Live Music—theories of Austin magic
So, the base theory is simple enough. Music comes to life in Austin, but not all music. For the sake of separating the live songs from just any old song, I'm going to call songs that come to life tunes. The living avatars of the tunes call themselves tunes, which creates some ambiguity as to whether the referent in any case is the living being or the original song. What determines which song comes to life? I considered four possibilities:
- Music composed by the magically gifted. I'll call those composers tunesmiths.
- Music played by the magically-gifted. This actually could entail two possibilities: magically-gifted individuals (tuneweavers) or groups that, together, are magically-gifted (tunecovens). This allows some songs to come to life only when performed by a tuneweaver or tunecoven.
- The double-threat would be a tunesmith who is also a tuneweaver or part of a tunecoven. I've already decided that a few extant artists belong in this category: Willy Nelson, Johnny Cash, k.d. lang, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Lyle Lovett, Shawn Colvin, maybe others. Tunemages. My protagonist will be among their number.
- Magical audiences. I considered this, even sketched some stories based on this idea. It just complicated matters. I prefer tales of magic that only work within its own structure of laws, something like a science. Allowing for tunes created by audiences would create too much variation and confusion, making some tunes' origins untraceable. Complexity is messy but interesting. I'm still thinking about this one. Maybe I'll consider it further down the line.
Tunes, once they've been realized, live like normal people, more or less. They do have certain possible aspects created for them. For example, if the Heart song "Magic Man" were to be a tune, he would, himself, have magical abilities. If the old folk song "I've Been Working on the Railroad" came to life, he would be a railway worker. That means his inception would actually create his career as well as some obvious facts about his work ethic.
One of the characters in Live Music uses the pseudonym Ty Samba. His real name is the same as the tune from which he was born: "Bang the Drum All Day." His friends call him Bang. The original real world song (for anyone not around in 1983 or not a fan of the period), written by Todd Rundgren, describes someone who doesn't want to work or play, just bang the drum. Bang was realized during SXSW when a group of drum troupes were having a drum-off. In the last round, the competition was down to a taiko company and a samba troupe, both playing "Bang the Drum All Day." The two teams together composed a tunecoven and gave birth to Bang—half Japanese, half Brazilian and resembling a mocha-skinned, broad-shouldered Jimi Hendrix with epicanthic folds.
My wife Kathy thinks the original song would look pretty much like Rundgren did in the eighties: tall, skinny, white and long-haired. I don't want to set a precedent that the songs look like the composers, parental metaphors notwithstanding.