The Guidonian Hand
Torrents of wet wind hurled the couple along the dark corridors and crooked streets of an obscure district buried deep within the heart of the city of Paris. Their dark shadows smudged the lingering snow spread silkily across the streets and sidewalks like an eerie, blue tablecloth under the frosty moon. The Countess's eyes peered bewitchingly over her sable collar in the direction of her companion, who stamped furiously through the crusted snow, and hurled curses into the face of the stinging whips of wind.
"Surely you must be mad..." the man chattered between his molars while tightening the lapels of his topcoat more firmly about his neck, "to have enlisted me in such an imprudent endeavor. I'll catch my death of pneumonia in these sorry alleyways."
The lithe figure only laughed girlishly as she swayed her tiny figure around a lamppost like Gene Kelly. "Don't be so brave, my little coward." The tiny elf face puckered into a false frown, her eyes glowing with mischief. "Besides, we are nearly there."
The pair continued on - the girl skipping and dancing ahead of the heavy-set man who trudged behind, grumbling. They proceeded several blocks, which seemed miles to the weary man in the heavy, woolen overcoat, when, abruptly, his guide halted and stood proudly before a weathered door marked with a strange insignia.
The man stared in surprise at the design painted on the door - an outstretched golden hand, approximately 6 inches in length, palm extended, with a wavy line running through it beginning at the thumb running across the palm and up the little finger. The line continued to the tips of the other three fingers, down the first finger and across the lower two joints of the middle two fingers before arriving above the middle finger.
Examining the symbol closer, he discovered alphabetical characters were curiously listed along the line at _ inch intervals. An uppercase G, A, and B ran along the thumb, while lowercase characters c through g, a, and b continued along the line running through the fingers. Finally numbered lowercase letters b1 through e1 completed the string which ended slightly above the middle finger.
"I had no idea you were involved in the occult, my dear," stammered the snowman - his graying hair and walrus-like moustache now caked in white chips and clumps. Stomping his tired feet on the step, he leaned wearily against the wall, breathing heavily.
"We are all involved, as you say, in the occult," she replied coolly - black lips parted and glistening, "it's just that some of us are more aware than others. Anyway" she said laughingly," this is not one of your 'Bore-us Karloff' pentagram parlor tricks - it is the Guidonian Hand. And I thought you were a musicologist," she taunted.
"I am not a musicologist, my dear," responded the man, huffing and wheezing, "but, merely a collector and admirer of music. The gentle art of music provide me respite from the stress and noise of my everyday life. I am, however; most annoyed at you for dragging me away from that delightful performance of Baroque chamber music earlier this evening. Had you not, I dare say, seduced me with those glorious eyes, and ensnared me with a passionate conversation of stimulating intellectualism, I may indeed be enjoying a glass of fine cabernet with a plate of marinated scallops. Instead, you have in the end, brought me halfway across Paris to see your palmist."
"You are a silly man, Charles, but I like you in spite of yourself. Don't be such an idiot. Would I hijack you and drag your body across Paris for some stupid fortuneteller game? Next you'll be wanting to know when the seance begins. What a howl! Listen up, because the Guidonian Hand has a very old and serious history and I will not have you misbehaving. Remember that you are my guest, and you must promise not to put on your American air of superiority among my friends. And if you are good, you may be rewarded."
The Countess gave Charles a wink, at which the old man's eyes grew wide and he began a coughing fit that doubled him over.
"So what is this all about then?" the man croaked as he straightened himself.
"Listen up, Daddy-o," the girl explained merrily, "the Guidonian Hand was invented by Guido of Arezzo in 995 A.D., as a teaching tool to memorize the tones of the church modes. However, it gained further meaning through the centuries as a symbol of mystery and hidden power. To us, it is symbolic of the nature of those who seek wisdom and solace in the harmonious chromaticisms, melodious polyphony, and varied rhythms of the art of musical expression."
"Yes, yes, go on," the old man muttered impatiently.
"Shhh, we the members 'of the Hand', as we call ourselves, are the true seekers of harmony and wisdom. We, who have studied the teachings, gain access to the universal forms through our considerations of the aural renderings. We are the poets and prophets of the auditory delights, satiating our thirst for knowledge and feeling by penetrating the abyss of silence."
