Prompt for week: 2nd March – 7th March 2015.
In William Congreve’s 1697 play, The Mourning Bride, a character says,? Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast.? (often misquoted as ‘savage beast’) It’s still true. We lay a lullaby to put a baby to sleep and a suitor woos his beloved with a serenade. But music can also wake the savage beast within us. Soldiers march off to war to stirring patriotic music. Somber music is played at a traditional funeral, but in New Orleans,
a dixieland jazz band sets a lively pace returning from the cemetery. Acid rock, house, hip hop, reggae, or rap can turn an arena into a writhing sea of sweaty bodies. Opera buffs swoon over an aria. Swinging big bands were the sound track to the heartaches and homecomings of WWII.
Music mirrors our culture and society and is a way to travel back in time. Listen to Mozart or Bach, and you are in a different world for a while. Show us a character appreciating, or hating, or being stirred by music, and describe that music so that we will know why the character reacts as he does. The music can be from any place or anywhere—harpsichord, jungle drums, a shepherd’s flute, or a one-stringed Chinese banjo or even our good old Carnatic and Hindustani classical.
In 1000 words or less, create a scene in which you describe some kind of music and the effect it has on a listener or listeners.
Consider whether the description of the music will help the reader to ‘hear’ it. Does the author’s description make us understand why the character reacts as he/she does? What tools of the writing craft does the author use to evoke the sounds of music—language, pacing, repetition, rhythm, or perhaps comparison to senses other than hearing.
“What is the aarohana?” asked Gramps looking at Sami, my brother. He ignored the question, sat squatting on the floor across from Gramps, fidgeting, picking his nose. He looked at the football in the corner and raised his little finger indicating his need to pee.
“First sing with me. Then you can go to the toilet,” Gramps said.
I smiled to myself at Sami’s discomfort and pulled the paper across my face shielding my expression.
“Sa-ri-ga-ma-pa-da-ni-sa,” Gramps sang. The pitch of the notes escalated like climbing the seven steps to musical-salvation.
“Sa-ni-da-pa-ma-ga-ri-sa.” Beautiful, the notes climb down from high to low, I thought.
“Sa-sa-ri-ri-ga-ga-ma-ma-pa-pa-da-da-ni-ni-sa-sa.” Low to high.
“Sa-sa-ni-ni-da-da-pa-pa-ma-ma-ga-ga-ri-ri-sa-sa,” sing Gramps said.
Sami raised his hand again, this time standing, his legs crossed. I wondered if it was all an act or if he really need to urgently pee.
Dad walked in, witnessed the scene and in no time Gramps and he were colliding head-on with words.
I thought Gramps would slap my Dad, that day. They were arguing, volume at high-end of their decibel levels, shoving their points-of-view down each other’s throats.
“Papa, let him decide what he wants to do. Please… don’t force your choices on him,” Dad said.
“Every first born male child in the family becomes a classical Carnatic singer. Did you forget your lineage?” Gramps roared.
“Papa that was then. You cannot do that today. I’ll not allow you to compensate your disappoint with me, by forcing my son to sing.” Dad gave his final verdict.
“Oh please, like you even tried. You never could anyways, even if you wanted to,” Gramps said.
My father lost his cool, ignored even his basic etiquette of never talking back to elders ever or the rule of never to swear before them said, “I’m not sorry I couldn’t carry the family legacy forward. And you know what? Maybe I would have, if you didn’t fucking tie me down for six hours, that day.”
“What?! I thought…” Gramps slid into the couch like he was hit by 1000 volts of electricity that sucked his pride in one go. He just gaped at Dad, with his mouth wide-open.
This was the first time someone stood up to his tyranny. He made unilateral decisions on everyone’s behalf and no one put their foot down until that day. The incident seemed to have shaken him deep.
“You thought you were teaching me a lesson with your crude methods to inspire?” My Dad knocked his Dad out with his final assault of words.
Gramps sat as if he was contemplating his methods of grooming while Dad seemed like he called it truce with the skeletons from his past, finally at peace.
There was silence but some strings were broken.
Dad sat on the couch next to Gramps, cupped his hands and placed them in his lap and said, “Papa, I am sorry. Shouldn’t have spoken to you like that.” Gramps seemed like he was looking through my father, still in trance from the shock of his life.
“You know, I used to hate it when you compared Ravi and me. Especially when you said, See how well your younger brother is singing. You are useless.”
Dad paused for a while, stared into Gramps’s eyes for a few minutes, stroked his hands and continued, “Remember the day you tied me to the post along with the cows in the yard for six hours, only because I missed a note during practice? It was one note. That day, I swore I’d never sing or even try, ever. I still remember how Ravi laughed. I was humiliated. On top of that I heard you two sing away to glory, torturing me for six hours, ignoring my existence or my state of mind. I wanted to avenge you both. I wanted to hurt you by not complying to be a singer and beat Ravi at academics. And every time you force my son Sami to sing, my childhood memories flashback and I get angry. I am sorry.”
“No..I…I am sorry,” whispered Gramps as he walked into his room.