Well, kind of busy for the past 2 to 3 weeks.. Finally got some spare time to do this.
Expect similar speed or even slower for the remaining volumes.
There were quite a few picture frames drawn on the jacket sleeve of this album.
They were titled <THE GNOME>, <THE SAGE> and <THE OLD CASTLE> — but all three of them were empty within the frames. The titles of the albums were printed in the frame at the bottom left.
<PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION>.
I removed my headphones with a sigh and placed the CD back into its case before stacking it on top of the mountain of <Pictures at an Exhibition>.
I had an urge to yell in frustration. Why were there so many versions of the same song?
"Allow me to explain. Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky, one of the many musicians who strove to express Russia's musical nationality, was someone who always abandoned his compositions when there were only halfway done. For example, nearly all of his operas were incomplete works. However, his ideas of music were innovative and colorful; moreover, many people are attracted to his works precisely because they 'are not perfect'. His masterpiece, <Pictures at an Exhibition>, has spurred the imagination of countless past and present musicians, and that resulted in the birth of many variations!"
"...... Tetsurou, why did you barge into my room without my permission?"
"No, I was just thinking...... if I do not comment like how a music critic should once in a while, would I forget it all someday?"
"Whatever, get out."
"Feel free to depend on me if you're fretting about music, yeah? Because I do not help with any of the housework at all."
"At least wash the clothes if you're aware of that!"
"I don't know the difference between washing powder and wheat flour — are you really fine with that?"
I chased Tetsurou away by throwing my pillow at him. I then faced the desk and began inspecting the songs in the CDs one at a time.
The piano version composed by Rimsky-Korsakov; the most famous orchestral version by Ravel; Henry Wood's version which dates back much earlier; Tomita Isao's synthesized version. These were the various versions of <Pictures at an Exhibition>.
Still, I returned to the version that I was listening to — the live-performance by Emerson, Lake & Palmer. God knows how many times I had listened to it already.
The first to speak was Mafuyu. It happened during our club activity today. She picked out a musical score from a huge stack and opened it.
"One of the main themes of <Pictures at an Exhibition> is <Promenade>. We can form a complete medley if we insert that between our songs."
"Pro...... what does that pro-whatever song sounds like?" Chiaki lifted her head and asked Mafuyu. Mafuyu grabbed her guitar silently and played a sample of the main theme in B♭ major.
"Ah, I heard that before."
"Comrade Ebisawa has not released <Pictures at an Exhibition>, right?" asked Kagurazaka-senpai. What Senpai was referring to was obviously the piano version. Mafuyu nodded her head slightly after a brief moment of silence.
"I'm looking forward to it. I must listen to Comrade Ebisawa's version of Mussorgsky even if it's performed using a different instrument. Well then, young man. Thanks to that—"
"I'll leave the composing to you."
"I can't believe you're asking me why."
Senpai inched towards me and lifted my chin with her finger. What appeared before me was Senpai's black eyes, which looked like the starless skies in the night. I could not move my whole body, much less my face.
"You're my other half; my dearest Paul. Is there a need for anything else?"
"I never expect you not to know that. Guess I've no other option but to lock you in a room at a hotel to let you know how much I treasure you."
"Geez— Senpai!" "You can't!"
Chiaki performed the triangle choke on Senpai and pulled her away from me; as for Mafuyu, she strangled me from behind and pulled me towards the side of the entrance. That's painful. Why is everyone not giving a damn to my neck recently......
"Now's not the time to be doing stuff like this! We're only a month away from the school's festival!"
Senpai became a little depressed after that scolding from Chiaki. However, she straightened herself immediately.
"Sorry, I've reflected on it. So let us all head to the hotel together."
"You've used that gag last month, no?"
Looks like Chiaki has improved considerably...... please continue to tsukkomi Senpai in my stead.
"But you don't hate <Pictures at an Exhibition>, do you, young man?"
"Hmm? Not really......" Don't veer back to the topic all of the sudden. "I don't actually hate it."
I'll be the one to compose it? I took the score from Mafuyu's hands and stared at the floor.
"That's decided then. Please compose a medley that is irritatingly long, but so exciting that our audience will never have the chance to catch their breaths."
I hugged my head in response to Senpai's unreasonable request.
When I returned home, I dug out all the versions of <Pictures at an Exhibition> that I could find in Tetsurou's collection and took out the synthesizer as well. It was the one Tomo gave Senpai, who then lent it to me for an unlimited duration. I tried playing the <Promenade> theme with various sorts of timbre.
It was a theme which depicted the scene of someone walking leisurely in an exhibition, appearing six times in the the entire piece during the various variations. It brought a strange sense of uniformity to the piece.
All in all, that was what Mafuyu was referring to. Our song could be added into the exhibition as long as <Promenade> appears in between our songs.
Her argument may sound a bit forced, but I did agree with it in general — the reason was the lasting impression that melody brings to the ears. I have no idea why it sounded so easygoing to the ears despite the alternating 5/4 and 6/4 beats, and the intense irregular tempo.
However, I did not really like Mussorgsky's piano version. There were way too many unreasonable sustained tones in it, which sounded like he forcefully recomposed an orchestral piece into a piano piece. Especially that finale.