Staring into the man's eyes seriously, she continued. "I feel, in you, Charles, perhaps a kindred spirit. One who longs and lives for each further height to be surpassed, each chasm to be spanned, each orgasm to be fulfilled..."
"True, quite true. You are a remarkable judge of character," replied the man, licking his lips.
"You wish to be taken to a new and exciting place where you can plunge yourself into total immortal tonality." The Countess moved closer to the man's ear as she spoke.
"Yes, take me!" he exclaimed enthusiastically while lunging toward her. Gracefully anticipating his movement, the girl opened the door and moved aside sprightly, as her clumsy paramour fell through the opening and landed face first on the plush green carpet within.
The room entered was vast, much larger than the street scene foretold. Black and crimson draperies, some embossed with the cryptic golden hand, hung covering the walls. Dim lighting was provided by curious orange globes, which seemed to float in the air near the ceiling every few feet. Rows of bookshelves lined the walls, filled with dusty volumes. Several pianos, stereos and radio equipment of various ages, and a quantity of musical instruments from ancient time to present, were pushed into one corner of the musty room. Sheets of paper filled with musical notation were strewn about the floor, and kicked up under their feet as the young woman led her guest into the inner chambers.
Toward the back recesses, a small group of people stood drinking around a table. Upon their approach, a small, dark man with deep set eyes, wearing a black velvet cape hustled toward them, crying out as he did, "My little mermaid, my enchantress, my coda to end all codas!" Kneeling he kissed the lady's hand, at which she rolled her eyes and implored "Enough, dear brother." Reproached, the Count quickly leapt up and gripped her guest's hand emphatically.
"You've brought a friend, how wonderful. I'm sure he is just delightful. Please tell us all about yourself. Pour another glass of wine, Hector! Our little heart's cadence has brought a guest. Oh symphony of symphonies!"
"Please stop your incessant crooning. Mr. Tyron, is here as a potential inductee into our little affair. He is wealthy, learned, and assuredly not tone-deaf like your friend Oswald," the Countess motioned to a seemingly lifeless form coiled in the corner, hookah mouthpiece hanging lazily from his lip. At this affront, Oswald merely puffed a quaint smoke nebula in their direction.
"Allow me to introduce yourself," interjected a grizzled septuagenarian wearing jungle garb and a pith helmet, "you are Inspector...er, ah Professor Tallyrand, from the universe...the universe...uh."
"I'm afraid the Professor is having another bad evening," a gentleman in a smoking jacket interjected. "He's had a lot of them since the accident in Java two years ago. Of course, he is much luckier than his colleague was." Nervously, the man wiped his pince-nez on his dickey.
"He is most esteemed at university, where he write many famous papers." The high-pitched voice of the Oriental man in a checkered suit, Elvis-style haircut and sunglasses came like a surprise as he stepped from the shadows. He wore earphones attached to a cd-player on his belt, and a loud, percussive beat emanated from the headset. Tyron wondered how he was able to follow the conversation over the din.
"This is Takeo Sato," the sophisticate motioned toward the big-haired newcomer. "You may have heard of him, he was a big rock star in Japan...in the 80's."
"Yes, I'm Sato. I am a big star. You are happy to meet me," the man said excitedly while smiling a broad smile.
"I am Hector Berlioz..." stated the man as he shook Tyron's hand. Replacing the pince-nez on the bridge of his nose, he looked directly into Tyron's eyes cagily, like an eagle eyeing his prey. Pointing to two figures seated at a card table, he continued, "and these two are Watkins, mathematician-at-large, and Locrian, our resident monk."
At his words, the two fellow inhabitants stood up from their intense concentration over a game of Chinese checkers and approached. Watkins looked every bit the mathematician with his gap-toothed smile, thick lenses, and bow tie. He smiled and shook hands politely, with a congenial manner. His counterpart, Locrian, on the other hand, exhibited the appearance of a menacing killer - standing a good six-foot-eight, bald and scowling. Although, he wore a monks robe and cowl, he shared not a friar's kind countenance - his grip nearly broke Tyron's fingers.
