The Last Music

In the beginning - silence. The same hushed darkness that existed when the world was born. Slowly, morosely, a low tune can be heard, as the double-bass starts playing a sorrowful arpeggio. The darkness is slowly lifted, when a speck of light appears with the first notes. The illumination is strong enough for me to make something of my surroundings.

Soon the cello adds its voice to the harmony. Now I see that I'm in a room. A room filled with objects as ancient as the walls surrounding it. As the cello introduces the main theme of the music, I finally see what the objects in the room are. There's a bookshelf, filled with old volumes and manuscripts. A drawer covered with a green, woven cloth adorns the corner of the room. On the windowsill is a statue of Virgin Mary, looking out of the window at the world beyond. On the floor are books and pieces of paper, all covered in dust. Everything looks untouched, as if they're all exactly where they've been from the beginning, and where they will be until the end.

As the bass and the cello finish their introductory theme, they are soon accompanied by the violin and the viola, singing their bittersweet praise, and filling the room with echoes from a better time. I now see a bed in the furthest, darkest corner of the space. The violin, soaring high above the bass line, pronounces the flickering of a lone candle, crusted with molten wax. The candle, in turn, casts ghostly shadows on the bed, where a man is seen lying.

Enter the sweet, virginal voice of a boy, singing words in a language I can't understand, nor do I want to. The voice is sad, old beyond its years, but still pure and innocent, casting a strange contrast to the outlines of the ancient face, lying on the bed. The man draws rasping breaths, each one more cumbersome than the last. He is dying.

As the boy's voice brings the main theme again to an end, silence ensues, and the room is plunged again into darkness. I can only hear my heart beat, as I wait for some resolution to the music and this story.

And then the silence ends. A flash, and the room is back in view, this time in full light, as the strings and the choir return with a forte that shakes the very foundations of the building. The man lifts himself painfully up, grabs a piece of paper from next to him, takes a quill, dips it in ink and starts to write. He isn't writing a letter, a farewell note, his memoirs or even his will. He's writing the last bars to the music that is to be his last, his masterpiece, his swan-song.

He writes with the same anger and frustration that have sustained him for so long. He writes with passion that shouldn't exist in his frail body any more. He doesn't make any corrections, he doesn't have to - he has harbored this piece in his soul for all his life. It is his life.

The music swells to an incredible crescendo, reflecting the wrath and the sadness the man feels for himself and for the world. He is a true artist, one that lives only for his work, excluding all sentiment and emotion for the world, because it is all reserved only for his music.

He's finished. The man falls down heavily on his pillow and the light fades a little. The bass is the only instrument playing now. It weaves a counter-melody to the introductory theme, and with every note the light fades a little more, as does the life in the artist's body.

Rest of the strings join in, and the high voice of the boy can be heard once more, as he bids farewell to his creator. Slowly, dejectedly, echoing a lifetime of sacrifice and devotion, the music nears the last four bars of the composition. Four long notes, whose duration is one bar each, accent the last breaths of the dying man. One - the man opens his eyes and whispers a prayer. Two - the candle flame flickers and dies out. Three - The light fades and the room is in darkness again. And four - the man draws his last breath and is no more.

Inspired by Beethoven's Last String Quartets. [tags]beethoven, quartet, deathbed[/tags]

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