Based on my exeriences and background as an active concert pianist and composer, I have composed a short story that deals with music and time travel set in the 21st century. It begins on the date of my would-be 100th birthday and is told in diary form by a nameless character, who would be my great-grandson. It was indeed a challenge to write, yet it brings several issues into focus that deal with the cultural scene today as echoed it appears
2061. New inventions and terms were fun to include, adding a science-fiction element. I provided the title referring to the ‘wings’ offstage and travel ‘through the wings’ of time. I sincerely hope you find it enjoyable to read.
Through the Wings
by Jeffrey Biegel
May 31, 2061
3:30 pm. A cup of Javalotta. Fruity sconettes. Envirosafe banapples ““the sweet fruit created by cross-breeding apples and bananas in 2040. Cufflinks: check. Vest: check. Tie: where did I place that colorful one that matches the vest? Perhaps I best not wear that today. It is certainly a serious concert and I don’t want to upset my audience. Must go with the ‘classical’ look. The elders still respect it. White tie
and tails. The image of the ‘maestro’. Lucky if we get a young crowd to come for only half a show. With their MTV2R (Music Television Virtual Reality), they would probably rather go to a nearby Café-lotta and produce their own demo chip with the hottest teen idol on the scene.
Beats seeing me hammering away at the 98s! Was I ever glad when Rockin’ Rocky Road penned out a half decent piano concerto in the 2020’s following his long career as the generation’s number one flip-flop artist. I truly believe that the flip-flop artists had a genuine respect for the classics. They bounced back and forth between the styles, making their music accessible to everyone, including me.
Hard to believe I’m about to perform a solo piano recital that spans music written over three hundred years! Great piano-a vintage 2030 Steinway concert grand. I’ve planned an interesting yet traditional program: the Bach ‘Toccata in G Major’, Elton John’s eclectic ‘Sonata no. 3′ and Paul McCartney’s revolutionary ‘Souls’. After a short water break for an intermission, I’ve saved the daunting ‘Sonata in b minor’
by Liszt. Luckily, that hasn’t been played too often in the last fifteen years-hard piece. It has a deeply rooted meaning to me, since Franz Liszt was my great-grandfather’s teacher’s, teacher’s teacher!
Going through my repertoire list for the 2061-62 concert season, the American Philharmonic has asked if I would celebrate both their Fiftieth Anniversary and the centennial of the spectacular ‘Piano Concerto’ by Samuel Barber. They have invited me to take it on the road on a whirlwind international tour: New York, Washington, Seattle, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Manila, Hanoi, Bombay, Baghdad, Palestine, Tel Aviv,
Cairo, Damascus, Teheran, Morocco, Moscow, Rome, Paris, London, Manchester, Oslo, Bergen, Stockholm, Helsinki and finally back to the United States to record it on vid-chip (video recorded chips).
Naturally, I have great expectations for this tour. Since the Great Peace Plan, which the leaders devised in 2008, there has been great freedom to travel and perform throughout the planet. I vaguely remember my great-grandfather telling me stories of his tours to these places. The Renaissance of Culture flourished.
However, it has become increasingly difficult in the last few years to witness fully attended concerts. With nearly every performance available online, many people
prefer to be at home in their virtual concert halls. As I gaze through the wings offstage, I see an aging audience. What will it be like in ten, twenty, or thirty years when the elders pass on?
8 pm: This was by far one of my finest concerts. My sweetheart, Marilena, approved of the concert! She’s always my toughest critic. Surprisingly, there were many young people in the crowd. I signed many vid-chips and posed for some impromptu cyber photos. Following the recital, a curious gentleman hesitated toward me and had asked to share an interesting tale. His father was the renowned George Muzel, composer, pianist, conductor and impresario in the 2030s. Mark Muzel attended my recital and was illuminated with the sound and style which he witnessed. I had to admit that a wonderful piano enhances everything! He mentioned that his father had passed away two years prior. Mark is a solar radioactive physcientist. As I understand, he’s
a scientist who also practices the medical properties of physical science through modern day applications. I recall reading articles about his attempts with the science of transport. While we spoke, he sensed that I deeply respected and longed to keep the musical traditions of earlier centuries alive. I had already recorded thirty vid-chips for Concert Chips International. Although my career was
flourishing, I still craved to reach the youngest audiences to perpetuate the enjoyment of the world’s greatest music. Mark played on the fact that I murmured an intense desire to see and hear just how Beethoven or Gershwin might have played in their lifetimes. He paused briefly, and asked if we might meet quietly the next day to discuss something in total confidence. I agreed.
June 1, 2061
11 am: Tapestrys. A quiet café with coffee from Africa-a sensuous blend of flavorful beans which can’t be found anywhere else. I like to eat the Billy Goats with this coffee. They are made from scratch and remind me a bit of the tiger muffins with the fruit filling that my grandmother always baked. The neo-electronic music filled the air with a sense of pro-modernism. What ever happened to symphonic background
Mark entered the room quietly, rather serendipitously, as if he were just browsing by. He found me sipping the coffee and sat himself down in front of me with his back to the room. “So you want to hear Herr Beethoven?” He added, “I suppose you would like to peek through the wings at a Beethoven recital?” Total silence, which, for me, was very unusual. Perhaps he was hallucinating.