"Locrian is a complex fellow," Berlioz spoke confidentially. "He suffered an unfortunate injury as a toddler when he fell and hit his head while playing in a graveyard. Since that time he has virtually unable to function in the normal world. He does, however, display the tendencies of a savant, and a quite remarkable one at that, for he has from that time forth possessed the ability to sing at will the ancient melodies of past, the church modes -- Gregorian chants and the sort. His family is quite well off, and for a small retainer, we ensure he is kept comfortable. We renamed him after his favorite modality."
"What was his name before?" asked Tyron as he glanced nervously at the large figure.
"Glen," answered Berlioz.
"The robes are an attempt to link him with a previous life, that only he remembers," whispered the Count.
"And to provide some needed atmosphere," added Berlioz as he poured from a decanter of wine.
"You must have an interest in the music world, I presume, Mr. Tyron, or our little Countess wouldn't have dragged you here - am I correct?" asked Berlioz, while handing Tyron a drink.
"Yes, I admit I do. But look here - let's cut to the chase. What exactly is this place - some type of music club? And how do I sign up for the selection of the month?"
Sato tittered at Tyron's quip, while the Countess elbowed Charles hard in the ribs. Berlioz continued seriously.
"Have you heard of the heavenly spheres, Mr. Tyron?"
"I can't say that I have."
"They were discovered by Pythagoras in the 6th century B.C.," continued Berlioz in a dry tone. "It was he who discovered the mathematical relationship between the musical notes of the octave. He determined that the heavenly bodies of the universe - the crystal spheres, each spun at a particular speed and emitted a certain ringing tone. The musical notes produced by the sun, the moon, and the planets, produces a heavenly octave - the source of all wisdom and beauty on earth. Our earthbound bodies are not sufficiently "tuned" in order to hear the music of the spheres. That is what we of the Hand attempt to gain access to."
"Our beliefs were forced underground when the great betrayers - Galileo and Copernicus - sold out humanity to the god of science." sputtered the Count.
"Not unlike the flat earth society," muttered Tyron.
"What do you say?" asked Berlioz.
"I said, how do you account for the planets that have been discovered since that time? Doesn't that upset the balance?"
"Accidentals, my dear man, accidentals," replied the Countess brightly. "We modern earth dwellers have simply forgotten our spirituality, as I am sure you would agree."
"I'll stick to good old-fashioned Protestantism myself, thank you. None of your mumbo-jumbo for me."
"Oh you stuffed shirt, Charles. But, enough chit-chat!" demanded the Countess - breaking the tension. "Let us begin the ceremony."
"Very well. Form the triads!" shouted Berlioz. The group scattered and moved to take their positions. Watkins paced rapidly back and forth and rubbed his hands together in glee.
"What do you mean?" whispered Tyron to the Countess as she grabbed his hand and that of the professor, while behind them, the Count and Locrian were joining hands with Sato.
"Don't you see - groups of three? As the triad is the essential element in western music, we must achieve the essential oneness to proceed."
"Major or minor?" asked Tyron jokingly.
"Both," answered the Countess with a smile.
"Are they not two sides of the cosmos - the yin and yang of the musical realm - so to speak?" The Countess asked cheerfully.
As on cue, Oswald reluctantly disengaged himself from his hookah and joined the others who were moving to stand on groups of letters and symbols representing the planets painted on the floor.
"Those who are not included in the triads will position themselves in relative intervals so as to form hexachords and complete a harmonious congruence," whispered the Countess.
As the groups were forming, Berlioz removed a dust cover from an open reel tape deck and started the tape playing. A strange music of unknown origin filtered through the room. It was a complex mesh of unusual tones creating a repetitious rhythmical pattern over which a difficult, yet beautiful melody danced and wove. The music began simply, built layers upon layers of simple, yet coordinated parts into a fabric of rich and shimmering texture, than began removing the various parts until the single unit remained. The music then modulated up a whole-tone and began the series again. The participants stood entranced, except for Tyron, who was unimpressed.
"New-Age garbage," he sputtered. "Next, you'll bring out the crystals."
When the tape at last spun off the end of the reel, the group retired to a cluster of cushions arranged in a semi-circle on an Oriental rug. Soft modal music played in the background as they spoke.
"The Arabian scale," ventured Watkins, "highly unusual in that it has 17 steps. Mathematically quite interesting don't you think?"
"It sounds like several flea-infested mongrels mating during a train-wreck, if you ask me," blustered Tyron. "Surely you ladies and gentlemen don't take this wretched sawing and whining seriously."
