From Sorting to Song
Music set down the stack of papers precariously teetering in their paws with a sigh. The heavy documents were important, sure, but they were also a lot for one little Paralogos to lift alone! And to sort through them all, by date, by composer, by theme… It was enough to make anyone else’s head spin.
But not Music!
Though the task was hard, they set to it with a grin and a grace that befit their small size. Each piece was carefully -- after the initial rough setting-down -- examined, considered, and then finally placed where it belonged in the giant pseudo-wood shelves in the basement of the music building. Sheet music that was already placed in the past would be examined for any mold growth, insect damage, or sun damage, though the basement had no windows and only the natural lighting and the glow emerging from the tone-holes on Music’s hide offered any relief from the darkness.
Once a day, Music would cautiously select a piece and bring it upstairs with them, after a quick visit to the cassette and CD holder to find a recorded copy of the song. Then, they would go to their favorite nook in the entirety of the music building -- a small window overlooking some artificial trees with color-changing leaves, specially “planted” to mirror the seasons of old. The window was made of thick glass and blocked the street sounds below, and the tinny handheld old radio that Music had dragged out of some abandoned corner long ago sounded like heaven in this isolated space.
A CD was inserted with utmost delicacy and reverence into the holder, and the radio whirred as it considered Music’s choice. Gradually, oh-so-gradually, an electronic recording of Dvorak’s “Symphony no. 9 in E minor, Op. 95” began to play from the speakers. Music sighed again, with contentment this time, and began to leaf through the sheet music they had brought with them, humming along with the strings.
Music’s recently-learned tier two magic allowed them to identify a piece by name without the use of sheet music, but they still found it quite relaxing to look through the pages and watch the notes appear on the page and in the otherwise still air. It was almost a magic of its own, with each composer’s different flair being thrown bare on the page for all to see. It was almost like reading a book with written words, but instead of letters and phrases, to be found here were notes and staves.
These breaks were the highlights of Music’s day, and they wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Another stack of sheet music, another day. Music wasn’t sure where all of these rare paper copies had been found, but they weren’t complaining. More sheet music meant more opportunities to listen and read, and to practice their innate magic. The ability to imitate any instrument might not have been useful to some, but Music vastly enjoyed the ability to sing along “perfectly” with any piece.
That, and the ability to make Miss Juniper and her daughter Arcadia laugh by taking requests for songs “sung” with the wrong instrument.
Their fingers paused over a copy of Britten’s “Six Metamorphoses after Ovid, Op. 49.” This was the only copy of this music they had, borrowed out to a promising young oboist in his second year of playing. It was special to Music, though, because this is the piece that first allowed them to discover more of their magic.
An unlabelled CD had found its way into the collection, and Miss Juniper didn’t have the time to listen to it and identify the piece. And so the task fell to Music themself, as part of their daily sorting job. Luckily, the piece hadn’t been hard to identify -- and Music realized that they had such a knowledge of all the sheet music here now that it had become one with their Magic.
To Music, there was little distinction between “normal” Magic and the magic of organized sound...
...Ah, but there was work to be done! Music shook those nostalgic thoughts from their head, and carefully returned the sheet music to the shelf labelled for oboe solo music. It wouldn’t do to be distracted for long, especially when they weren’t ready to take their break yet! There was much music to be sorted and, well, there was Music to be sorted (they chuckled at their own bad joke, even if no one else was around to hear it)!
On and on they went, reaching into the pile to gently pluck a new piece up, and slip it inside a protective folder before putting it on the appropriate shelf. A task that took hours seemed to only take minutes for such a dedicated Paralogos, and a task that was made only easier by the humming and “singing” of each piece as it passed under their watchful gaze.
Their paw closed on empty air. No more music waited for the eager historian, as they had completed their task much too quickly. Music hadn’t even taken their daily break yet!
Well, now seemed as good a time as any. They would ask Miss Juniper on the way back if there were any more tasks to be done in the music facility for today. Sheet music and a cassette tape were carefully selected, pulled down, and placed under their arms.
Yet another stack of sheet music, yet another day. Music couldn’t complain, being as they got to learn all sorts of new pieces! The fact that they had the largest collection of paper music in all of Lingua was just a bonus, really. Music wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
They would admit, however, that it was getting a bit lonely in the basement. Sorting sheet music by yourself just wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be.
Music decided that they’d take their break a little bit earlier today, to see if Miss Juniper had time for a chat, even if they could only discuss one piece of music or one of their Caretaker’s performance groups. That would make today all the more special.
