Saturday, 12 November 2011

What music would we play at the end of everything?

A while ago I sat in one of my favorite jazz clubs in rue des Lombards, home to four of the top jazz clubs in Paris (Sunset, Sunside, Baiser Sale [salty kiss] and the Duc des Lombards). That night I had a dream that the world was ending, and I was there, listening to jazz while it was happening outside. When I woke up, I wrote the 'flash fiction' piece down below.

Humanity is a musical species - we like to sing, play instruments, and dance. It's in every culture, all over the globe, and if we ever reach the stars, we'll take it with us too. It's one of our more endearing traits. If we ever do come to a sticky end, I'm sure that, like on the Titanic, or on battlefields of old, someone will be playing music, to stir or to soothe, or just to remind us who we are. It won't save us of course, but it's a defining part of our character, a rather good part at that.

The Last Jazz Session
Outside the world was ending, inside a jazz band played its heart out. Two angels surveyed all: the carnage, the battles lost against the invaders, the valiant but hopeless defenders, a few desperate couples’ last attempts to make love, once-estranged families huddled together, mothers protecting their children. They came upon Rue des Lombards. Paris, night, the Eiffel Tower melted like a toy, the city ablaze. In amongst all the pain and screaming outside, a velvet-curtained room where a three-piece band belted out jazz to the applause of the forty-strong audience. The angels paused. All humans’ death was imminent, and jazz resolutely ignored it. They took a closer look. ‘Keep jazz live’ etched on the double bass. The piano player sweated buckets but grinned as he ripped through scales, threading through chord changes with the skill of a virtuoso, the drummer and bass player in perfect counter-point. A few in the audience cried, but all stood and cheered the band on. One angel mused: was jazz mankind’s swan-song, its creativity, its brashness, its unrepeatable solos, each one individual, to be heard once, live, and never again? The other angel noticed she was tapping with her foot. A curious sensation. They saw the flash far away on the South side of the city and glanced quickly to catch the last vision of the jazz session before it was wiped out forever, framing in their memories the sight of these three talented men, their spirits soaring, fingers a-blur, the audience hammering on the tables, as a white roar swept them away. The foot-tapping angel stopped tapping, and turned to her colleague. “I believe that was what was known as an ‘incandescent solo.’” The other angel frowned. “Don’t you think your humor’s a little irreverent?” The other angel smiled. “No, I think in fact that was rather the point.”

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