They play music there

December 24, 2008
"So... You want to join the Montreal symphony orchestra?"
"Life long dream sir." I'm in a long empty studio room.
"I'm sorry, this is wrong. You don't even have an appointment! Why'd you think we would talk to you after you just barged in like this?"
"I have tremendous faith in myself." My interrogators sit on the opposite side of the room while I'm stuck standing at the door, I still manage to keep a straight face, though it's hard not to crack up under the pressure.
"Well, we've already wasted this much time on him; let's just hear what he's got to say." A thin mousy man looks at me, "So why do want to join our orchestra?"
"Well, I'm much more talented than what is required for the job. And I-" A grand, ancient woman breaks from the huddled group to protest.
"This is ridiculous! We don't even know what instrument he plays!"
"I play saxophone, flute, clarinet, oboe, piano, and harp."
"That's quite a bo-"
"All at the same time."
"Uh-huh." The officials share their thoughts with each other while I watch the shrubbery by the window. Soon, the mousy man speaks to me.
"Is what you say true?" I swallow a lump in my throat.
"One hundred percent." Their murmurs of disbelief echo in the cavernous room.
"You understand that accepting you at this juncture would be more than a little… unorthodox."
"I mean, what with you just running in here past midnight in those tattered rags. They say you screamed for us until the security guard called us over...We all agree the whole thing is just highly unorthodox. Todd even thinks it's very highly unorthodox."
"I understand your concern-"
"The unorthodoxy is just unbearable! Do you even know anything about music?"
"Oh sure! Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Mozart... I often feel quite rapturous at the simple reminder of all this culture. I mean, half notes! I dig that!" My sweat begins to obscure my vision.
"So you're knowledgeable, fine. But have you ever played music before?"
"Of course! I used to be quite a draw on the club circuit a few years back. I've also been playing with several concert bands lately...Oh! I was Paul McCartney for a few weeks in the eighties."
"You... You were Paul McCartney?"
"Yeah, he took a break to try farming in Nunavut, so I filled in for him."
"Well, I must say, if you're telling the truth, then you did a great jo-"
"So, am I in or what?"
"Well, unless anyone in the committee wants to object," He waits for the objection that will never come, "Okay then. Welcome to the MSO! Your first practice will be Monday morning around eight. Don't be late, and bring enough coffee for a symphony orchestra."

