Piano Man

I dreamed of Mother last night.  Mother and music. It has been quiet at the castle lately, as Gwyneth is off on her travels again. One advantage of having Awenia running parallel to the real world and the 21st century as that she can indulge in activities she enjoyed before the Boatman brought her to Jasper Cove, and which have eluded her while we were separated from the mundane world and her native time period. The disadvantage is that she is rarely home, and some nights, I miss her. As I write, she is travelling to some gathering of musical types, a convention of sorts. I might have accompanied her, but the draft proposals for the Accords between Awenia and the mundane world are proceeding, slowly, through various committees at the Bureau for Supernatural Affairs, and I must needs be available for consultation.

Funnily enough, it was music that caused me to dream of Mother. Gwyneth’s servant, Bran, had introduced me to various apps you can install on a tablet that access music online. One such allows you to specify genres and styles that you like and then it makes a play list for you. I would never have imagined being able to get music from the cloud. I am still amazed at what you can do with gatherings of water vapour. That was a joke, by the way, after many patient hours with Skeleton, I have more or less wrapped my mind around the concept of networks and servers and such like things.

In this particular case, I was letting the music app – see, I know the terminology now – play random light classical music at me, while I relaxed with some John Donne and a bottle of rather nice Fitou. Suddenly, among the random tunes was a piano arrangement of the An die Freude, Ode to Joy section from the 4th movement of Beethoven’s Ninth. That got my attention. That had always been one of our favourite pieces of music, and Mother and I had often sung it as part of the choir at church concerts. It was possibly why she chose it as one of the pieces she tried to teach me on the piano. And, it was likely why it was one of the few pieces I could manage without fumbling too much. And, there, tinkling through the headphones, was the very same music, albeit played with far greater ability and assurance than I ever had.

That stayed with me, even though there was much other music, while I finished the bottle, and in the night, it entered my dreams. In my dream, I was once again back in the music room at our house in Chatham, seated at the piano, with Mother standing by my side. Strangely, in the dream, it was the adult me sitting at the piano, rather than callow youth I had been at 12 or 13. Also, Mother was wearing a dress that my memory tells me she did not buy until some years after, perhaps when I was 16. Dreams can be strange that way.

In the dream, I was stumbling through the Ode to Joy section and, frankly, making a bit of a mess of it. Mother stood there, patiently, gently – she never shouted or scolded – correcting me, but I kept stumbling over one section. She leaned over and kissed the top of my head, mussing my hair and patting me on the shoulder. “Sing it, Nathaniel, darling,” she said. “Sing it with me.”  She reached across me and turned the page back to the beginning. She gave me another reassuring pat and then stepped back. I cracked my knuckles, ignoring the slight gasp of annoyance from Mother – she always hated it when I did that, a habit I got from Father, who used to do it before sitting down to some task – and applied myself to the keyboard again, singing the words I knew so well. “O Freunde, nicht diese Töne! Sondern laßt uns angenehmere, anstimmen und freudenvollere. Freude! Freude!”  Mother sang softly along with me. “Freude, schöner Götterfunken, Tochter aus Elysium, Wir betreten feuertrunken, Himmlische, dein Heiligthum!” She was right, it helped, and I played through to the end with more confidence than I had ever managed before.

“Well done,” she said, calling me by my other name, the one only she and I knew and that she had told me I should never commit to paper. I was a little startled, as she rarely used that name, save for intimate conversations, when we were alone together out in the woods. She leaned over and kissed me again, urging me to stand up. She reached into the shadow behind the bookcase and brought out her violin. “And as your reward, you get to play with this.” She handed it to me and sat in my place at the piano. I stood there, rather stupidly, holding the violin and bow as if I did not know what to do with it. Even within the context of the dream, this seemed strange to me. I had had a very basic, beginner’s violin, which she had given me a few lessons on, but she had almost never let me even touch hers, let alone play it. “Let’s see if you can remember how.”

I brought the violin up to my chin and grasped the bow in the approved manner. I looked at her expectantly.

“How about this?” she said, and started to play. Au Clair de la Lune. I recognised the tune, of course, but for a few moments, could not for the life of me remember how to play. Memory told me that she had never taught me to play it on the violin. The piano, yes, but not the violin. I started to protest, but she waved me into silence. “You know this, Nathaniel, surely you remember.” She swivelled on the piano stool and moved my fingers into the correct position for the first notes. I sawed the bow a couple of times, trying to remember how to play, adjusting my fingers until I produced a satisfactory note. Mother turned back to the keyboard and began to play again. I joined in, and somehow, my hand knew the correct fingering and I played it perfectly. “Again,” Mother cried and started to play again, increasing the tempo. Once again, I played perfectly, despite the increased tempo. We reached the end and she started again, even faster… After that, the dream dissolved into random images and the sound of Father hammering at the door, which turned out to be Bran, waking me in the morning for breakfast.

Even after I awoke, I could still hear Mother’s voice, and I felt a sense of loss for the music I had once had, albeit to a very limited extent. I pulled on a robe and went down to breakfast, deep in thought. There were no messages from the BSA and only a brief message from Gwyneth, saying how much she was enjoying the convention. The thought occurred to me that, work on the Accords aside, I was now a man of leisure. And, I was a man of means. Surely I could afford a piano, and to engage a tutor. Perhaps now I could reach for what Mother had dreamed of, to make music as she had.

“Yes,” came her voice, softly in my ear, again, addressing me by my private name, “yes, my darling son, you should.” I blinked and looked around, but there was nobody there, just the echo of Mother’s voice in my ear. I reached for the tablet and called up the search engine. Surely there was a purveyor of pianos somewhere in Seattle.

 

Piano Man

 

 

 

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