I replied quite realistically, “A flight to the Beethoven Museum?” He sat silently and laughed for a moment. “The Solar Project, my 98 key friend. Now you must never speak of this to anyone. Of course, I am not quite ready to be called the ‘Mr. Pioneer’ of travel toward the 22nd century, no thank you. It might not work. Perhaps it will succeed. I will, however, need a victim, er, volunteer. Yes, yes. It will work, I tell you. Don’t be afraid. Now, I cannot pay you, for in the end, you probably will want to pay me!”
I was stunned and wondered what this genius was babbling about. My first question stumbled off my lips. “Surely, Doctor, you are referring to the virtual tours of the great composers.” Rather snide, he replied, “You are a great pianist, but a silly man. Are you so desperate to return to the techno-free era that you forgot you are here?”
I was now very concerned about the eccentric doctor’s emotional stability. I thought he had invited me here today to offer his father’s manuscripts to me in his last will and testament. He went on, “Not 1807 at first. I cannot assure that would work. It must be a gradual expedition. You can indeed return to 2008, when your great-grandfather performed at the Lasting Peace Concert.”
Delusional! Lost his mind! I have been played for a fool. I answered, “Silly man you call me? I hardly know you and your psyche is not at all comfortable to be around. However, your aura is quite mystical, yet I cannot decipher your true reality base.”
He snapped back rather defiantly, “That is why I asked to meet with you, dear man. As an honest musician, you seem to be constantly searching for the ‘right’ way to be true to the composers’ wishes. I th
ink I can put some, or all of your questions to rest.” By now, I thought he would disintegrate me with a solar radioactive laser and I would indeed go to the next phase of existence and see my idol composers standing in a line telling me whether my interpretations of their music was correct or absurd!
He added, “Dear Maestro. If you are willing to work with me, you will have your questions answered. You will also understand the validity and purpose of your life, and together, we might revolutionize time travel for the rest of eternity. I can take you back in time, but not forward. Perhaps my pupils will accomplish that when I am long gone. For me, as an old-school philosopher, the future is something we
must strive for. It destroys the mystery of today if we know about tomorrow. However, in returning to a past date, we can appreciate the values and painstaking efforts it took to accomplish that which was done for the benefit of the present and future.”
In total accordance and mesmerized by this man, I asked, “Where shall I go?” He replied, “Where would you like to go?” I removed my PenPal from my coat pocket
and fingered the itinerary on the screen pad. I copied and pasted my plan to Mark’s PenPal. I find this invention developed in 2045 much easier to use than the old Palm Pilots. It is so much easier to use my fingers as a writing instrument to write down my thoughts. I am still trying to be more aware and accepting of modern technological advances.
The mere fact that I can perform a three-hour concert in New York at 4 pm and be transported to Los Angeles for an 8 pm performance is no longer anything extraordinary. Why not take him up on his generous offer? He could have asked anybody else, indeed. If he turns out to be as scholarly in his studies as his father was in music, this could be quite a remarkable experience. I must keep my mouth closed, eyes down, shut off all electronic and solar devices. No communication whatsoever.
One question: would I return to the time I had left? He hurriedly said, “Maestro, you will meet me tonight at 11 pm behind the Muzel Memorial Cultural Center. There are no shows tonight, so it will be deserted. Bring nothing but yourself. You will return from your journey before midnight. If you go back in time for two hours, two weeks or more, it will not matter. The time will be compressed accordingly.” He
concluded, “Until tonight, goodbye my friend.”
June 1, 2061
10 pm. I sat peacefully in a chair, gazing at the photos of my family and my dear Marilena, and statues of my favorite composers. I laughed aloud, actually humored by the notion that I might very well visit the gods of music past. Then I was concerned that Dr. Muzel might not show up and would have played me for a fool. Can he truly send me through the wings of time? Perhaps I will travel on the wings of angels so as not to perish along the way. Why did I meet with him? I suppose it is because I had to give myself this chance that might never present itself again. Marilena knows nothing about this escapade. I’ve left my Last Will and Testament in my online filing cabinet-she’ll know exactly where to find it should anything happen to me in years gone by.
10:45 pm. Behind Muzel Memorial Cultural Center
A whispering voice murmured through the fog. “Maestro, I am here.” I turned slightly to the left and saw Mark standing next to a machine, the likes of which I have never visualized. “Please step onto Platform A at Door A.” I finally trusted my doctor friend and obliged.
As I paced toward the platform, Dr. Muzel calmly spoke to me. “Many years ago, Maestro, I heard tales of an early televisional program titled,
‘Lost in Space’. The episode dealt with anti-matter clones of the characters in the show. It was quite fascinating. However, the anti-matter clones were quite evil, working against their good alter egos. In 2060, InstaClone has enabled me to utilize my own metaphysical and research skills to develop this machine that can instantaneously re-create you at the present time and preserve you as you are. Your
re-created self would then be solarically sent to the time and place of your choosing. Your PenPal will be connected to the computer on the side of the machine and map out your adventure as you go along. Your actual self shall be frozen in time as your clone is sent back. It takes virtual reality to the next plateau! Are you in accord with this exploration?”
Of course, I was already standing on the platform. Where was I to go? If I stepped off the platform and left with no questions asked and nothing answered, I would never know what I had missed. Dr. Muzel did say that my body would not go on the journey, only my re-creation. This was indeed a chance of a lifetime, a chance I had to take. “Yes, Doctor, I am in full accord.” He simply replied, “Very well. Have a wonderful time. Keep in mind the words ‘purpose’ and ‘the big picture!’”
(Tune into tomorrow for part 2)