"I see you have strong opinions on the subject," said the Count slyly, eyeing Berlioz, "please share with us your wisdom in these matters."
"Well I would hardly say that I am an expert, but I do know the difference between a true sense of beauty and wonder as expressed by the musical language, and hideous anarchistic trash that suffices for music today. In my humble opinion, human civilization reached its pinnacle in terms of musical achievement several centuries ago with the birth and death of Johann Sebastian Bach, period. Aside from one or two pretenders of some interest, with respects to Herr Beethoven, the condition of man's musical output has been one of irreversible decline ever since Bach's demise. This downfall has continued until it reaching it's present nadir of delta blues, disco fever, Elvis Presley, rock and roll, free jazz, that musical Anti-Christ - Schoenberg, and finally..." he shuddered, "rap."
"Don't you feel that there is a freedom gained by the twelve-tone experiments, and the polyrhythms embedded in the music of the black culture?" asked Watkins.
"At the expense of melody?" scoffed Tryon, reddening. "It's not worth the cost."
"I believe that future generations will build on the foundations of knowledge of all musical cultures and present us with new, more powerful and beautiful tones, chords, and musical structures in the future," stated the Countess softly, but firmly.
"You have more faith in the human animal than I," laughed Tyron, lighting a cigarette, and beginning to feel more at ease among the members of the Hand.
"If I may be so bold to inquire as to the source of your convictions, sir. What is your musical background, Mr. Tyron?" asked the Count, suspiciously.
"Very well. I am generally held to have a high degree of music aptitude," Tyron expounded, puffing out his chest. "In my youth I studied in Vienna to be a concert pianist, and could play a mean Rachmaninoff. However, the death of my father at an early age required me to assume the handling of my family's business affairs, at which I have been moderately successful. Business concerns aside, my love of the musical idiom has continued, and I am a member of several boards overseeing the orchestral seasons in my little town of New York - you may have heard of it? I still play piano, rather well I might add, and attend every noteworthy concert I am able. Additionally, I write music criticism for our local newspaper, own a tremendous collection of rare and valuable classical recordings, and I have perfect pitch..."
"Really?" interrupted the Count. Motioning to the nearby piano. "May I?"
"Be my guest," replied Tyron smugly.
The Count hit a key producing a ringing tone.
"D - 3rd octave," Tyron replied.
The Count struck another key producing a lower tone.
"B - 1st octave."
And yet a third note - higher.
"F-sharp or G-flat - to be enharmonically correct - 5th octave. Do you want me to go on?"
"How extraordinary. I believe you may be a suitable initiate," said a pleased Hector Berlioz. "But now, Mr. Tyron, I'm afraid we have come to the part of our little show where we must discuss the price of admittance."
"Yes, my good fellow..." interrupted the Count, "the price for membership in the Hand is ... one-million American dollars."
"What!" cried Tyron incredulously, while spilling his drink. "For a chance to play musical chairs with this bunch?"
"Come with us now. You'll soon see why our offer is a bargain," replied Berlioz excitedly.
"It's time," Locrian suddenly stated in a low voice, staring into the shadows as Berlioz led Tyron and the others toward the staircase.
"The natives, my god, Wentworth, the natives!" shouted the professor wildly at the shadows on the wall.
The group trooped upstairs toward the rear, and proceeded to open a large doorway overlooking the back alley.
"What, are you all insane?" Tyron shouted into the wind and was ignored by all.
"Clear the snow, clear the snow!" Watkins shouted, as the others rushed about shoveling and sweeping the snow into drifts on either side.
"There it is!" exclaimed the Countess, pointing to a shooting star. "Isn't it beautiful?"
The star came closer and closer until, in a matter of seconds, it turned into a metal cylinder of lights that slid noiselessly to landing in front of the astonished Tyron.
"It's a star-craft!" gasped Tyron.
The door opened, and Sato and Watkins rushed to assist the inhabitant out of the vehicle. The occupant was revealed to be an elderly woman flinging her arms dramatically and babbling in a mix of English and German.
"Was das? Was das? The ecstasy... The light...the light and the heat of the Dragon's furnace...the troll.... the honor and bravery for the fatherland... oh Mein Fuhrer...Emperor Tojo is that you? No, only Sato...Please take me to the hinterland, father...please Papa, it's snowing - we'll go sledding." Frozen tears streaked their way down the face flush with emotion.
