Authors: David Carrico
"Johnny Cash!" several voices said at once, and they all started laughing.
After they regained their composure, Friedrich said, "How can so many different styles have developed so quickly? Our music develops slowly, changes slowly. Why did theirs change so rapidly?"
"We've already talked about the access to mechanical and electrical systems to play music," Marla said as she walked back into the room. "Another factor, though, is the changes in the place and authority of the church in society. For most of its existence, the church has been a conservative institution. That can be a good thing, at times. However, it can also be a drawback, for conservative organizations tend to be very slow to change. Ultraconservative organizations actively resist change. Hence the boiling pot of Europe that Luther and Calvin have lit a fire under."
She moved to the stereo, and continued speaking while she searched for a CD. "One of the areas where the church exerted its control was in the arts. Musical forms changed very slowly over the years. But as a result of the changes that occurred beginning with Luther, the influence of the church—whether Roman, Lutheran or Reformed—over music began to ebb, and musical evolutions began to cycle faster. By the 1800s, musical generations were occurring on a level with human generations. By my lifetime, musical generations were occurring every five to ten years.
"Ah, here it is!" She picked up a CD and turned to them with a smile so filled with mischievous glee that the hair on the back of Franz's neck prickled.
"Okay, guys, one last style, one last song. I've been promising Franz for weeks that I'd explain what 'heavy metal' means in our rock and roll music, and tonight's the night. You're all along for the ride. The song is
For Whom the Bell Tolls
." She loaded the CD player, pushed the play button, and turned the volume up.
Franz leaned back as a bell began to toll out of the speakers, and then the speakers erupted. After his exposure to what the local band Mountaintop played, he could call it music, but it was of a type that even Mountaintop had not produced. The sounds were harsh, discordant, but there was beat, there was rhythm, there was a recognizable harmony. What impressed him the most was the relentlessness of the music. There were lyrics—he heard them—but his whole focus was grabbed by the sounds produced by the musicians.
From the beginning, he was snared by the textures. The sounds that Marla had assured him before were produced by a type of guitar—somehow combined with the miracle of electricity—had an edge to them, an edge that was like both a saw blade that cut and a string of barbed fish hooks that caught and tore. There was no virtuosity, no showcasing of a musician's skill at ornamentation. There was only pure relentlessness, pure passion, pure drive, that reached deep inside him and struck a resonance that vibrated his entire being. The song was not performed, it was executed, and he was the target of it, caught up in it, feeling nothing but the angst of the music.
After an eternity, the song gradually faded away. Franz fell back in his chair, suddenly released from the tension, feeling more drained than if he had been performing for hours. He looked around, and the others looked even worse than he felt—pale, eyes wide, breathing hard.
Marla looked around, smiling slightly, and asked, "Well, what do you think?"
"I think I've heard the triumphal march of Hell," Hermann muttered. "Nothing could have prepared me for that."
"Was that really popular in your time?" Leopold asked.
"Oh, yes," Marla said. "Millions of people, including my brother, loved the stuff. If he had . . . Let's just say that his heart's desire was to play it, and he was well on his way when he got sick."
"I liked it," Rudolf said, which provided everyone with their first glimpse of a disconcerted Marla.
"Yes. Oh, do not mistake me! I would not choose it to listen to all day long, nor do I think it will ever be accepted by our people today—definitely not by the church. But there was a passion to it, and once you get past the harsh metallic sound you can tell that it was crafted well. We could learn about the use of discord and tension from that music."
Marla had smiled in the middle of Rudolf's comments, then started to giggle, and finally started laughing when he was finished. She calmed down quickly, wiping her eyes, and said, "I'm sorry, Rudolf, I wasn't laughing at you. It's just that you were righter than you knew when you described the sound as metallic. The band's name was Metallica."
"Appropriate." He smiled in return.
Marla stood and stepped forward a step or two. Franz watched with pride as she effortlessly gathered their eyes and attention.
