Sunday, 25 March 2012

Just another play-thing.

There once was a girl who thirsted to make her own music. It was her first day of school when it first spoke to her and consumed her thoughts. She was but 5 years old when initially drawn to the violin, an instrument that was most vividly imprinted on her mind so that she would think of it by day and by dream. Dancing through the corridors of the school twirling into euphoric dizziness and every so often tugging on her mothers arm, the girl was guided around the place she would occupy for the next 6 years of her life. She believed that Mrs Lily, the teacher leading them was made entirely out of plums. It was the only way to explain the sweet aroma of plums that followed Mrs Lily in every direction she moved. 

The little girl was excited, boundlessly in fact. Everything was so BIG. So colourfully perfect. They strolled by Mrs Kingly’s classroom, wealthy of a thousand pairs of eyes all gazing up at the storyteller sporting the wizard hat. They passed the ceramic fountain, the girl’s eyes temporarily taken from her by the angel spurting water from her mouth. The girl detached herself from her mothers arm and ran over behind the figure to mimic the angel’s pert lips, so that it appeared the water was coming from the little girl’s mouth. Her mother laughed lovingly before joining hands with her and pulling her along. Walking across the courtyard, they entered the arts and crafts department, decorated solely by the children with monsters of every variation adorning the walls. There were giant frogs with ice blasting guns and laser vision, dinosaurs with triple-heads and the power of fire and computers that had legs and arms and consciousness.

The little girl was inspired, though she felt she would have gone about designing these monsters with a bit of practicality. For instance she would have given the frog a coat because he was frequently going to be surrounded by ice. And given the dinosaur three tails so that they could each express how they were feeling individually. And she wouldn’t ever conceive the possibility of a computer having consciousness. That would be ridiculous. While walking through this tunnel of artwork, her impatient eyes were drawn to the room on the left, the door of the music room slightly ajar, bordering a perfect, glistening blue violin.

In this moment, her thoughts were solely replaced with music, music of every form and flavour. She suddenly stopped dancing and became fixated on this wooden piece of art. I mean trees are art in themselves, but to transform them in such a way that music can flow through them? Her mother dragged her along. For the second that she had watched, she had noticed the 4 strings veiling the spine and neck, the twirls of wood at the peak, the gleam bouncing off the neck rest at the bottom. But now she was moving swiftly through the Science corridor and even the familiar giant frog with freeze power creating cold fusion on the walls wasn’t a sufficient stimulant for her attention.

There was no way around it, the inevitable. There were 3 years 7 months and 23 days to endure before she was able to put paint to her dream. 3 Years, 7 months and 23 days of longing gazes, of watching other children’s fingers running riot all over the treasure. Some of them would thud their grubby stubs onto the neck and slap their talent-less hands all over the body, which the little girl constantly complained to the teachers about. But of course, they did nothing. They were nonchalant, and why shouldn’t they be, they couldn’t understand. Each time she walked by the music room she would sigh, squint her eyes at the poor child attempting to use the violin as a tambourine, remind herself of the bigger picture and walk on.

And today was the day of all days. The ground split in two beneath her mother at the sight of the little girl who was not only awake before 5ambut also smiling like a Cheshire cat, jumping constantly for a solid half an hour before she appeared to require a breath. It was her 9th birthday and what promise it held! It was the day she had been waiting for, the holy grail of birthdays- it was audition day. They were holding try outs at break time, which she immediately disagreed with, believing it was much more important than the morning Math’s lesson. But she bit her tongue and maintained composure, if you call spinning on her chair for 2 hours (almost certainly entering different dimensions during this spin-athon) composed.

And the bell rang and she leapt off the chair mid-spin. However rapidly she sprinted to the assembly hall, she somehow made it last through the door. She watched with patience, as the music teacher explained the audition process. What this lady required was for each student to sing a scale effectively (I’m not sure how this tested their ability to play) and following the success of producing a scale that didn’t shatter glass, they would proceed on to the next stage. The lady approached the first girl. "Could you sing me a scale please?" The girl obeyed and sang beautifully."Thank you. Now, show me your hands." The little girl didn’t expect her quizzical brow to crop up that day, but what do you know, there it was, almost surpassing her forehead. Show me your hands? What on earth was she looking for? The girl held out her hands. "Excellent, you can play the violin." Determining who could play the violin based on the posture of their hands? What kind of a jip is that? "That’s…different. But it must be essential otherwise they wouldn’t test people in this way", thought the little girl.