"She'll be all right," said Berlioz as the woman was helped indoors. "Unfortunately for us," added the Count. "We had hoped she would have passed on to the eternal hereafter by now."
"Hush now, Count, we don't want to give our guest the wrong impression," countered Berlioz. "Frau Braun has donated a considerable sum to our little organization, and for that we are grateful. Regrettably, the sweet lady has gone somewhat batty. She seeks solace in the lost childhood she remembers during the Reich. Her youthful dreams, her loving family, hopes and sorrows, all are restored through the music of Richard Wagner."
"But why must she enter that device to endure one of Wagner's monstrous onslaughts?" Tyron questioned grimly.
"My dear man," chuckled Berlioz, "she's been to see Herr Wagner himself."
Charles Tyron had never been one to suffer crackpots or con artists, but he found himself fascinated by the story presented to him. He listened, amazed, to how a scientist working in the 1890s had found the craft in a field of wheat in Burgundy. Risking persecution from the largely male scientific community, she spent years alone in her laboratory, deciphering the strange language, and breaking down the extraordinary properties that comprised the craft.
However, the years of struggle took their toll, and before she could master her discovery and announce her findings to the world scientific community, the scientist tragically perished due to a sudden attack of influenza. Revealing her notes and theories only to her landlord - the Count and Countess' grandfather, the secret was passed to their father, who achieved a basic understanding of the principles. He, himself, had tested the craft, before his early retreat into madness and death at the sanitarium.
Enlisting the assistance of Watkins, and their fellow associates in the local chapter of the Hand, the inheritors of the craft were able to harness the power of an unknown alien culture to amplify their pursuit of knowledge.
"We have used the vehicle to travel backward into time to experience firsthand the moments of supreme insight and mystique throughout the ages," explained Berlioz. "I personally, am a devotee of bebop jazz and have spent several blessed evenings lingering in a crowded nightclub, reeling from the gravity of hearing Bird and Miles in their prime."
"Yes, and I attended the opening night of Stravinsky's 'The Rite of Spring'," marveled the Countess. "I was so enthralled, I tore off my clothes and danced and screamed at the sky."
"She was positively indecent." Her brother's face glowed as he remembered. "We had to rescue her from the gendarmes."
"We have engaged homing devices and a retrieval method in case of such occurrences," explained Berlioz. "Ever since the accident with Dr. Wentworth."
"What happened to him?" asked Tyron.
"Let's just say, Professors Tallyrand and Wentworth got a little too close to the primitive tribe in Java, whose tribal musical customs they were studying. Tallyrand was only just able to escape and activate the craft's return home - Wentworth became pot-luck."
"Could you not just go back through time and retrieve him?" queried Tyron.
"I'm afraid we lost the coordinates," answered the Count, "and besides, Wentworth was a bit of prig. We may go back and stop him from going some day. It is on the project list, I believe."
"Yes, yes, plenty of time for that," blustered Berlioz impatiently.
"Excuse me," interjected Tyron, "if I am to understand this correctly, you have the power to travel through time and affect history. Then why in blue blazes haven't you gone back and performed some miracles of salvation, such as -- killing off that madman Hitler, or warning Custer of his impending doom, or saving infants from fires, or...?"
"Come, come, Mr. Tyron," spoke Berlioz, "those are pursuits for heroes, assassins and firemen. Such activities would be frightfully dangerous, and our own use of the craft has dangers enough of it's own. Certainly, allowing this power into the hands of any government to do with what they would like would be sheer earthly suicide."
"There will be plenty of time to make corrections in history once serious studies are undertaken," the Count added. "Now is not the time. This craft is a gift to us from a more advanced and "in-tune" culture, and we have vowed to use it only in the pursuit of knowledge and beauty. We have agreed not to plunder, pillage, adjust, forewarn, frighten, bedazzle, or kill anyone in our visits to the past. Ours is the journey to listen and learn and be silent."
"Should you wish to enter our sanctuary as an elect Charles, where would you choose to travel for your first experience?" queried the Countess softly, taking Tyron's arm.
"I do choose to enter your fraternal order, and my destination is no secret. I must journey to Leipzig for an audience with the Kapelmeister!" Tyron proclaimed.
