Henry Lion Oldie
Dionysus' laughter

* * *

   Gods laugh seldom and their laughter
   is of little joy to the mortals.
Frasimed of Melkh

   The final chord rolled through the hall and faded. Complete silence lasted for a moment, then it turned into applause, which was neither an ovation nor rare scornful claps; the audience simply performed its duties thoroughly. After all, they came here to listen to the music and they had payed for it, and not the applause. Jon Orfie banged closed the grand-piano lid, leaned back and closed his eyes. He rested that way for a few seconds, forgetting about the whole world, then he again noticed the noise of the belated clapping hands, scraps of conversations, shuffles of the feet – the audience was rushing towards the exits. Weary, Jon stood up and went to the dressing room. Malcolm Cate was already there. Conductor, concertmaster, artistic director, last instance of all discussions – Cate was all that.
   "You were not bad today, Orfi," he said.
   "Thank you." Jon threw off his tailcoat and started working on the buttons of his stiff white shirt.
   "You are welcome. Anyway, this piece should be removed from your repertoire by the end of next week, otherwise we lose our audience. Besides, I read what you gave me last week." Cate shook sheet music covered with scribbles at Jon. – "Interesting. I would even say extremely interesting. But it's not for us. We are a symphony orchestra and this is far closer to rock. To sympho-rock. We'd need different instruments, and the style is far too strange for the general public. But, once again– the piece itself is most interesting. Do dare, Orfi…
   "Someone has to be the first," entreated Jon. – "Someone who is willing to digress from the norm. After all, rock, jazz, sympho – they're only conventions."
   "Certainly. But I don't like adventures. The conventions you mentioned are expected by the audience; they're stronger than ferroconcrete, and I don't want to break my head against those expectations.
   "But you said…"
   "I know I did. And I will repeat it again: the piece itself is interesting. Try to contact some rock band, although I doubt that your style will blend with anything those long-hair rockers put out. Whatever you decide to do, Orfi, remember this tailcoat will be waiting for you, in case you reconsider.
   "Thank you, Cate." Jon absentmindedly leafed through the sheet music, then put it into a briefcase. – "I'll try my luck."
   The rain outside was tedious and fine. Wet roads mirrored the glow of advertisements and automobiles. Music played somewhere, while people were walking through the streets despite the rain. The nightlife of the city was just beginning to wake.
   Perhaps Cate is right, thought Jon, as his feet carried him through the dampness and crowd. I should put in a part for a bass-guitar, replace the grand-piano with an electric organ, and leave some space for an acoustic keyboard too, shift the rhythm a little bit… of course, then the themes for the cello and flute will disappear. Wait. Why should they? The flute can remain. Jon started going through a list of well-known performers in his mind, but realised none of them suited his ideas – some because of their hard styles, others because of their shocking vocals. Again, there were those who played their own pieces exclusively, and then performers who were simply too famous to accept his proposition.
   Suddenly Jon recalled a guitarist, Charles Berckom, whom he knows personally and who was left out in the cold after his band break up. Charlie must have acquaintances. He could help gather true musicians, find some money, instruments, equipment, advertising, a hall to rent. Jon felt confident he could foot the first few bills with his savings, but then… well, they won't be playing for free, anyhow.
   "Would you like to purchase something, sir?" Jon realised he was standing at the entrance to the most expensive London audio equipment store, which belonged to the Dionysus group. One of the salesmen stood smoking in the doorway, while behoynd him towered shelves of sparkling nickel, metallic plastics, lights of indicators and sensors. Everywhere Jon's eyes landed was the Dionysus emblem: a smiling youth with curly hair, dressed in a tabby pelt. Dionysus: equipment worthy of gods. They sold recordplayers with the ability to choose the right song for its owners current mood, equalizers thatvaried the sound of any recording in any register, taking into account the individual tastes of every listener. They had self-tuning instrumentswhich detected the performer's state of mind and his hidden yearnings, speakers that estimated a halls acoustics and could make adjustments to the tiniest approximations.Jon has often thought that the next generation of Dionysus products will be able to completely exclude humans from the creation process, or use a musicians as keep it as an emotional detail, add-on of machine – without leaving even the possibility of independent choice of melody.
   "Would you like to purchase something, sir?" The salesman repeated his pitch sluggishly as he extinguished his cigarette.
   "I would, indeed." Jon bowed like a jester, throwing up his hands. – "But I can't. At the moment I can't."
   The first thing he did after returning home was call Charles Berckom. Much later, as he was falling asleep, Orfi saw sparkling shelves and a smiling youth wearing a tabby pelt.
   When Jon entered the cafe, Charlie was already waiting at a corner table with several shaggy guys with long hair. All of them looked twenty-five years old, at most.
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