The lady moved onto the next candidate. "Hello, could you sing me a scale please?" This girl’s voice seemed to somehow jam drumsticks into the ears of all others present in the room, most of all, the girl with the '9 Today' badge on. With trepidation, the music teacher said "Hands?" The girl held out her hands. "Fantastic! Wonderful! You can play the violin." The birthday girl shuddered. But now it was her turn. The lady moved across, very slowly and stopped in front of her. "Wow that certainly is a beautiful badge. Is it your birthday today honey?" In all her anxiety, the little girl thought this part of the test or that the teacher was questioning her age. "Yes, of course. I have my birth certificate at home if you want proof." The music teacher looked puzzled, "Oh no darling, I just wanted to wish you a happy birthday." The little girl’s cheeks flushed. "Oh…th-thank you." "Could you sing a scale for me please?" And here it was, her time to shine.

She sang and it had a few pitches she hadn’t hoped for, but the teacher smiled at her none-the-less, through those huge spectacles of hers. 'Thank you, and can I see your hands?' She held them out for the teacher. And the teacher’s eyes grew 7 times larger through those unflattering glasses.

Gasping, she let out a shriek of horror. "Oh good heavens! What on earth are those? Those insults to the human form, those loathsome paws of mutant origin – they are crooked, crooked fingers. Ghastly! Unnatural! I’m sorry, very sorry, to tell you this, but-" and the teacher couldn’t finish her sentence before running to the bathroom to be sick. Pale faced, she returned and made her apologies. "I’m sorry, so sorry to do this on your birthday, but it is my regret to tell you that you cannot – and will not- ever be able to play the violin."

The girl’s bottom lip was now vibrating. She didn’t think there was anything wrong with her hands, but obviously if her teacher said there was, there must have been. She was older, wiser, better, taller; the little girl was merely 9 years old and realised in that moment, the teacher with the big hair and unflattering glasses had ruined her life (or rather the whole of the next hour, if we are speaking in literal terms).

Distraught; the girl left the hall where the auditions had been held, a lump present in her throat for the whole next lesson, a grief she had never felt before this day. And before she knew it, the final bell bellowed, but that wasn’t a sanctuary as she was a frequenter of the after school club. It might be necessary to mention that at this particular club, the little girl didn’t have one friend in the world and that this particular club was supervised by the same lady who had hours before ruined her life, but what may be more important to mention at this point, is that this particular club was held in a room that was 3 doors down from the music room, which on this particular day, as she was walking by she would discover; was unlocked.

With the smile of the Cheshire cat returning and growing, the girl swiftly threw her eyes left and right, aware that the only noise in the building was coming from the after-school room which happened to have its door closed. Virtually undetectable, she slipped like a piece of paper might through a small gap in between two tables into the music room.

Dozens of instruments bordered the room, as well as pictures of great musicians of whom she had no idea about. The names Niccolo Paginini and Sebastian Bach had not starred in any of the animated programmes she had been watching. But the messages written below them were revolutionary to her. "There is a violinist within us all". "I am what all of you have the power to be". "Believe and it will be so".  The paintings had faded to the point of dullness but the message was bolder than anything.  

"I could be great, like them. Stupid teacher, stupid stupid lady with her big hair and thick unflattering glasses. There is nothing crooked or sickening about my hands."

To the left, below a fountain of light flowing through the window in the roof, stood the violin. She traversed the room, fixated on the instrument, the curves it fell into, the velvet shadow it created. Those swirling slits that showed a dark mysteriousness inside where music was magically formed before swimming through the gaps. She clasped the neck, gently and admired for a while.

There was a long pause, nothing in existence but her and this violin. She lifted her right hand, not too quickly, and released her fingers. And something horrible ensued. They began plucking the strings- incessantly, which naturally instilled pain in her ears. Shuddering, she thought maybe the lady with the big hair and unflattering glasses was right. 'My hands are crooked'. She let out a wail so great, it could break your heart upon hearing it. Wiping the water of her tears away, she glanced up at a picture of one of the musicians and noticed he was not plucking the violin in order to make music. This man, had a special “tool” that glided across the strings to inspirit melody.

But where was it? All she could see was ruddy maraccas, enough to supply an entire mariachi band. Suddenly she started dizzying herself around the room, her grabbing hands pulling away slightly bigger violins with more strings from the sides, books full of squiggly symbols, microphones and long tubes with holes along them. She searched a good seven minutes before retiring in a heap exhausted. Where could she possibly have missed? She sighed, sitting on a chair that quadrupled her frame and rested her head against the backbone so that her head tilted upwards, in the most convenient fashion. She noticed a box atop a shelf, placed high up on the right wall. Her sighing spirit evaporated and she was back in the game. Springing up without conscious effort she began arranging amplifiers to build a ladder, after quickly considering and rejecting the idea of building a ladder out of maraccas. And so she began arranging, using three of the larger ones for the base, but realising there was only one that was slightly smaller than the bases size and the others were dramatically smaller. So with care and logic, she placed the one medium sized amplifier in the middle, alongside one that was about an eigth of it’s size. After doing this effectively, she placed the last one at the peak and prayed to God that she would make it through this alive. 

