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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Caesura. By John von Daler


                         Once upon a time there was a proud little man. He owned a little store for rests: you know, the kind musicians use when there are no more notes in their music and they have to sit quietly with their instruments in their laps.


               The proud, little man had been lucky enough to find a place for rent right beside the large symphony hall in a great metropolis. Here he started his business in what once had been a shop that sold eccentric and out of date words, everything from "aargh" to "zany". The little man liked to point out to his customers that where there once had been hot air there now were empty spaces.
                He called his store "The Hush House" and filled the windows with encouraging phrases like, "and the rest is silence", "your neighborhood GAP", "your break is in the bag", and "the pause that refreshes without filling". On the sign over the door he had painted a huge fermata and on the door itself he had written in black lettering, "Your Rest is our Job".
                At first no one had even entered the store. Of the symphony musicians it really was only the violinists who took notice of the place, but they always just hurried past on their way to practice. The percussionists laughed out loud when they saw the signs. "As if we needed more breaks!" they giggled as they sauntered by. The woodwinds and brass crossed themselves and took to accessing the concert hall by other entrances.
                But then somebody suggested that the orchestra could play #Wagner's Ring in its entirety as a series of four concerts. Soon after that one of the first violinists together with a horn player decided to slip into the store in disguise to look at the wares. Later, other members of the orchestra followed suit and soon a stream of musicians visited "The Hush House" regularly, not only when #Wagner was being played, but also during "Haydn Month" and other strenuous times.
                Soon the proud little man had something to have his pride in because the sale of all his small empty bags was going so well that he even considered taking a week off. He had to remind himself, though, that you cannot take a break from a pause. So he tendered his wares with attentiveness and politeness and his grateful customers scurried in and out of his door.
                You are probably asking yourself, as in fact I myself have, how these rests actually worked in practice. Now I was not there, but I have read my Hans Christian #Andersen, a writer not noted for suspending his own productivity. Andersen, like St. #Exupery and other astute artists, had often shown that the truth can be disguised more easily when there are no children around. After all, who in fact told the Emperor that his clothes were, well, airy to say the least? And who pointed out that The Little Prince's picture, in fact, depicted an elephant inside a snake and not - despite many incorrect guesses to that effect - a hat manufactured in Hamburg?
                Since the concerts took place well after the bedtime of the respectable children of the city, only adults attended. None of them ever seemed to notice the small, innocent and hidden breaks in which one after another musician took part. Mostly these breaks were indeed well camouflaged by the music itself, but I have been told that during #Dvorak's New World Symphony the English horn player, tired perhaps from a week of Wagner, took her break right in the midst of the famous "Goin' Home" solo. No one in the audience seemed to notice, but with closed eyes, they all seemed to hear the beautiful melody in its entirety. And there was nary a child to protest. So the proud, little man made a small fortune out of all his empty bags.
                Many years went by with this steady sale of rests, both grand and minuscule. The proud, little man finally locked up his shop once and for all, though, after the orchestra had played John #Cage's ode to the ear, Four Minutes, Thirty-Three Seconds. As the orchestra sat there without playing a note for that exact number of minutes and seconds, the little man felt his pride drain away as he realized that there was, in fact, a method to this madness with which he hardly could compete. He never sold another rest.
                And what then can we learn from this story?
                Let these be our lessons: 1) Small, proud men pedaling empty bags should at the very least give us all pause for thought. 2) He who never walks or talks with a child should never trust his own judgement.

Take a rest.
Read my book,
"Pieces".
The picture 
will lead you
to it.



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