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Xavier Perez-Pons

GHOSTLY SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

“It’s rats,” Johanna Jones told herself to calm down when, from her warm bed in the attic, she heard for the first time an orchestra playing Beethoven’s 9th symphony in the basement. However, deep down she was perfectly aware that, in general, rats don’t know music theory, and music theory is essential to play in an orchestra. She knew this because her father had been the most skillful one-man-orchestra east of the Mississippi River until he got eaten alive by a tuba.
Indeed, Seymour Jones was a real virtuoso who used to play by himself all the instruments of the orchestra at the same time, from stringed ones (violin, cello, viola, double basses…) to wind ones (oboe, trombone, tuba, clarinet, trumpet, flutes…) in addition to piano and timpani, with remarkable expertise. “How did he manage?” you’ll ask. My own imagination does not go so far, but since testimonies of the period are not lacking, there is no reason to doubt that he did.
But now Seymour Jones was dead and buried in Old Burial Ground. So, who used to play Beethoven at night in the basement?
At that time (mid-19th century) there were no sound recordings yet. All music was played live. And in Jones’ two-story house on the outskirts of Windsor, no one lived but Miss Jones, the only daughter of the deceased. Some forefathers of Psychoanalysis suggested that Beethoven’s symphony was performed inside Miss Jones’ head. However, that idea did have a flaw: psychoanalysts themselves could hear the music while at her home. (They solved the difficulty by claiming that the symphony was performed inside Miss Jones’ head and broadcasted through her ears. But that claim had neither head nor tail.)
Given the notoriety of the news, the government decided to send to Windsor a team of experts in quirky auditory phenomena (such as castrato singing, siren singing, or thug grinding of teeth) with the mission of putting a little common sense in that weird affair. This team of experts (among which was the famous maracas player ‘Manguito’) was headed by Tom Brandt, a secret service agent who had an extensive musical knowledge acquired by dint of humming popular melodies.
Well, it happened that Tom Brandt was attracted to Miss Jones and, to impress her, he didn’t stop humming ‘Lillibullero’ and, in order to make an even stronger impression, he requested her permission to spend one night locked in the basement. She was truly impressed by his stupidity. The volume of the music was too loud for anyone locked up in such a small space to bear it. But as he insisted, she was forced to give her consent.
That night, a quick succession of drum beats that were not in the Beethoven’s sheet music were heard intermingled with the symphony. It was Tom Brandt banging his head against the locked door in desperation. Using this method, eventually he managed to knock the door down, thus escaping certain death.
But, apart from hearing Beethoven’s 9th symphony at full blast, what did Tom Brandt see in the basement? Everyone expected him to say “A one-ghost-orchestra!” Yet to general astonishment, he blamed everything on Beethoven and his damn fixation with composing music that he wasn’t able to hear himself.

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