Sunday, 9 September 2012

The places we used to go

Thelonious Monk in Starbucks. He was there, the great man, they were serving coffee, he was looking for a spare piano. He should have been looking for a piano bar but here he was, stuck in this strange (now to him) city with an idea, there, sharp and acute in the middle of his head. He needed a piano but all he could find was Starbucks. Businesses move, bars and cafes come and go, time was also short. He was a stranger here thanks to time and the small matter of death.

It was 2012 and Thelonious by now had been gone from this mortal coil for over thirty years. His ghostly, unresting spirit form still roamed the earth however, composing from time to time. (There's an obvious “unlike” joke here that I'll avoid). Eagle eyed and curious as ever he spotted a young lady called Sarah with double Macchiato and an iPad. With the special intuition only ghosts possess he realised that she had on it a keyboard app. Nice work. He sidled up beside her, parked himself on the green leather couch and waited. She gave out a little shiver and gripped the warm white cup a little more tightly. Thelonious was on her shoulder now, watching the tiny screen, her thumb was pushing the changes across and after few faltering alternatives along came the keyboard. It was by Yamaha. Thelonious wondered if it would be quite man enough for his playing, then he thought about any port in a storm and today the clouds were gathering.

Supernatural powers tend to be just that. I can't really explain what happened next, it's all a fuzzy, ghostly kind of thing. You might call it a mind swap or a take over but those terms are clumsy, the belong in cheap Sci-Fi. Just believe me when I say that Thelonious could now operate the keys that were scrolling on the screen and hear the sweet and rough chords and notes via the tiny white ear piece. Sarah was of course somewhere else right now, near but far if you follow, detached or unplugged, maybe vacant. To the casual observer there was just a regular customer called Sarah working something out on an iPad. Nothing worthy of a second glance (other than to take in her cute red hair and a pretty but right now very serious smile). She broke away for a moment and took a big gulp of the coffee. Thelonious felt that tug and buzz and played on, his ideas coming in streams and splashes that gurgled across and into the shiny device. It was good to get this kind of work out an let that mechanical reverb sting into his ears. Good new science.

Sarah woke in panic, she reached for her handbag, iPad and phone. All OK. Coffee cold, half a cup left, she'd nodded off, stupid thing to do, in the city, close call. She gathered her stuff, checked herself again, where had the morning gone?

On Soundcloud there were quite a few new tunes uploaded today, decent stats. Wannabe demos, silly mash ups, earnest singer songwriters with their minor key dirges, sketches and ideas and strangely enough one eight minute jazz piano piece. A solo and virtuoso keyboard outing, uploaded from Sarah Pound's iPhone at 10:27. By 15:00 it had taken about two hundred and fifty plays and the comments were building up. By 16:00 it had been Tweeted and re-Tweeted another forty times. By the next day it was all over the Jazz Pages in social media, forums and all-sorts. There were questions and conversations, a late night DJ caught it and it debuted at 23:15 all across New York. Big things happening, fire spreading.

Sarah was asleep by then, tired and oblivious. Thelonious? He's just out there somewhere, catching ideas, trying to work out a few things, wrestling with the forces, inside and outside and all over. We never really know where music comes from, any of it, we certainly don't own it or the process that puts it altogether, all we know is how it sounds, what it touches and where it goes.

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