Summary: Conservatory AU. This happens in the span of one night.
Notes: A sort-of continuation of Music is communism, but you’re playing democracy. ♥ forochel. This is for myjulien; take it as an extremely belated birthday present.
The two large cello cases were lined up head-to-tail beside each other, filling almost the entire width of the cramped studio. Two students, a woman and a boy, were crouched diagonally opposite each other over their respective instruments, forming a strange sort of symmetry as the boy lifted his cello from its case and the woman lowered hers, the careful economy of their movements perfectly matched.
Presiding over this was a vaguely bored-looking young man, who sat with his cello balanced against one thigh as he cleaned his glasses with the corner of his shirt. He stifled a yawn and nodded goodbye to the woman as the boy wandered over to the chair in front of him and began to set up.
“Tune,” said the man, once the boy was settled and had stopped clattering about. He reached behind him to the piano and tapped out an A before putting his glasses back on. “When Honda-sensei gets back she’s going to have to get this piano tuned.”
Tentatively, the boy repeated the note on the cello. He continued to check the harmonic sounds against each other while the man looked on appraisingly.
In the next twenty minutes the boy was put through his paces, moving from scales and arpeggios to the study his teacher had assigned him a few weeks before. He was a competent player, with plenty of technical skill and a robust sound that could only get better over time, but he seemed nothing if not thrown off by the lack of instruction from the man, who had since propped his own cello up against a nearby chair just so he could sit cross-legged on the piano bench.
“Is there a problem?” asked the man, when the boy stopped playing.
“I can’t get the phrasing right for this section,” the boy told him, after some hesitation.
The man was not a teacher. There were ways of explaining the geography of the instrument, ways to put a concept into words that made sense and made a difference. These eluded him entirely, and not for lack of trying. “It sounds fine to me,” said the man. “Go on.”
The boy nodded, but didn’t move to begin again.
“What is it?” He had an orchestra rehearsal in forty-five minutes and he had no idea what to do about this boy.
“Could you demonstrate, Ninomiya-sensei?”
The gallery was shut but not still; two men remained inside, sorting through a veritable mountain of packaging material.
“I’m going to be late,” said one man, the one who had been better dressed at the beginning of the evening but who had now rolled up his sleeves and removed his tie.
“Let me take care of this, then,” said the other man, fastidiously folding up several squares of bubble wrap.
“If you carry on at this rate, Ohno-kun, you’ll be here till morning,” said the first man with faint exasperation. “Didn’t you say that the installation would take at most half a day? I run a business, you know.”
“Estimation,” Ohno mused, “not my strong suit.”
“So I’ve discovered.”
Together they stacked the cardboard rings together and shoved the rest of the bubble wrap into a large bag for future use.
“Of all things, styrofoam balls,” groaned the first man, surveying the gallery floor. “Couldn’t you just have used more bubble wrap?”
“I’ll sweep them up,” said Ohno. “You’re going to be late.”
“I am late,” said the first man, glancing at his watch in horror.
“Go on - hurry,” said Ohno. “I’ll take care of the rest.”
“Are you sure?”
“I used to do this all the time at the bakery,” Ohno told him. “I got an Efficiency Badge for cleaning up.”
“You were the only employee.”
“There were multiple branches,” replied Ohno. “Now go, Sho-kun.”
Sho glanced at the styrofoam balls and then at his watch, before turning abruptly and bolting out the main entrance.
“Do you miss Japan?” asked the flautist. They were five minutes to performance and standing backstage near the wings, listening to the sounds of the audience filing into the hall.
“Sometimes,” he replied in French, nodding briefly. Somewhere in the background, the basoon player was telling the oboist about how the weather changes were taking a toll on his instrument.
“Your uncle once told me that the only time he longed for home was at the end of a performance,” said the flautist. “He said he would look out at the audience and search in vain for a halfway familiar face.”
“He never told me that.”
The flautist shook her head, smiling. “He wouldn’t have, I think.”
“He used to say that his instrument was his home,” he told her. “I’ve always imagined that would be a lonely thing.”
“It’s a good thing, then, that there are five of us,” said the flautist mischievously.
“Yes,” he agreed, thinking of another time, before this endless cycle of touring and practising, when there had been five of them.
“Please welcome the Czech Philharmonic Wind Quintet, playing a selection of works by Franz Danzi. Joining them for this lunchtime recital is guest clarinetist Jun Matsumoto, who will also be performing Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A later this evening.”
The club was packed when they stepped onstage, and as he gazed out at the crowd he couldn’t help but grin when he noticed how their faces seemed to glow under lights that cast everything in a tranquil shade of blue
He knew, without looking, when the drummer was about to begin - the four of them were perfectly in tune with each other; an effortless familiarity borne of having played together since university.
That classical stuff is nothing compared to this, Nakai had told him, when they had first started. And Nakai would know - nightly he strung the discordant jangling of piano keys together into a sublime tumble of chords. There was a logic in these illogical successions of notes, and they joined together in Aiba’s mind like so many colours in one winding arc. You’re a natural at this, Aiba, was what Nakai had said the first time they jammed together, and every night after.
This was freedom, this was a glorious climb and crest of melody and sound, three instruments in dialogue while his saxophone unfurled over it all, heavy like smoke, one moment harsh and commanding; the next, liquid light.
All his solos were performed with his eyes closed, and when the piano took over he bobbed contentedly for a few moments before opening them again.
There, at the back.
He was seated at one of the small tables, far too absorbed to order a drink. Sorry I’m late, he mouthed.