"There's a lot more that we could listen to, but the point of the evening was to give you an overview of what we called popular music to wrap up the seminar. Now, we've walked down a long road all these weeks, but you've been given a taste of what up-time music is like, the sonorities and techniques it can add to your musical palette. I don't want it to replace everything that you have. I don't want you to become imitation up-timers. I want you to be the musicians you are, but along the way I want you to incorporate what you find good and worthy from our music. Help preserve its master works, but produce your own as well. Regardless of what happens with the war, regardless of whether Gustavus Adolphus wins or loses, regardless of whether or not Grantville survives, don't let our music die."
Franz stared at Marla, standing straight and tall, eyes gleaming like blue torches, passion radiating from her like heat, and his eyes blurred as tears of pride welled up. Now she was coming into her own, now she was calling them, challenging them to follow her, to be more than they ever thought they could be.
Hermann was the first on his feet. He stepped forward, clasped her hand, stared up at her and swore, "By my name, Fräulein Marla, I am with you. If your cause is lost, it will not be for want of my best effort."
Swiftly the others joined them, hands joined with Marla's and Hermann's. "The music of Grantville must not, will not die!" Thomas thundered.
Mary Simpson picked the letter up and read it once more.
From the Desk of Marcus Wendell
Dear Mrs. Simpson,
I received your request that I come to Magdeburg and become involved in the establishment of an instrumental arts program. While I am very flattered that you think so highly of me, I must regretfully decline.
What you need is a virtuoso, and even in my best days, in my youth, I was never a virtuoso. I am definitely not one now. I am good at what I do, which is take children and turn them into well-rounded educated individuals who know something about the arts and music. Every few years, I am fortunate enough to have a student or two of sufficient talent that I can guide them into a life of music as a teacher or minor performer. But that experience does not equip me to do the work you are asking of me. Bluntly speaking, I have neither the temperament nor the tools to be what you are seeking.
Having turned you down for myself, however, now let me provide you with another possibility. I don't happen to have a virtuoso in my pocket, but I perhaps can point you to someone who can become a virtuoso.
Her name is Kristen Marlena Linder, although she prefers to go by Marla. She's young, about 21. Physically, she's rather striking. I wouldn't call her pretty—handsome is a better word. She's tall by our standards, about 5'10" or so, and she has that amazing Black Irish coloration that you sometimes see in the Appalachian hill families: coal black hair, skin so pale it's almost translucent, a dusting of freckles, and the bluest of eyes. There were girls in her class at school who were prettier, but if she was in the room, most of the boys preferred to talk to her. Marla is definitely a good example of that old cliché, the magnetic personality. And if she smiles, it's like switching on a flood lamp.
She was a senior the year of the Ring of Fire, almost ready to graduate. Musically, she was my drum major during marching season that year, and my student conductor and first chair flute player during concert season, but that's not why I'm bringing her to your attention. She is also an extremely talented pianist, easily the equal of many collegiate piano majors. But perhaps her greatest gift is as a vocalist. She can vocalize to about four and one-half octaves, maybe a little more, and has a usable range of almost four octaves. Her voice is unusual—she has the high range of a coloratura, but the timbre and power of a lyric soprano.
As an indication of just how good she is, the day before the Ring fell I heard from a college friend who is the brother of a woman on the faculty at Eastman School of Music in New York. He told me that Eastman was going to offer her a full scholarship in voice. She had scholarship offers from other universities, but as you know, Eastman is a conservatory to rank with Juilliard. The official notice never arrived, of course. I never had the heart to tell her, because she was pretty badly torn up by losing her parents and brother, and this would have made her grief just that much worse.
She finally came out of her shell after meeting some down-time musicians this year, and for the last several months has been leading what I would consider to be a graduate level multidiscipline seminar in music history, form and analysis, and piano and voice performance with several down-timers using nothing more than a couple of old college textbooks, encyclopedia entries and liner notes from classical music recordings. They're all young and arrogant, of course, but she has not only held her own with them, she's earned their respect, to the point that they have basically accepted her as their leader and mentor. I don't have to tell you just how unusual that would be in our time that was. I am almost in awe of it now.
