Can’t Stop the Music

One morning, I heard a story on NPR.

As is often the case [and as my Beloved can attest] I have no memory of any of the specific details. I don’t remember the name of the city, or the name of the reporter, or the name of the country it took place in. All I can remember is the shape of the story.

A city on a crossroads, a mix of different cultures and ethnic backgrounds. Musicians found each other in tiny bars, in parks, in hidden nightclubs. And they played. They combined their styles into something new,  a new song, a new kind of music. I remember it sounded like a kind of heartsick jazz, but electric and wandering.  A crossroads of melody, an exploration more than a fusion. It was new, so new — and it only existed in one city in the wide world.

Then the War came. I don’t remember the dates or the enemy or the cause. The musicians fled, or hid. Their religions or creeds or skin colors a danger. And the new music was gone.

War crushed the music under his boot.

Art by Kay Nielsen (1914) from the book, EAST OF THE SUN AND WEST OF THE MOON.
Art by Kay Nielsen (1914) from the book, EAST OF THE SUN AND WEST OF THE MOON.

Years later, a wanderer came to the city. A woman, a musician’s child. She stumbled into an antique store to buy a mirror, a memento of her journey. Her father came from this city and had filled her young ears with tales of the time before, and the music he had once played. The peddler wrapped the mirror for her and the woman told him about her father. The peddler stopped and laid the mirror down on the counter. He vanished into the back room and returned with a box, a box of old photographs and sheet music.

[Almost none of this was in the broadcast, this is what I saw in my head while I listened.]

“I played with your father,” the peddler said.

And the woman had an idea. She asked the peddler if he knew if any of the old musicians were still in the city. He did. Her idea grew brighter.

Phone calls and letters and emails and the woman’s feet pounding down the dusty streets of the city.

The musicians came together again. They came together and they played. For the first time in decades.

The new music, the melody of the crossroads, the forgotten jazz of the dusty city.

The NPR story played clips of them performing in New York, apparently they’ve been touring for the past several months. But that’s not the point of this story.

The point is why I had to turn my head away from my carpool buddy, so they wouldn’t see me tearing up. This story got me, even though I can’t remember any of the details.

Because the shape of the story is this: the Music won. Just like it always does, like it always will. War and Death and Time and Decay and Rot lost. They fucking lost. The primal powers of the cosmos defeated by a melody. The last magic in the hands of the human race, the best product of our wayward minds and stutter-light souls.

And that’s why it moved me. The NPR story that I barely remember.

I don’t talk about my beliefs. But let me say this. I believe in the Music.

Let all we make be the Music, that turns aside the grip of the universe, that outpaces the weapons of War and Death, and shines brighter through Time and the Dark.

This was a weird story.

Thanks, NPR.

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