Here's how I see my first concert with the MSO going.
The big draw for the night is John Cage’s “4:33” a deafeningly exuberant piece of music that reportedly caused riots back when it was premiered in 1952. The song requires strenuous, spirit crushing rehearsals that we will have been enduring for the past two months leading up to the concert, so tensions will be running high when the musicians gather at the music hall, a theatre that, while lacking considerably in floor space, will make up with nearly fifteen stories of seats and balconies. The building reaches so high that the highest seats aren't even within earshot of the orchestra, an obvious design flaw that had led to the disgrace and banishment of a once prominent architect and his family. Gold is lain down on nearly everything, from the edge of the stage to the armrests on the chairs out in the lobby. A giant chandelier looms over the audience members who will be fortunate enough to afford seats close to the stage.
As we wait for the show time, most of us will start practicing and warming up, causing an insect-like whine more evocative of a swamp than anything else, to wheeze out from the endless corridors behind the stage as both performers and watchers alike rush into the building. After a few minutes of warming up, we will all spill onto the stage, a majestic symphony orchestra that will challenge the gods themselves to find finer sounds. The conductor will signal for silence, and our glorious tuning will commence. Anxiety and nervous titters will develop after about twenty minutes of tuning, as no one but the conductor will be able to detect the musical perversion among our ranks that prevents him from moving on to the main event. But finally, as the clock strikes nine twenty one and thirty two seconds, our art will finally be unleashed.
All will go well in the first movement, our pitches will be perfect, and our rhythms will be as sharp as the knives we keep strapped under our chairs for safety. It will be in the second movement that our heroic efforts will begin to unravel. The trombone section will be the first to go, accidentally playing the next bar before the rest of the band gets over the bar before. Soon, the trumpets will join this musical mutiny, and start playing a completely different piece. (Composed just minutes before in the men's bathroom by the head trumpeter during a fit of creative obscenity) As the anarchy spreads from section to section, the conductor will start fearing for his professional life, and with a glimmer of bravery start a counter revolt to quell the brassy uprising. The oboes, flutes, and strings section will flock to his cause, while the clarinets and saxophones, divided in their loyalties, will merely cease playing altogether. Things will start to look grim when war is formerly declared by a renegade faction of violinists smashing their livelihoods over the heads of outnumbered and under protected trombonists.
Throughout this whole ordeal, the audience will suspect that nothing's gone wrong, and that the piece, being as modern as it is, is just acting out for attention. Unfortunatly, the conflicts on stage will have escalated to riotous proportions by now, as the grand bass drum is burnt alive. Its former drummer, perhaps guessing at what else is to come, will industriously settle pigs upon spits to roast against the drum's dying heat. Meanwhile, the clarinets, oboes, flutes and saxophones will have formed an alliance against the upper and lower brasses, though passions will run high enough on the battlefield to break apart all attempts at order. Rivalries long thought dead will be reignited, and their bitter words and spite will in turn excite a romantic backlash. George, on tenor sax, will profess his undying love for Georgina amongst the trombones, who'll then admit her undying love for George at percussion, who'll then confess his crippling crush on Tina from the violins, Tina will take this moment of utter chaos to finally admit her infatuation for Gene on tuba. Gene will then be quick enough to point out his love for the films of Adam Sandler. As a result, Gene will be promptly removed for a suspected lack of good taste.
The conductor will have long since escaped the fiasco, bringing with him one of the two oboists, a handful of flautists, and the pianist; whose piano will by now have been converted into a wall to separate the woodwinds and the brass. The room will quiet considerably now, and perhaps some of the more astute audience members will begin to realize the seriousness of what has become of their city's famous orchestra. The few artists on stage who can still maintain higher thought patterns will scuffle for leadership, and I predict that a bassoonist and a trumpeter will emerge as the new leaders of their respective sections. Everyone else will have been reduced to their most primitive forms by this point, the countless tons of stress laid on their backs over the years of musical perfectionism will take their toll, robbing their minds of everything but the will to survive and, in the strings section's case, a few chords and scales.
Now a relative peace will finally rest on the room, as the two factions begin to settle into their new lives. The few people left watching the spectacle will stay watching out of pure horror, disbelief, or an infuriatingly stupid hope that the whole thing is part of the act. The musicians will begin to reorganize into some sort of society, but, as with all revolutions, this new society will begin to deteriorate. Pangs of nostalgia for their performing days will prompt an oboe, two flutes, a viola, a tuba and two trombones to reunite and take a swing at playing the national anthem in a desperate bid for peace. And for one brief and shiny happy moment, it will appear that music has returned to the stage, until leaders from the two camps wrench the septet apart. Fighting will resume, as fears of a food shortage necessitate the creation of hunting parties on both sides. More permanent shelter will be erected along the wall made from the cannibalized piano, and the musicians will turn their minds to raising and protecting their families in the ruined wasteland that the concert has become. Small raids will be carried out by both sides, although they will never meet with any sort of success. Sooner or later, agreements will be made, and once again, the violence will settle. Preparations for future conflicts will evolve on both sides of the fence, and a return to the skirmishing will only be inevitable. This is the scene that the conductor will see when he returns to the concert hall with fresh reinforcements.
During the orchestra's descent into savagery, the conductor will have been scouring the countryside, recruiting new musicians to turn the tide against his renegade band. Sadly, no one will be able to prepare for the sight they witness on entering the concert hall. Small huts made of stands and sheet music will dot the stage, formerly brilliant individuals will be desperately sucking the marrow from animal bones while occasionally hooting and howling a tune that's agonizingly reminiscent of one of Beethoven's later symphonies, and most of the musicians will have abandoned proper uniform etiquette in pursuit of their own selfish comfort. The conductor's new army will sift through the loyal and disoriented audience, gazing in twisted revulsion at the bonfires fueled by small tee-pees of clarinets set on fire by the rubbing of their reeds. The inhuman orchestra will eye the newcomers with vague concern, still more anxious about the ongoing feud than their former co-workers. Talk of retreat will circulate among the conductor's fresh troops, and the threat of even more disloyalty will be enough to force the conductor himself to walk up to the stage to rally them,
"Do not be afraid of what you see here my boys! These creatures you see here may once have been men and women like you or I. I should know, I conducted them. But you should know that the only thing that led them to be what they are now is that very same cowardice you now seem to so proudly discuss! They gave up! These beasts that desecrate their very own profession were given a chance to retreat with me, and they refused! They rejected my old and sane judgment! They wanted to blaze a new path, become trailblazers, blaze trails yet unknown! They wanted to blaze every new trail available! But for all their trail-searching, do you know what these animals really are? THEY'RE COWARDS!" The conductor's chest will sag a little, and his age will show, but his point will be absorbed by all present. Everyone, even the savages on stage, will go over the old man's words in their heads. The brass and woodwinds will come back together at the edge of the stage to look at the conductor and see the once orderly and privileged lives they had led. Then, a low murmur will boil around the former strings section. The artists formerly known as violinists, bassists, cellists, and violists will all rise as one group, slowly and with some uncertainty, and walk off the stage to stand by the conductor. The other sections of the orchestra will follow suit, and a general air of embarrassment will nearly suffocate all involved. The strings will take advantage of this momentary return of rationality to pull out the shivs they had hidden under their tattered black suits while shrieking their maniacal war cries. (Based on an original theme of Tchaikovsky’s)

As the string musicians gleefully round up their prisoners, and as the seats of power once more switch occupants, I will dutifully finish off the night's musical repertoire, take my bows, and go home to microwave some soup for supper.

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