Therefore, if it was me doing the composing, I would use the organ or a similar instrument to play a resounding cry — like the way <GNOMES> did with the unison of the bass and drums—
I then realized something — my headphones were conveying the desired timbres in my mind. I subconsciously replayed the album by Emerson, Lake & Palmer.
I sighed and turned off the audio before tossing the CD onto my desk. The mountain of <Pictures at an Exhibition> tumbled and fell onto my bed.
That won't do. If that was how it was, I might as well as copy their performance.
I grabbed my cellphone so that I could give Senpai a call, but I decided against that in the end.
I was about to tell her that I could come up with something — it would be really embarrassing if I was to tell her that.
All the songs played by feketerigó were composed by Senpai. Why didn't Senpai compose the songs this time around as well? Why did she make me do it? Perhaps she thought that I was adept at classical pieces just because I was the son of a music critic? Mafuyu would be a much better choice if that was what she thought.
What should I do? The music of EL&P continued to reverberate in my ears.
On Wednesday, we had a rare guest in our house. It was already late into the night when I ended my practice in Nagashima's Musical Instrument Store. When I arrived back home, exhausted, I saw a large foreign car parked in the garage of our house.
I recognized this car straight away because that was my fourth time seeing it. For a brief moment, I seriously contemplated if I should just stay over at Chiaki's house for the night.
I opened the door silently, and what greeted me was the loud, blaring Shostakovich as well as the occasional uncouth quarrelings between two middle-aged men.
"...... that is why I say, the fugue should go on all the way till the exposition! How long are you gonna emphasize the voices? You're blindly following Shostakovich's orchestration — the instruments are scattered all over! This is far from the standards of the original."
"That's all that is needed from The Symphonic Brass of London to make the piece shine! It's not like they do that only during Shostakovich. Most importantly, the conflicting inner voices in the most important part of the final movement—"
"Don't be surprised if the concertmaster deliberately refuses to show up after a quarrel with you. It will be due to your insistence to sticking to the same tone as the American orchestras."
"Stop pretending like you know everything!"
"May I know what you two are quarrelling about......?"
Ebichiri and Tetsurou, who were about to get into a brawl, were shocked when I stepped into the living room. They quickly tidied themselves and took seats on the sofa. A clear and thick string adagio was playing though the speakers. I knew immediately that it was a live performance conducted by Ebichiri.
"Sorry for intruding on you despite the late hours."
Ebichiri greeted me with a wry expression on his face. I nodded my head slightly in response.
"...... Urm, you want a cup of coffee?"
I was pretty sure Tetsurou did not offer our guest any drinks.
"Ah, that's unnecessary. Actually, I am here to speak with you."
"Urm, but, it would be rude for us not to offer you anything. It'll be better if I get you a drink."
I slipped into the kitchen and tried to calm myself down as I washed my hands. Well, I don't think Ebichiri's here to pick a fight with Tetsurou since he was a busy man. That means he'll be talking about things related to Mafuyu. "But what exactly? Did I do something wrong?" I tried to jolt my memories as I lit the gas to heat up the water.
"— He's a really considerate boy. Are you sure he's your son? Could he be the son of Misako and another man?"
Ebichiri, I can hear what you're saying clearly. He's surprisingly dense in some weird areas — something that could be clearly seen from Mafuyu.
"Sorry to disappoint you, but he carries 50% of my genes."
Tetsurou, please do not answer him with such a disgusting reply.
I offered them two cups of incredibly thick coffee as small revenge on my part, but both of them drank it all indifferently. That was not fun!
As he placed his cup away, Ebichiri looked at me with his stern poker-face and said,
"Thanks for last time. I was really grateful for that."
"...... Eh? Huh? What are you thanking me for?" I don't remember doing anything that deserved his gratitude.
"You brought Mafuyu to the concert, didn't you? That was her first time ever. She followed you along, didn't she?"
"Ah. Urm, well......"
So that was what he meant. But that was because Mafuyu obtained the tickets on her own for some unknown reason. It was not me who brought her there.
"I kind of forced Flaubert to perform in the concert as well, but Mafuyu seemed pretty happy thanks to that...... Speaking of which, I've met Flaubert a few times after that."
"Eh? Ah, yeah."
"He too talks of you all the time. You are...... a really unfathomable person."
I-Is that so?
"Oi, wait a second, the Flaubert you are talking about is Julien Flaubert? What the heck? Nao, you actually met him? Where? Where is he right now?"
Tetsurou suddenly pulled himself close to me, his eyes blinded by the sign of cash.
"Can you hook me up with an exclusive interview with him? The editor-in-chief has been chasing me for that — even photos are okay! Damn, I shouldn't have bragged and said I can snag the interview with my network and contacts."
"Shut up Tetsurou!" "Don't bring your dirty work into this conversation!"
Tetsurou was retorted by the both of us yet again, but he did not back down this time.
"Hey! Quit joking with me! What do you think allowed me to raise Nao up into a fine person he is today—"
"You said you were the industry's ruffian, no?" "It's because you are the industry's ruffian!"
