Wolust ward dem Wurm gegeben!
(Pleasure was given to the worm)
Schiller / Beethoven
Lenny lived with his Mum. They lived in the garden under a stone near the rose bush. His grandad lived close by and often brought his friend Sam round to see them.
Lenny was really interested in that because some time ago he had met up with some musicians and wanted to learn about music and the instruments they played.
Then, one evening, Lenny met someone who seemed to want to thank him for something.
Just now it was summer and there were always concerts going on around them, but his mum would not let him go to any because it was after his bed-
But Lenny didn’t know about instruments, so he said, I don’t know Sir, what do you suggest?
Something was making a kind of buzzing noise in the corner of the room. That must be the harp, thought Lenny. Someone must be having a lesson.
Yes, the teacher said. All the white notes have names. There are only seven and this one is the most important. He pointed it out. It was just below the one Lenny liked best. They are called A B C D E F and G. That one is C, and so is that one. The one you seem to like is called D. They are all repeated on and on. This way is down, that way is up.
The black notes are the same really, but they don’t have their own names, and they have to share them. You can come back tomorrow and learn all about that for your next lesson.
The teacher looked at Lenny. He said I don’t think you could play a wind instrument, but you might be able to hold a fiddle and bow, although it could be hard for you to find the strings.
I think you need to learn the piano. First you can learn to play the high notes and then the low notes.
The teacher explained. There they are he said. Those are all the notes, there between those lines. At least some are on the lines and some are in the spaces. You can start anywhere and after seven notes the next will be like the note you started on. You will be home.
Lenny could not remember him, but he always tried to be polite so he said. Do you know any music teachers? Yes he replied. I am a musician myself. I play the harp. What instrument do you want to learn?
The stranger said, Come round to my place. It is easy to find. I live there on my own now! We can talk about it there.
Of course Lenny knew the way there. The next evening he arrived. The kind gentleman was busy. Here, he said, just look at this while I finish what I’m doing, showing Lenny a nice picture.
Lenny heard that there were music teachers in the garden and he kept asking his mum if he could go to the one who taught singing near the pond, but she didn’t think that would be a good idea.
It was quiet now. The lesson must be over he thought. The teacher returned. He was wiping his mouth.
Yes he said, looking at the picture. That was one of the old fiddle players. He was once very good, but he won’t be playing any more.
One more thing did worry Lenny. At least it was many things. He could not hear very well, he could not see very well and he could not move very quickly. Also he could not sing, but he did not think that would matter.
When he mentioned his worries, the teacher just waved his arms and said, That doesn’t matter at all. There is only one thing that counts, Muscle Memory, I think you could have that.
It didn’t seem right, but he would have to go on to find home. Then there was another surprise. The home note was in a space, not on a line as he expected, and he would pass it by on his next move.
Then Lenny had another thought. He was not really very good at counting, so this is what he decided to do. He would climb up the keyboard on the inside where it was safe and the black and white notes were the same size and make one step for each. But first he had to get himself in shape, but what shape? That was the problem.
Now he tried to picture what it would be like and there it was in his mind’s eye, one very long ladder. Perhaps it went on for ever both ways. You would have to get on it in the middle. Perhaps you would get lost unless there was something to mark the way.
Lenny was quite happy now because that was one thing he was good at. Also he had heard someone, probably Sam, say that thinking about something was just as good as doing it, and that was when Lenny had his first big idea.
At the next lesson Lenny explained what he had done. The teacher looked very interested. He said Good! Good! You have done very well, but see how you get on with these.
Lenny did not like them very much, especially the sharp. He had heard that word before. It was very scary. It reminded him of something that happened to one (or was it two) of his friends.
The flat was not much better. It reminded him of a bad thing that had happened to another of his friends
Yes, the Teacher added. If you want to start somewhere else, here is what you need to do.
But what if getting lost and finding yourself again was what music was all about? He would ask his teacher about that next lesson.
At last the thing that decided it for him was practise. There were so many notes and he would have to learn to play two at a time, so even now he could read music, there would be a lot to do. He though to himself. I will go and talk to Sam. He helped me out before. I am sure he would know what to do. In fact Lenny was so sure he knew what Sam would say, that he did not even ask.
Then, one day, he saw his reflection in a mirror. He had heard about string theory; that must be easier than music! He could always give it a try.
