Sunday, April 8, 2012

Live Music and Dead Music

As one reader noted, a literal interpretation of the phrase "live music" implies the possibility of dead music. If tunes in Austin can come to life, then, surely they must also be able to die. One problem with turning metaphor into magic is that the individual analogue elements of the metaphor have to track. The tracking doesn't have to be absolute—can't be absolute, in fact. To give you some idea what I mean by absolute tracking, if tune develops a life analogous to the life of a human being, the tune would have to have a mother and father, the mother would have to carry the tune to term, the birth of the tune would appear normal, the tune would age normally, suffer the slings and arrows (measles, heartbreak, traffic tickets, broken bones), and it would eventually die in an accident or of some disease. 

SPOILER ALERT: that ain't gonna happen. No gestation, no birth canal, no umbilicus, no actual childhood (unless the tune is clearly a child).

Okay, so, it's not really much of a spoiler. The death thing, though, is a serious concern. If a song can come to life, either it's immortal or it can die. But how do you kill a tune? If you hit it with a truck and splatter it's body all over the road, you'd think that would effectively end its life, but in the world of music magic that I'm describing, that wouldn't really kill a tune. It would certainly wipe out that particular avatar of the tune, but would it be permanent? 

It depends.

Before I go any further, here's a quick look into my personal editing process. After writing up the first version of the following, I was dizzy. Tunethis and tunethat and tunetheotherthing. It gets a little annoying. So, one minor change from my previous exposition: I'm dumping the term tunemage and replacing it with magus. I mean, it's not like I'll be needing to keep various types of magi sorted.

To be specific, a tune's mortality depends on the circumstances of its birth. Remember, tunes have two elements of creation: composition and performance. Every tune is either created by the combined efforts of a tunesmith and a tuneweaver, a tunesmith and a tunecoven, or a magus acting as both composer and performer. Because the case involving a tunecoven is essentially the same as that of a tuneweaver, I'll just talk about two cases: (1) tunemage and (2) tunesmith plus tuneweaver. 

Let's look at a blatant killing of a tune and how it might differ in the two cases. Let's assume the tune "Pinball Wizard" came to life in Austin. So, for case (1) we assume Pete Townsend is a tunemage and that The Who once performed Tommy in Austin, bringing the Pinball Wizard to life. Twenty years go by, and the Pinball Wizard just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, purchasing a bottle of whiskey when the liquor store is robbed. The whole affair goes pear shaped, and the Pinball Wizard takes the .9 mm slug to the heart. He should be dead in a couple of seconds, but this is a fantasy creature. Does he die? Well, I've considered a lot of different scenarios, and I think the tunes will be remarkably resilient. They will not, however, be immortal. So, in this instance, yes, the Pinball Wizard dies.

For case (2), I'll instead assume that Townsend is a tunesmith but that The Who is not a tunecoven (as unlikely as that seems), nor is any member of The Who a tuneweaver or magus. Instead, let's assume that Elton John is a tuneweaver and that he once performed "Pinball Wizard" in Austin. Again, after twenty years, in that same liquor store holdup, Pinball Wizard takes a bullet to the heart and dies.

Okay, sounds like the same thing, right? In many ways, yes, the cases are identical. Where they differ is in the character of the tune and the possibilities that follow. First, the Pinball Wizard performed by The Who has a different character than the Elton John Pinball Wizard. The version performed by The Who comes across as more astonished by Tommy and stunned that he just turned over his crown to a "deaf, dumb and blind kid." Elton John's version gives voice and character to the deposed pinball champion. He's a pinball wizard, too, and he's devastated that he's lost his crown to Tommy. Elton John's Pinball Wizard is the tragic hero of his own tale, singing his own fall from grace. Sure, the lyrics are the same in both performances, but Elton John sings in character, and the difference is profound.

Second, the chance of the Pinball Wizard coming back to life is, in both cases, dependent upon the same tuneweaver, tunecoven, or magus performing the song in Austin again. If, for example, the tune were brought to life by The Who's performance, a performance by Elton John, or anyone, for that matter, brings him back to life, but he won't be the same person. He also won't have the original's memories. 

Of course, once more, we're raising as many questions as we're answering. What effect does a tuneweaver's performance have upon an extant tune? Can two or more versions of a single tune exist at one time? Does playing a tune (recorded versions) affect an extant tune? Does tune mortality differ from that of normal humans in other ways? What about aging? Disease? All this and more in the next few weeks, but first I think I'm going to jump to a different topic next time. I'm going to publish a few short shorts in future blogs, starting with the next one. 

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