I step out onto a stage made of stars and sweep my skirt around me as I take a seat on the bench prepared in the centre. In reality, it is a panel of plexi showing the expanse of space below; we are still midway on the trip between Earth and New Canada. Surrounding me are New Canada pine trees, little lights floating between them. The audience is seated around the circular panel, creating the effect of a floating amphitheatre.
The stars swirl beneath as I play my first notes. Bow touching strings, first the lowest, an open string, a long, resonant tone. Then the next, a run, a leap, notes strung together like so many stars.
New Canada needs more musicians. At least so they told me – and lured me onto this beautiful spaceship with promises of contracts and performances and tours. The first tour is to take place in all the cities of the planet, and my first concert is taking place enroute, before I have even stepped onto the ground of my new home. The recent building boom has brought about a fascinating renaissance in historical Earth architecture, and I imagine that the acoustics will be beautiful, especially with the addition of sound relays.
It was the last world to be settled, but the people of New Canada are apparently thirsty for historical music. They especially want to hear Baroque works, coupled with new compositions, sometimes superimposed. I can hear in my mind how Bach and Handel and Purcell will sound here, on this ship, and in the beautiful conservatory gardens on the planet below. And how other composers will sound. How my own pieces will sound – I write for my viola often, though I seldom share these works. But I believe that on New Canada, I will begin performing my preludes and etudes and sarabandes.
In the first row, or rather the closest cluster of seats, I notice a woman watching in rapt attention. I try to pay her no mind, but it is difficult – I realize she is Lady Anne, a prominent engineer for New Canada Engines – the company that made this spaceship.
I have always been slightly afflicted with stage fright – switching to the vertical viola was the only thing that really helped. Back when I used to play the viola in the traditional manner on the arm, I would shake. But sitting on stage grounds me and helps me keep my thoughts together.
Stage fright is beginning now, its icy fingers working their way toward my veins, cooling them, inducing shivers. Shocking, this strange return of fright, after I thought it was long gone. But space travel affects everyone differently. Perhaps I traveled so fast on this spaceship, I caught up to my fear and must now vanquish it.
Lady Anne’s attention ceases to unnerve me. I imagine how a spaceship engineer must feel when testing an engine. In many ways, it must be very much like a musical performance. The acoustics of an engine must be perfect. And like I carry a melody and emotion, engines must carry a ship.
I think of the planet I have chosen to make my home on, without ever having seen it, having felt its air or tasted its water or walked through one of its gardens.
But if it is anything like this star garden on this spaceship, I believe I will be happy.
The viola is a marvelous instrument, one that sings precisely in a range where people speak. Many say this of the cello, and it’s true too, of course. But a viola brings out different resonant frequencies, ones that, to me, are more in tune with certain emotions. I can carry a heartbeat on a string. And I do, trying to attune my playing so that this musical beating heart is at a comfortable and warm speed. Bach. Handel. Purcell. And then, my own music.
I hear every nuance of my composition resound in my mind before I play a note. and then I can confirm my predictions as the sound is reflected back to me. This spaceship’s acoustics are indeed stellar.
I play the last phrase of the first partita I ever wrote, letting the air consume the final vibrations and overtake it with silence. Space expands.
I am home.
Story © Clio Em. Images © Hali Rey.