The old radio was hauled out from its usual spot, and a CD was inserted into the top. Again with the gentle whirring, the ponderous pondering, and then slowly the tinny music began to emerge from the old device. Music carefully adjusted the sound dials, pulled open the sheet music, and began to imitate the drums this time.
Music jumped, guiltily, as though they had been caught committing some heinous act. Before turning around, they flipped the OFF switch on the radio and then slowly slipped the sheet music back inside the protective plastic covering. Then, their gaze lowered, they turned to meet the scrutiny of Miss Juniper.
The woman, despite Music’s fears, was smiling down at them. She bent down and proffered a hand, to which the sheet music was placed hesitantly. Miss Juniper laughed, shook her head, and beckoned for the Paralogos to follow her instead.
“Should I-- Should I put all this back first?” Music inquired, clutching the sheets to their chest.
“Don’t worry about it, child. I have some friends I’d like you to meet first.”
Music was confused as Miss Juniper led them to one of the brightly-lit classrooms. “Wasn’t she going to punish me for taking that music out?” they thought, but they were quickly distracted by a small group of women sitting in too-small chairs, organized in a circle.
There were three older women in the classroom, surrounded by the shelves of synthetic musical instruments and the rickety old upright piano. They waved politely to Music and Miss Juniper as the pair entered, and Music waved back, suddenly shy. Music hadn’t been around too many other people before, preferring the soft silence of the sorting basement or the echoing calls of the radio in the Overlook Nook.
“Hello there, dear,” one of the ladies said in a quavering voice. Her light blue dress, which matched a floral-pattern hat, reached down to her thin ankles. The gloves on her hands looked elegant, despite the summer heat outside, and Music noticed a familiar type of paper clutched in her grip.
Music uttered a questioning tone -- like a light fluttering of a flute -- and the woman chuckled. She didn’t seem confused at the presence of a Paralogos in the choir’s midst, nor did she seem offended that Music didn’t speak directly to her, either. Music was relieved by this, as they really only felt comfortable speaking in Words to Miss Juniper.
“We’re rehearsing the alto part for our group’s summer festival,” explained one of the other women, garbed in a comfortable-looking shirt with a cat-like Paralogos patterned on it. “Miss Juniper said she had a little surprise for us that could help us line up our part better.”
Music perked up at that, and looked up at Miss Juniper, with a French horn-like tone escaping their lips this time. Miss Juniper smiled down at them, her gnarled fingers resting lightly on Music’s crest -- the only part of the small Paralogos she could reach without bending down.
“I’ve heard you singing along beautifully with those cassettes and CDs you borrow from the library,” she started. “Now, now, I’m not angry with you!” Miss Juniper waggled a bony finger at Music, who looked guilty again. “That music is for anyone to enjoy, not just human music students! I’m glad that you find joy in what you do, and that you can find extra time just to expand your knowledge of my favorite art.”
Music perked up at this. Miss Juniper wasn’t angry! In fact, she was praising them! What a wonderful treat to have for today! But Miss Juniper wasn’t done speaking.
“You have such a talent, no, a skill, for making your voice sing with the recordings. You sound almost exactly like a real version of whatever sound you’re mimicking! It’s incredible! I’ve never heard any other Paralogos be able to do that, beyond those haunting calls that you make to non-familiar humans.”
Music nodded. Words were reserved for other Paralogos and bonded humans only. It was a special thing to hear a Para’s words for yourself, in their opinion, and not every human would be granted that opportunity.
“My group was wondering if you wanted to imitate the trumpet solo for this part in the music,” said Miss Juniper, holding down some sheet music for the Paralogos to examine. “Our player couldn’t make this special rehearsal, and my embouchure isn’t all that it used to be.” Miss Juniper finished with a wry smile on her face, gazing down upon Music again.
Music eagerly nodded, fast trumpet riffs emerging from their mouth -- as if to prove they could do it. Then, glancing down at the music quickly instead, they mimicked the opening notes of the solo. All of the women in the room laughed appreciatively at that, especially as the notes were perfect.
“Then it’s settled!” Miss Juniper smiled and beckoned them over to lay beside an open chair, which Miss Juniper herself sat in. Music gracefully settled themselves at her feet, like an overly large housecat, and began wagging their metronome-tipped tail in time with the audible met.
Miss Juniper placed a hand upon their head, and Music couldn’t stop a big smile from erupting on their face. As the trumpet sounds called forth, blending with the beautiful voices of the four women seated in the room, they felt as though this was where they truly belonged.
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