The rhythm that beats off the speakers is my external heartbeat, and the melodic trance that takes over the people before me is merely my soul in sweet vibrations laid bare for all to hear; for all to experience. I could play forever these poetic notes, my personal ode to universal love, and the misery that all us broken beings share deep down. It is right here, under the flashing lights that interrupt the blackness, that I genuinely feel at home, still alone, but at home, nonetheless.
Momentary glances are exchanged on the dance floor, between strangers who would become friends, friends who would become lovers, and lovers who would become strangers. There is, after all, a thin line between love and hate. But none of that matters. Nothing does. Not when I’m here, on this stage, blaring my existence for the pleasure of those seeking comfort. I raise up the volume as the crowd raises their hands. The drop of the beat manifests in my mind, and I bring it to reality through steady fingertips conditioned for swiftness. The room goes crazy. Cheers. Hundreds of them, or perhaps they were merely in the tens, just repeated ten times over.
The sonnet continues filling air without effort, just as waves fill the holes in beach sand, its sound rushing in and around every grain, as the music does to each and every person here tonight. Some react to the slowing beat, while those who have moved to the shadowy corners start-up their chatter. They seem unfazed, but I know better. Music is music, and it always speaks to every person, in one way or another. I slip in a livelier tempo, drawing them out from the shadows, elevating their spirits. They start to dance.
Many consider me a puppeteer of sorts, though I think myself the opposite. I’ve been repeatedly asked in interviews, fan-mail, and even by close friends (for they are the only type I bother to have), “what exactly is the secret to good music?” Do they not see how it is I who am the puppet? That the crowd is my puppeteer, and I humbly abide by their wishes—those they express and, more importantly, those they don’t.
Reading the room. That’s the secret. And tonight, as I read the room, a lengthy figure catches my eye. He leans against the leftmost pillar in the background, eyes closed with a drink in his hand. A pencil is tucked behind his left ear, half-concealed by his unruly hair. He turns his head and smiles at me, raising his glass in my direction. For a moment, I lose focus. My finger slips on the turntable, bringing about an abrupt change of tempo. I remedy it with a soothing tune, as the crowd raises their chins in sync, their heads no longer bobbing, but instead, swaying from side to side. I check my phone. 4:30 am. One more track, and I’d be done. I risk a glance at the pillar-leaning man, but he is no longer there. Huh. There is no time for me to think, and I continue doing what I do best. To the back of my head, his existence goes, along with all distractions and wandering thoughts. I am here, I am now.
Looking at the crowd, I know what I must do. I end off the slow track with grace, easing into my final piece. The music soars like an eagle on an up-draft, taking with it the very souls of every single person in the room. They—we—ascend together in one last magical flight for the night, riding to the heavens on a breathtaking orchestral exuberance. We embark on the crescendo and dive back down, smiling, satisfied, serene.
Our shared journey left us in silence, the same one that was there at the beginning of the night. Then, a tsunami of applause rolls forward. I take a bow, and then another. I can’t help but smile and think to myself, life is good.
By Abel Chan
This story is dedicated to the musicians because they write the soundtrack of our lives.