She steadied herself and raised her foot to the first step, holding out her arms for balance. She wobbled nervously, but with composure and mental willpower, ascended to the next level leading with her left foot. Her left knee was now slightly shaking, a parallel with her teeth. Once she had found comfort in her stance, slowly, she ascended to the last level and maintained good balance. Following a mental victory dance, gulping, she stretched higher than Everest. As high as her fingers would permit without detaching from her body, so close that it was about to crawl into her grasp. She skimmed the lining of the box before the explosion of the momentum she had built up caused her whole body to fall forward and lunge into a crouching position with her hands clinging on to the rims of the top amp. This was now looser than the snow on all the mountains was after that girl had butchered the scale.

Now a lip-wobbling wreck and a human tremor, she tried again and this time, increased the gap between her feet to find balance. "Physics!", she thought. And she lifted her arms, legs, fingers and toes as far as she could, when suddenly, glancing down at her elevated feet so close to the front of the amp, a red alert screaming "Physics!" appeared before her as she fell the 3 flights of ladder facefirst onto the floor. "Thank God for the pile of maraccas", she thought. She reassembled her ladder and focused on staying closest to the centre. Reaching the top, she reached and reached then retreated for a second. Her arms flailed and they pounced, then she retreated some more. Just before exhaustion, she resumed a standing position. "I can DO this!" She lifted her hands as far as she could skimming the top shelf, higher still and "JACKPOT!" Grabbing the thin lining and coaxing it towards the edge, she wrapped it in the other hand and safely stole if from the shelf.“Hoorah! I’ve got it!” She jumped from the amp tower, straight into a moonwalk, complimented by an arm swinging marathon and a time warp rendition before heel clicking several times in the air to finish.

Remembering what the whole exercise was for, she dived on the floor and with a minor pause, she delicately opened the box, revealing the lining of green velvet, an indented outline of a violin on the bottom and two straps safely harnessing the 'tool' she had so desired in the top half. She explored the item, twisting the end which seemed to tighten the strands of blonde hair that were fastened to the thin piece of wood.

Once tightened, the girl lifted the tool, rose and walked across the room to the violin. Collecting it in her left hand, she placed it carefully under her chin, like the pictures encouraged her to do. Her eyelashes joined, her right arm raised lifting with it the missing link and delicately, she stroked the strings, pressing her left fingers down at the same time.

She…no longer…was in the room, or in her own body for that matter. All thoughts were  absent, the Universe- irrelevant. For her 'loathesome paws of mutant origin', found every, single, note. Dancing along the spine, pirouetting through the clouds and slipping into diagonal motions across the full gerth of the middle, the music was all that existed. Through listening to the notes, she was able to reproduce symphonies from the ages, tranqulent classical pieces she had heard in adverts and old movies. Her eyelashes could not unjoin if she asked them to. Tchaikovsky and Beethoven fled from her fingertips, a plethora of sounds encircling her so that she was immersed within them. A scene from Swan Lake. Enigmatically beautiful, the girl had become so absorbed that she had not noticed the river of children and teachers who had entered the room during her playing. With a flawless finale of 'Adagio for Strings', after an extended last stroke, her eyelashes unjoined, her lids opening to reveal a hundred (well actually, thirteen) marvelling faces.

What was interesting is that all the faces were different – startled, bemused, petrified! All seemingly a result of her disobedience in playing the violin. She suddenly realised the outcome of her misbehaviour and dropped her eyes to the floor.

"I’m so sorry. Loathesome, crooked, mutant-like, I heard it all. Here…take it", said the little girl holding out the violin to the lady with the big hair and unflattering glasses.

Bemused by the gesture with tears in her eyes, the lady took a few moments to gather everything that she needed to say. She refused the gesture of the violin, while saying the words "Hush, hush now child. I cannot begin to tell you what you absolutely need to hear right now. Now, do not mistake me, for I am very aware of the beauty of language in all it’s marvellousness. The invention has transformed the world in so many powerful and wonderful ways. But no words have they formed, or if there were words available, could I place them together to ever fully describe what you have just done in here. The bow in your hands is not just a thin piece of wood with horse hair attached." (So that’s what it’s called.) "You are the wizard to the wand, the sorceror to the stone – you turn music into magic child. The violin is yours, I must implore you to share your gift with the world, for you are one with it."

The little girl placed the violin back on its stand and sighed."Yeah, I’m kind of bored of it now, how about I be one with the Maraccas instead?"

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