So that was how Lenny made his big mistake!
He was so excited that he could not wait to tell the teacher what he had done.
It was hard work. Lenny had to go up and down the keyboard several times before the teacher even began to understand. Then he scratched his head and thought for a long time and came out with this. Yes, that’s very interesting. You have done so well that I think you should go to another teacher. I know just the one. He lives in the middle of the pond. He could help you a lot.
But that is not the end of the story. Lenny could see now that he was not built to be a musician, maybe he could be a composer. He thought he must be good at something. He liked working things out. That ought to be it.
Lenny was very excited. He had not thought it would be that easy. But when the next lesson started there was a big surprise waiting for him. He had to learn to read the notes from a book and they did not look the same at all.
That’s right said Lenny. He often said that when he hadn’t a clue what was going on, but he did begin to wonder if this person was really a teacher after all.
Lenny was a bit worried about the black notes. He thought they had something to do with the black lines, but the teacher said they did not and that this time they were hidden, either in the spaces or on the lines.
Climb the steps and watch the lines, he thought. Climb the steps and watch the lines.
Was it three steps between the lines
This one is called a sharp
and this one is a flat.
You need them if you want to start from somewhere else.
It was the talk of the vegetable patch. Later that evening before Sam went off to work, Lenny’s mum read out the bit where Mr S (as they called him) had bragged about his invention.
Then she read out what the real musicians thought about it all. That was when Lenny decided not to mention that it was all his idea. She turned the pages and continued,
‘His claim to have abolished sharps and flats was the biggest trick of all, because they must still be there, but no one would see them coming until it was too late!’
Grandad cleared his throat and spoke up. He were a bad lot, that one. They do say that he would have got rid of all of them clefs. It would have put honest folk out of work.
There was a quiet cough in the corner. Grandad was going to speak again, but, as usual, he took his time. First there’s the high notes, he said, and then there’s the low notes!
The high notes and the low notes: his lips popping on his pipe to confirm that these were the last words on the matter.
A week or so later Len’s Mum glanced at Grandpa’s newspaper.
Nobody knew what to say next, but they did wonder what Grandad had put in his pipe. In any case they were all waiting for Sam to finish his breakfast and speak up, because what Sam didn’t know about lines and spaces wasn’t worth knowing.
Were all steps the same size, or were some bigger than others?
Should Lenny stretch himself out? He could do that quite easily, or should he move the lines?
He thought he would try that way first.
It was all getting to be too difficult. It was the counting. Lenny had had a problem with that before. He was only happy counting up to one, but he did wonder whether he might manage to get to two. Perhaps he should try now. And that was when he had his second big idea, not that it was really an idea. He would just climb up the keyboard two steps at a time.
Lenny tried to think what the hard ones might be like, but he couldn’t get his head round it.
If you want to start on the second line, you will need to hang one of these on the top line.
If you want to start in the first space, you will need to hang one of these on the middle line.
Those are the easiest!
Then he had another thought. To go on up was just like starting again. And what about going further down. Wouldn’t that be the same also? So although Lenny was not good at counting, he could see that you could go on like this up and down the whole keyboard.
Lenny had been lost before and he thought to himself, would it be better to be lost in a forest because all of the trees were different, or to be lost because all of the trees were the same? He did not know the answer to that, but he thought that his teacher would.
Of course he hoped that Lenny would not have a problem with that.
Lenny thought about it. He did not like the idea of crossing the water and recently he had heard some bad things about the person who lived there. Everyone said he had a wicked tongue. Lenny did not quite know what that meant.
Lenny learns his Scales
They would talk about all sorts of things, but especially the interesting people they met on their nights out. Once when it was just getting light they met a pair of distinguished musicians who seemed to want to talk to them. One of them even wanted to put Sam on a stone for a kind of audition, but they were interrupted. It was most unfortunate!
Then another surprise. It was the same as the note that he started on. He was home again. That was when he knew that he could go further up, so he did.
It was easy. Nothing was going to stop him. And he was right. Almost before he knew what had happened, he was at the top and on the short step above it.
He had visited all of the white and black notes
And there wasn’t a or a in sight.
He showed Lenny the keyboard. It looked nice. It had black and white notes on it. Lenny could see at once that there was one special note. A white one between two black ones and almost in the centre. Then he noticed that it was repeated on each side.