Mrs. Simpson, if a music teacher in my position is very fortunate, perhaps once in his lifetime he finds a student who can soar to the highest heights, who can become one of the stars in the musical firmament. For me, that once-in-a-lifetime student is Marla Linder.
Allow me to present Marla to you as a virtuoso in development. I believe she is the best solution available for the situation you have described. I also believe that if you were to provide to her the guidance that I cannot, the guidance on how to be a virtuoso among virtuosi, then her potential will be realized, to the enrichment of the world we now live in and the joy of those who know her.
Mary put the letter down on her desk, and tapped her finger against her lips, thinking. Marla . . . a woman . . . She must be a truly remarkable young woman, to have brought forth such a paean from Marcus Wendell. She hadn't had much contact with the band director during the Simpsons' relatively short stay in Grantville, but he had impressed her as a direct, outspoken man who would usually call a spade a spade. If he judged her so, then she must be good.
One of the things that Mary had been wrestling with was how to get up-time music somehow disseminated among the down-timers. That was the cornerstone to the plans she was even now trying to formulate for building an arts program in Magdeburg. An imperial capital deserved the best: opera, ballet, a symphony. Spreading the musical knowledge that she knew was available in Grantville had to happen for any of those programs to be sustainable.
The irony did not escape Mary that, even as she struggled with how to begin such a process, it had happened without her. With a quirky smile, she reminded herself that the world did not revolve around her. In fact, she'd best pull up her stockings and hustle if she wanted to guide this particular parade.
Mary reread the portion of the letter where Marcus described what Marla had done. A bond between an up-timer and down-timers, based on nothing more than the common love of great music. How remarkable.
Marla . . . a woman . . . Her thoughts repeated themselves. Mary liked the thought. She had never considered herself a feminist. In her college days, she had known plenty of fem-libbers. Some of them had become very impressive women in their maturity—she'd allow, albeit a bit grudgingly, that Melissa Mailey was no one to sneer at. But many had later morphed into the types who seemed to do nothing but whine endlessly, fund litigations over every perceived slight, and extend "political correctness" into even trying to revise the Bible to remove gender references to God. She'd never had much sympathy for them.
On the other hand, she
quietly encouraged John to ensure equal pay for equal work in his industrial plants. She'd always been of the opinion that if they were given a level playing field, women of any ability would do well.
Mary laughed to herself, almost wishing that one of those so-called radicals had been caught in the Ring of Fire. That would almost have made what had happened worth it, to see one of them caught up in the truly patriarchal societies of the seventeenth century. She would really have enjoyed seeing one of them square off against some of the down-time ministers. Melissa Mailey could stand her own against them, certainly, but most of the ones Mary had known in college would just run for cover.
Shaking her head, Mary returned to her thoughts about Marla. The more she thought about it, the more she liked the fact that a young woman had become the center around which this group revolved. Under her aegis, perhaps this young woman could serve as a dash of cold water in the face of the smug musicians she'd met so far, the ones who were just parasites on the coats of the
There had been conflicts between up- and down-timers on many fronts. In the early days of the naval yard, John had more than once spent an evening raving about problems caused by hard-headed Grantvillers and hard-headed Germans both getting wrapped up in their pride and arrogance. She didn't delude herself that it would be any different between the court musicians and Marla and her young lions. But the fact that Marla was a woman would perhaps keep the "old school" off balance.
She sat up straight. Decision made—invite Marla here. Why not? If she was that good, she was worth bringing in as a performer. If she could in time become something more than that, well . . .
Telegram? No, too impersonal. This needed a human touch. She pulled open a drawer and took out a sheet of cream-colored paper—they did make such nice paper here-and-now—and uncapped her fountain pen.
Dear Miss Linder,
My name is Mary Simpson, and I am writing to offer you an opportunity . . .