That’s all right, thought Aiba, leaping back in with a particularly enthusiastic reiteration of the melody line. That’s entirely all right.
They met in the middle of the road.
“Nino!” said Ohno, beaming. “I knew you’d come.”
The wheels on the cello case scraped to a stop. “Well, I did send you a mail three days ago telling you that I would,” Nino replied with faint irritation.
“That must have been it, then.” He was still wearing a grubby, paint-splattered set of overalls, and appeared to have lumped-up balls of bubble wrap stuffed in his pockets.
“Well, show me this exhibition of yours, then,” said Nino. “Consider this a soft, soft opening.”
“Like clouds,” Ohno murmured.
“Though I hear from Sho that a couple of buyers have already come forward?” Nino added, glancing at Ohno with something like pride.
Ohno smiled. “The Lion and the Ferris Wheel, part III seems to have gone down particularly well.”
Together they turned and began heading in the direction Ohno had come from, Nino’s cello case grumbling as he dragged it along behind him.
“How was America?” asked Nino.
Big was an understatement. Ohno’s America had been a huge landscape of unfamiliar streets and closed-off faces, and even with the translator from the gallery accompanying him wherever he went, there had still been a keen sense of disjoint; gaps and distances Ohno had no desire to bridge except through his art, through the strong lines of his caricatures and the eclectic clamour of his numerous figurines.
Ohno considered for a moment. “...yes.”
“Okay,” said Nino, shrugging.
“And how was your rehearsal?”
“The same. Every year we play Mahler. Every year the winds section throws a tantrum.”
They didn’t behave at all like two people who hadn’t met in a long time. As they traversed the quiet street, it seemed as if they belonged exactly there, their intermittent shadows blending into the night, falling effortlessly into step with each other.
“I met Jun-kun when I was in New York,” said Ohno. “He looked different.”
“Like a traveller,” said Ohno. “Weary.”
“That’s just you being whimsical again.”
“Possibly,” Ohno conceded. “Though he’s also got this incredible asymmetrical sideways-perm. It’s very artistic.”
“Welcome back, Oh-chan.”
Sho should have been asleep.
Instead, he sat hunched over his laptop in the living room, going through all the numbers again on the multiple spreadsheets he had open. The night’s music had left him pleasantly buzzed, and a strange sort of calm settled in him as he worked.
He was just working through a particularly tangled section (aptly titled GALLERY BUDGET - what?!!) when his phone chimed.
“What is it?” Aiba mumbled, from where he was curled up on a nearby couch under multiple layers of blankets. He sometimes elected to crash at Sho’s, rather than return to the unheated hole of a room he was renting for dirt price.
Sho glanced up from his phone, unable to hold back his smile. “It’s good news,” he told Aiba.
From: Matsumoto Jun
I perform in fifteen minutes
but just thought I’d let you
Think it’s time for me to
An Evening of Brahms took place in a considerably smaller hall than a soloist of Matsumoto Jun’s caliber should have been used to. After all, whispered some members of the audience, it was ludicrous to attempt to compare a modest conservatory auditorium to Carnegie or even Japan’s Suntory Hall. But Jun had chosen, and people flocked to buy tickets regardless.
“We are delighted to present to you Brahms’ Clarinet Trio Opus 114, with Matsumoto Jun on the clarinet. Joining him is Ninomiya Kazunari, first cellist with the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, and student pianist Ishihara Satomi.”
When they took to the stage there was a perceptibly different atmosphere in the recital hall; people were sitting up a little bit, glancing at their programme booklets again to match the names to the players.
Nino opened with the first phrase, almost cradling the simple melody, and Sho thought he heard Aiba take in a deep breath like he couldn't believe the sound that was emerging. And then Jun's clarinet began, and Sho wasn't sure if he could breathe. Jun and Nino were effortlessly in sync as they cut through the leap and scuttle of the piano, breaking off into a conversation; echo and chorus as the cello swelled and the clarinet blossomed exquisitely alongside it.
Aiba's eyes were shut as he listened; a pity, because Sho found himself entirely unable to tear his gaze away from the trio. Nino had looked oddly young in his suit when he had first stepped onstage, fiddling slightly with his chair so he could align it with his stopper and stand. But now, hunched over his cello (Jun was right about his incurably bad posture) and drawing his bow easily, powerfully across the strings, he seemed completely different: his face a pale picture of concentration, brow creased into a slight frown. Jun, on the other hand, possessed a mesmerising animation that went well with the easy clarity of his tone, navigating the piece with the same confidence with which his mother and uncle had once lit their respective stages.
It was highly possible that the young lady on Sho's other side had been reduced to tears by the middle of the second movement; Aiba on his left was sitting stock still, as if paralysed by the wonder and melancholy of the passage. Nino appeared not to be playing a mere instrument - his every note was a settling and tugging in Sho's chest. It was to this rich furling of tone that Jun clung to while the piano part continued like so much lushness and light.
The end of the third movement saw them passing the melody from player to player, each rendition of the refrain more charming than the next. When they meandered to its tranquil conclusion it was as if they were back in school again; all five of them caught up in the strange magic that had been the promise of their futures, that mix of youth and fearlessness that had made them invincible. Ishihara finished her last arpeggio the same time Sho reached over to touch Aiba's arm, smiling in the darkness.
They’d each found a different sort of magic, now.
Note: Title is still a shameless Epik High reference. :x
Oscine Trio performs Brahms' Clarinet Trio Op 114, 1st Movement