"A very wise choice," smiled a beaming Watson. "Canons and gigues, crab retrograde motion, mirror fugues. A fascinating mathematical choice."
The weather had cleared somewhat in the week that had passed since the agreement had been struck. With a satchel brimming with bills in hand and heavy overcoat covering his bulk, Charles Tyron felt almost spring-like standing at the doorstep of the Guidonian Hand. He hardly felt guilty at all about the small tape recorder he had taped to his chest under his undershirt.
His manservant had assisted in the concealment of the recorder, but had thankfully refrained from asking any questions -- probably used to such things by now. Charles felt giddy. "A clever fellow such as myself will always find a way to make commerce out of art," Charles thought cheerfully. When he was finished pulling this little stunt off, it would be more than worth the million-dollar investment. Of course he would probably have to expose the Hand, and government agents would likely kill them, but such are the victims of business and war.
"Ah, you're here on time, dear Charles," welcomed the Countess at the door as she gave him a peck on the cheek. "How good to see you again. You must be very excited."
"You don't know the beginning of it," Tyron responded slyly.
"I'm afraid we must be brief with our perfunctories, Mr. Tyron," interrupted Berlioz, hastily shutting the door behind them. "There is a period costume for you to change into in the bathroom. Please hurry, so we can get on with the briefing session."
Upon changing into the waistcoat and heavy boots provided for him, Tyron joined the group as they finished their ceremony with the triads. Locrian was not present, but his low voice could be heard echoing deep in the recesses, performing some strange and guttural chant.
Without hesitation, Tyron was ushered upstairs, where he was given a basic explanation of the controls of the craft, and the details of the time and place he would be visiting.
"It will be 1:00 p.m., Good Friday, April 15, 1729, Leipzig, as you requested," Berlioz began. "Bach is currently serving as the Cantor of St. Thomas's. He is about to lead a large group, consisting of two choirs, two orchestras, several soloists, and two organs in the premiere of his largest and most ambitious work - 'the Passion according to St. Matthew'.
Tyron smiled as he envisioned his destination, while the Countess squeezed his hand.
"You will arrive moments before the presentation is to begin and will need to slip into the Thomaskirche using these forged documents we are providing you," continued Berlioz. "The papers will identify you as a mute cousin to Prince Leopold and will gain you a seat near the front of the west gallery where the performers are stationed. You will have a position where you will get the full effect of the entire musical experience. Afterward, you will have a few minutes to mingle and perhaps even meet with the master."
"The Bach you will be meeting is in an unusual period of his life," the Countess interrupted sadly. "He has undertaken the duties of Cantor, the teaching of religious studies and Latin, and overseeing the school's disciplinary duties, along with the composition of all ceremonial church music, all of which he has done quite masterfully. However, he has clashed with the elders over his composition style, and he has not been accorded the respect that his genius deserves. In fact, his contemporaries are beginning to think him a bit of a fuddy-duddy."
"The craft will be tinted a sky blue for this voyage..." continued Berlioz, "in order to cloak you from the populace. You will land a matter of blocks from the school and will just need to follow this map."
"Please be careful, Charles, I have become rather fond of my big teddy bear," added the Countess.
"And remember," interjected Watkins, "no flash-photography."
Tyron felt ambivalent toward the ascent of the craft, and the colors and lights that spun past him. He was no astronomer, explorer or scientist, so he shut his eyes and relaxed himself in preparation for his coup. The craft would take 17 minutes to reach the speed necessary to break the time barrier, so he figured to get a bit of rest before then. He had to admit that there was something almost hokey about the whole thing, the lights and sounds and vibrations were just a little too right. He had the feeling of being on a cheap carnival ride. Suddenly, he felt the ship pause and then begin to plummet at an astonishing rate of speed.
"Well if this is a scam," he thought to himself, "it's a pretty good one at that."
The descent of the ship was another story altogether, as the view of the earth coming ever closer beneath him woke Tyron out of his languor. He struggled with the decompression lever, and mangled the control instruction manual he was supposed to have already read, desperately trying to find the way to slow the ship before it crashed into the city of Leipzig which loomed ever larger before him. But, before he could get to that section of the manual, and just before a fiery impact with a church steeple, the craft suddenly veered left and slowly glided to a soft landing in some bushes. Tyron lay on the floor of the ship breathing heavily.
