Sunday, October 5, 2008

the odd orchestra

_____the book of love
_____is long and boring,
_____and no one can lift
_____the damned thing.

________Peter Gabriel, the Book of Love (lyrics)

untitled, .littlegirlblue

first strings.

the first strings aren't the first into the building ever. Also, they're not strings. There's Lucus, he brings a bag full of rubber bands, he stretches them between his two thumbs and releases them suddenly. The thicker bands make a deeper noise. He likes those best. Maureen has been coming from the start. Back then she did actually have a viola, but after the strings broke, she didn't bother replacing them. She brings the cocoon of her instrument along (she's lost the bow too) and sits and stares into it- ignoring everyone. Apparently there's an inscription on the inside. (only that's not really true either, Gerald- from woodwinds) once peaked in when she went to the bathroom, it was just a few letters, out of order


Claudius had twins. Rumor is they were wonderful violinists (relative to their young age). He hums sometimes, well too, always right on pitch. He sits and stares at a photo-album the whole time. The conductor hates him, on account of his appearing to be scrutinizing a music score in his lap and disapproving of the tempi. The reality of this is simply: the conductor is paranoid.

second strings.

the second strings are always on time. Irene, Janice, and MadiSun (she is under the mistaken impression spelling her name this way makes it a pun, a word she has never looked up, but whose aspiration to cleverness she admires). They met in the cancer ward of a hospital in the area, and realized, death is never the same thing twice. They tried to arrange for the respective funerals to be held at the same time, and helped each other write eulogies. Irene gave hers solemnly, helping Janice was a waste of time, she got to the podium, her lower lip already quivering. She cleared her throat as though about to begin- but then only began crying. She was escorted off by her two children, both in their mid-20's, good kids. MadiSun is still too young to wear death. Unsure how to manage its mysterious blackness, and not quite ready to accept anything quite so permanent, in fact, unable to fathom such a thing, she found herself unable to stop smiling. She giggled once too. In time, once love's lingering flame has lessened somewhat, she'll understand the cold better. She'll change her name to MadiMoon, get a small sun and moon tattooed separately on each shoulder, and think she's the most clever person that ever was. Neither of them play an instrument, but the hall the orchestra uses at this hour was previously booked by WIDOWS, A COMMUNITY SUPPORT GROUP, and the women became accustomed to coming, and still do. They occupy three chairs in the correct position (relative to the conductor) and usually drink bitter cheap coffee (MadiSun tea) out of Styrofoam cups.


Harold survived a war. Returned with a few medals to a dust-bowl that once was home. There wasn't much waiting for him. He clicks his medal against the chair in front of him (which has been unoccupied since JayJay's mom got a job and can now afford day care). There was some discussion as to whether this mode of articulation of the instrument is in fact percussive, but on account of it being a brass medal, and on account of there being no one else in the section, they decided to have Harold in brass.


Gerald is 45. He recently, for the first-time, kissed a woman and meant it. It remains uncertain why Misha should be any different from the other 3 women he's engaged in intercourse with, the 5 other women he's had a spattering of dates with, or the 9 who've gently turned him down. He whistles incessantly, and laughs during the coda of Beethoven's 9th, which irritates everyone, but is the closest thing to a gong the orchestra has, so it is tolerated. Gerald occasionally puts his arm around Gustavo who is European and so is not disturbed by male-male physical contact. Gustavo hates shaving and owns a flute, only just learning to play. Coming off the bus a fortnight ago he saw a woman named Ying walking towards work who smiled at him. He immediately loved her and conspicuously followed her to see her destination. Summoning all his courage, he entered the music store four days later with the ostensible reason of 'taking up the... err... this one' ('a flute?') ('yes!'). He hadn't the courage to ask her out, but organized for monthly payments on the flute, which he insists on 'paying in person... just to make sure'. He has not talent for the instrument, but is trying very hard. In about six months, he will kiss her- a premeditated move- his patience run out with her coyness. She will kiss him back and smile.

Ollie, Ryland, Amy and Leopold are JayJay's friends. When JayJay's mom told a few of her friends this was a free place to leave the kids to get a few hours to yourself. The children have an average age of 9.3 years old, and mostly chatter to themselves. The conductor placed them in woodwinds due to the pitch and flutter of their voices. Often they are known to transcend their chairs and take to running rampantly around the hall.


An octogenarian by the name of Hans was once the percussionist for the Weimar Philharmonic. Despite his age, he attends every rehearsal, driving his 4 timpani over in a mini-van, and taking a full two-and-a-half hours to set them up. (and the same to pack them up). Hans treats Marcus, a rock drummer from Orlando, who only brings his sticks with him and taps on the floor, chairs, whatever he can find, with disdain. Marcus never talks much, but to avoid the incessant question-asking had tattooed on along his right arm, from shoulder all the way down to wrist: i know no other atmosphere. i breathe her. i am mad. leave me alone. He ensures always to wear vests to practice so that his message is clearly visible.

Mubu on the other hand is much liked by Hans. A Somalian refugee, he brings his traditional instrument with him (though there is a distinct red mark across the skin that he refuses to touch, so with his one- his only hand- he is limited in the range of noises he can make). Mostly, he taps towards the left side and center of the drum, avoiding the right side blood-red smear. He taps only the same beat, smiles with the largest whitest teeth imaginable, though his eyes betray them. He wears only long-sleeve shirts and ties the right sleeve in a sort of bundle around the stump of his shoulder. Often, when everyone has left, he remains in the hall. After the lights are turned off you can still see his white eyes occasionally blink, his white teeth shifting through shapes like a moon forming crescents and halves and drifting back towards complete darkness. hitting just the two spots with the same beat, with the same hand, hoping sooner or later to get it right.

dum - DUm

____dum - DUm

________dum - DUm

______________dum - DUm

___________________dum - DUm

_________________________dum - DUm

1 comment:

Monday's Child said...

I want more. Is there more?

(p.s. am slowly working on reply to email... it's taking a while as I simultaneously mend a broken heart that refuses point blank to be mended, get to grips with my weight - which refuses point blank to go away - and convince my mind that mine is a great life and I am not bored out of my skull with it...)