512 Words

To Joy Yes

M. Stanley Bubien

The symphony cascaded to its tumultuous ending, instruments, choir, conductors both, all careening to the final note, and upon that note erupted the roaring applause. Gown falling about, I slid into my chair, my throat still vibrating the song, but body spent. For this piece of music, oh! From the depths of my heart it pulled passions I was unaware I possessed. "To Joy." Yes! To joy!

Of what mettle---of what genius---produced such work? In seeking, my gaze first lighted upon the true conductor---our Kapellmeister. Shrouded from the audience but easily viewed by us, the musicians---whom he instructed beforehand to follow from amidst the curtains---he beamed and applauded himself.

Shifting slightly askance, at hall's center, I encountered my quarry, the composer. Also our false conductor, it was his hand the audience perceived upon the baton, tapping time as he supposed to guide our harmonies. About him applause roared, but he acknowledged none of it, save for projecting a sense of profound disappointment, for he slumped over the podium, unkempt, grey hair wild about him, while face bent from a deep scowl.

Was it that he realized we followed the Kapellmeister's hand, rather than his own stilted direction? Alas no. That which disabled him from directing also prevented him from hearing our performance veer from his tempo.

"Turn then," I mumbled, for protocol dictated musicians remain at station until the conductor recognized the audience. My plea went unheeded.

The applause continued.

Of a sudden it came to me. His predicament. It was his ears.

The Kapellmeister, I saw, now bore a look of discomfort, for he understood what was amiss, yet remained powerless to act, as this would expose the deception.

Our eyes met. A silent message passed.

Inhaling, I alighted to my feet. The musicians stiffened and the applause tapered---only partially yet still perceptibly---enough to cause me disconcertion. My breath, however, sustained me, and I drifted resolutely on.

False conductor bowed forward yet, and reaching out, I touched his hand. Stone eyes flashed upon me from beneath furled brow, but my grasp, gentle as tarrying wings, laid upon him, and I lifted his arm, compelling him to turn.

The audience reacted immediately as false conductor---nay, true composer---faced them, and thus, what was at once a trickle cascaded again to a thunderous waterfall.

But still he scowled, for still he remained deaf.

The applause continued. Of a sudden, I noticed, there rose one man, then another, and thus it spread until all, each and every listener, erected themselves to deliver a standing ovation.

While all else failed, this gesture alone moved the man, for from beside him I saw it. Down the cheek of Ludwig Van Beethoven, this frowning, deaf man, flowed so small, yet almost invisible, one single, lonely tear.

But no, not lonely, for, surely as this music---a symphony he himself would never hear---moved a multitude, his tear was matched by another. To his pain, and yes, to his joy, I also shed a tear, a sister to his own.

Based on a true story.

Copyright ©1997 M. Stanley Bubien. All Rights Reserved.

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December, 1997
Issue #20

512 Words