After some time, Tyron awoke to the sound of bells ringing at some distance. He slid open the door of the craft and noiselessly slid out.
Following the map and the sound of the bells, Tyron headed for a main entrance of what he knew to be the Thomaskirche. He walked quickly along the bank of the river, crossed the bridge into the inner walls of the city and headed toward the church, his heart jumping in his chest with excitement. As he neared, he could hear the faint voices of the choir singing in German.
At the gate, he showed the credentials that the Hand had prepared for him to the ushers, who after expressing surprise at his appearance, especially lacking a carriage and entourage, hastened to make arrangements to seat the visiting dignitary.
All was proceeding according to plan, and within minutes Tyron was seated with great pomp in one of the front row pews, surrounded by other lesser noblemen, burghers and church officers.
The choir had finished their performance and now musicians hustled and hurried into position, herded by individuals in church garb. The crowd was politely attentive, and fairly large. However, Tyron knew from his own research that Bach's rival, the organist, Gorner, was producing his own Passion at the New Church across the square, and many of the town leaders were there instead. "Fools!" he thought. But then the taste of the general public throughout history had always been sadly lacking.
Tyron squirmed in his seat with anticipation. He knew that some of the people around him were staring at him and whispering comments about his late entrance, but he avoided eye contact. He was sweating profusely from his strenuous walk and the heavy wig on his head, and the heavy boots had blistered his feet.
Suddenly, the Cantor - Johannes Bach himself - strode to the large organ at the back of the west gallery and a hushed silence fell over everyone.
A pause ensued while Herr Bach looked over the audience and musicians with a firm dignity. Tyron gaped at the strong features of the beloved composer, the father of western music, as he turned and sat at the organ. He fingered the record button under his shirt, ready to begin recording, and felt a surge, not unlike that of sexual thrill. He felt hot and dizzy. The master held up his hand. Tyron held his breath.
At once a crash of cacophony hurled Tyron's eyes back into his head. His hand dropped from the recorder. A strange alien feeling, a sense of bizarre force flashed into his brain. His head throbbed, his mouth went dry, and he felt sick in the depths of his stomach. The sounds continued and were relentless in their torture. Everywhere Tyron looked he saw strings slashing through the air, open mouths of choir boys, shrill and insolent, and ever the pumping, pumping of that demon himself in the powdered wig.
The harshness! The bells! The atonality! The bells! The pounding! A key change, and still the horror continued, base and tuneless. Tyron no longer knew what he was doing, he felt himself stand teetering, arms swinging like a windmill. He saw startled faces blur past him as he rushed to the exit. He slammed into an usher, and raced from the scene, hands over his ears. Without hesitation he rushed in the direction of the starcraft, the cool air breezing past.
Tyron clambered into the craft and pushed the return button, before he felt overcome by nausea and then plunged into a black abyss of unconsciousness.
"At last, he returns." The Countess's voice was as soft as the hand that held Tyron's wrist.
"You are lucky you made it back to the ship," added the Count.
"What happened," Tyron whispered, opening his eyes to see the members of the Hand grouped around him.
"You apparently suffered some sort of seizure," said Berlioz. "You were moaning and writhing when you arrived. You kept saying something about - being out of tune?"
"Yes, I remember now," Tyron began dumbly, "it was all so terrible. The greatest composer that ever walked the face of our earth, and yet his instruments, singers and musicians were all hopelessly, miserably out of tune. Oh such noise, such interminable noise." He fell back exhausted.
"I see," said Watkins after a short pause. "In retrospect, we should have forewarned you, but I would have thought you already knew. You see, the tonality in Bach's age consisted of an entirely different set of harmonic relationships. Their perception of pitch was quite different from our modern equal-tuned equations. The piece you heard would have been performed either a semitone lower, or a semitone or whole-tone higher than our modern tuning, depending on what standard Herr Bach chose as his basis."
Tyron's eyes closed and he let out a moan as the mathematician straightened his bow tie and continued.
"So you see, Mr. Tyron, the musicians were completely in tune for their time, it was you who were out of tune in your perception. Mathematically quite fascinating, don't you agree?"
Past, present & future
misguided ramblings of the MusiCurmudgeon
Stroll through the vaults of a diseased mind!
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