I played a C chord
But I was looking for the sound
Of a car falling over a cliff
I played the Am chord
Of a comet passing through a narrow mountain valley
But I was looking for the sound of the wind
blowing through the dresses of women on the beach
I played a G chord
I wanted the sound of gears going up a level
Driving into a tsunami with a carnival float in tow
I played an F chord
I searched its steps looking for a gold watch left on the staircase
And I found it exploding like an underwater earthquake
Over a hundred years ago, there was an orchestra, a standard one for the time, whose music sounded adequately beautiful; an orchestra with some of the greatest unknown musicians in Europe. Work was scarce and underpaid and each one lived a life of poverty, practicing in their hotel rooms and boardinghouses. The members of the orchestra confided in each other their secrets, their secret desires, their secret pasts. If they had nothing else as a group they had this, talking to each other as if in confessional, yet in fear of their conductor, a wealthy, cruel man who ruled with a fierce discipline over their lives.
Nearly all players were exotic, strange, lonely living in a strange city, touring the continent playing in the small venues in great cities. When tours were over they dispersed and went and lived as best they could, sometimes towards the end of their rest period they even become homeless and playing in the streets and bars for whatever they could get or else giving lessons for reasonable fees.
There were many from a poor catholic background. One was Buddhist, several were atheist, (they were Italians, Russians, French, Bavarian and Slavic. They moved to Paris to find fame and fortune but found only slavery. Detached from the general hubbub of normal life they were seen as outsiders, as aliens or as being above the general population, to be condescending to be among them. However, they lived stricken lives, crippled by a harsh moral code, part religious moral high society. Except that they never lived in the higher society, they had little money to take advantage of their service and they had little knowledge of any other life except as work-a-day musicians.
The world was confusing and life was fearful. They played because they were trained from childhood; one of them could hardly read a book. They were from a background of medievalism, of gothic institutions and the world of artistic slavery. As children they were made to practice for six hours a day then they sat by their windows to watch the world go by. This was the life of the musically talented, a life so Spartan that their hearts broke over and over again. They had no other schooling or contact with other children except their own families who saw them as precious protégées who ultimately disappointed because of how little, as parts of an orchestra, they were paid.
If you met one of them and struck up a conversation, you would be alarmed at how backward they were, at how repressed in their feelings they seemed to be and you would wonder why.
Their leader, the first violinist was a man of upright character in a moral straightjacket. Responsible for keeping them pure and innocent, believing that this gained favour with some of their more wealthy listeners and sadly and indeed it did. Little did they know about the individual musician or their names, or their claustrophobic lives.
Sometimes there were affairs between them, affairs that were doomed to failure. Swamped in ignorance and fear, destroyed by poverty, a successful suicide was more normal than a successful romance, for while high society was able to move forward with the times, the orchestra was tied up in the girdle of an almost militaristic honour. Still each one of them had their human side, by accident they would learn from lessons outside of their positions, or they would learn from each other.