such frailties these egos are, creative souls always struggling in their isolation, relying on kind reactions and friendly support. Hadn't Brahms felt deep disappointment even at the peak of his career? He would destroy whole works that met with little enthusiasm from friends. Couldn't he understand how Wolf would feel?
By being unable to hear anything else after lengthy immersion in darkness, Kerr found all of his senses (including smell) eventually helped heighten the one sense that was most prodded into activity, leaving open the one he most desired to close: he could hear everything better, more clearly, more intensely.
He felt like he was absorbing the music as a physical presence through every possible opening in his body before he realized, in fact, he was, whether as ear-worm or poison.
His eyes began to water until he could no longer focus, being unable to see anything in the darkness anyway.
"Am I crying? Is this stuff so awful it's causing physical pain?"
The music, like an infestation, crawled relentlessly under his skin, creeping stealthily through his ears, deeper toward his brain.
He could feel his muscles giving away, the tension flowing out of them as his brain refused to cooperate.
"I have to get out of here. I have to save Cameron..."
Above all, the heart beat and pulsing of the blood he'd earlier been able to feel in his wrists he now heard flooding through his inner ears, soon dissolving into blankness.
In the distance, he heard something different, oddly comforting, like someone singing, strangely audible through the continuing musical assault.
Seated one day at the organ,
"...I'm playing the organ...?" he thought.
I was weary and ill at ease
And my fingers wandered idly
Over the noisy keys.
"...like white noise..."
I know not what I was playing,
"...it sounded only vaguely familiar..."
Or what I was dreaming then;
But I struck one chord of music,
"...damn, was that an F7?..."
Like the sound of a great Amen.
It floated gently over him, enveloping his body, reaching for his soul.
It flooded the crimson twilight,
Like the close of an angel's psalm,
"My god, am I at my own funeral...?"
And it lay on my fevered spirit
...a touch of infinite calm.
It quieted pain and sorrow,
Like love overcoming strife;
"Who's singing this...?"
It seemed the harmonious echo
His mind echoed like an empty room, reverberating to sounds of Sir Arthur Sullivan's famous hymn, 'The Lost Chord.'
"So, it's come to this...?"
From our discordant life.
"Resolve the dissonance..."
Would any of his music survive him? Was this all there was? Sadly, he realized nothing mattered any more.
In the distance, he was sure he could hear someone screaming.
The pain was so intense: this music had finally reached his brain.
With that, Dr. Kerr was no more.
= = = = = = =
To be continued...
posted by Dick Strawser
The novel, The Lost Chord, is a classical music appreciation comedy thriller completed in 2013, and is the sole supposedly intellectual property of its author, Richard Alan Strawser.