"T-The industry's ruffian's no sleazy job, okay!? We don't manipulate strings behind backs and do bad stuff like controlling the middleman who introduces members to the orchestras, nor do we act as spies for the College of Music. It's true! Nao, what's the meaning of you looking at me with that cold stare of yours!?"
It's pointless, Tetsurou. Your voice is turning strange. Just be quiet and give it a rest......
"Uhhhh, that's mean of you treating me as a shady person!"
And with that, Tetsurou grabbed his cup and ran to the kitchen in tears. Ebichiri let out a deep sigh when he saw Tetsurou's sorry state and took a sip of coffee.
"Well, just the image of Flaubert is enough for the magazines to sell like hot cakes, so I can understand why they are that desperate to locate his whereabouts...... I think you should already know this, but please do not disclose anything about him to anyone else."
I nodded my head. Yuri probably disliked being chased about by the Japanese media and being the subject of some baseless articles.
"You might have heard this from Flaubert or Mafuyu already. I guess I'll tell you just in case...... Mafuyu's preparing herself for the comeback."
I kept my gaze on the cup in Ebichiri's hands.
Mafuyu was slowly returning to that glamorous but cold world.
"Please keep this to yourself. Mafuyu hates the media — those things she was involved in weren't pleasant, and I have no intention for her to be harassed as well. But the industry's a small world, so it's quite impossible for us to keep it a secret forever. There are people looking into this already."
"I've no idea what on earth happened, but her fingers were almost completely healed, which is a miracle. Early last month, her fingers were no longer numb. The doctors were surprised as well, but since her numb fingers were caused by something psychological...... so it is highly possible that her recovery is the same as well."
It was the same as what Miss Maki said in early October.
And I think the return of Yuri is the biggest reason for that change.
"Though she's unable to hold concerts for now, she'll be releasing an album. The record company's all geared up for that. Her comeback album will probably be Beethoven's violin sonata."
My shoulders flinched.
Typically speaking, a violin sonata is written for a piano and a violin, composing of various movements.
I see — that was what it was all about.
But I still could not help but to ask him something that I already knew the answer to.
"...... She'll be performing with Yuri, right?"
I was surprised by how cold my voice was. I could not bring myself to look at Ebichiri's face.
"Of course, since the idea did not materialize back in America. The producers were gunning hard for their success, and the two of them seemed pretty enthusiastic about it as well."
That combination should be a popular one. Lots of things to talk about, and even I want to listen to their performance. That's quite the pleasing news. And so?
Why are you here to see me?
"Therefore, I would like to ask you — you see, I've never seen Mafuyu practice the piano at home."
So that was what he was here for? You should know even without asking me, yeah?
"I think she's practicing in the school's music preparatory room or something?"
Though I didn't think those practices were enough. It's been said that professional pianists would have to spend at least six hours a day playing the piano, or else they would die like fishes out of the water. Therefore, she may have continued practicing in other places unknown to Ebichiri and me.
Ebichiri gave a sigh and relaxed the expression on his face.
"That's good. No, you may find it strange to see me acting like this, but — I can't believe it. About the fact that Mafuyu is willing to pick up the piano once more."
Well, the same goes for me.
"I guess it's all thanks to Yuri?"
Ebichiri stared hard at my face for some unknown reason. It seemed like he was hesitating on what to say. After a long period of silence, he finally shifted his gaze to his knees.
"...... I don't know. That girl never tells me what she's thinking."
She did reveal quite a bit of things to me, though those are just a tiny part of the whole picture. I still do not quite understand her very well even now. I guess it's because I am too stupid.
"However, she began to talk to me after she transferred to that school."
A faint smile appeared on Ebichiri's lips as he continued his mumblings,
"I had initially planned for her to transfer to a high-school that was affiliated to the College of Music, in the hopes that she'll be motivated from all the pianos that would be around her. However, Mafuyu was strongly against the idea. Come to think of it, it's a blessing that I did not force her to. I feel— I'm really glad to have enrolled her into your school."
I nodded my head in silence. My feelings were settling down when I heard those words from him.
"But in the near future, she'll probably be apply for leave away from school frequently."
I lifted my head in shock when I heard that.
"She'll become busier and busier due to her piano practices as well as the recordings. And while she's still rejecting the interviews now, that's not something that she can do forever. Wouldn't it be the same as before if she continues to reject all interviews......"
A troubled expression appeared on Ebichiri's face. It was probably the same expression on mine as well.
"This time round, she's the one who wants to do this, but I've no idea if that's something good or bad. She may not even have the time to attend school."
Somehow, there was the illusion of my heart thumping at my feet.
Mafuyu would not be coming to school. This was not the same as what happened before — she was the one making decisions this time around.
Despite it being something with a good chance of happening, the very thought had never once crossed my mind. And when she returns back to that world, she'll disappear from mine.
Mafuyu is about to leave.
What happened after that was I answering Ebichiri's questions in an absent-minded state. I had no idea when he left the house. Before I realized it, I was all alone in the living room, slumped on the sofa. The music of the strings that came from the records in Tetsurou's study sounded very far away.