Overlooking the Staatsoper, the Rathaus, the Parlament and the Burgtheater Johann ticked his finger up and down. The lighting made a group of freshmen look as if they flickered underneath an ethereal golden waterfall. They danced and laughed on the market place, took pictures and were allowed to be free. A girl with blond hair in a white dress caught Johann’s attention. The others talked while she almost tiptoed away. He lowered his finger but stopped it from rising again. Her smile. Mesmerising. He stamped his feet on the wooden floor, watched her move around a street lamp. Graceful and delicate. She’s smiling still. And she came around to the other side, his side, the dress and the hair moved like a C Major played by a violin. Back to C, but from where? Not some place dangerous, some place of comfort and trust. Of the golden waterfall and the blend between baroque and renaissance architecture. Was she even real? Could she disappear at any moment if he just closed his eyes? He raised his finger and closed his eyes. She was gone. And so was the group of students.
Johann sat down at the klavier.
“In C Major. A gentle, tiptoeing note. One… One-two… One-TWO. And we can only hear her feet on a meadow. Only see her feet. Maybe a flash of that white dress at the top end at every two-note, but it’s clearly focused on her naked ankles. Curved feminine feet. That smile though? How do I write that smile?”
He stood up and walked over to the window. The creaking of the wooden floor did nothing for him. It usually inspired something. Gentlemen smoked outside of a café. What could they discuss? Aesthetics probably. He had to open the window to hear them. Ah yes, aesthetics.
“… she’s so hot in that-”
“What? Are you kidding me? She’s fat! She’s humongous.”
Maybe she’s sneaking away from a danger. An escalating danger. Something’s hunting her. The question is what. An abstract theme, such as a vanishing beauty. If she only treads lightly and doesn’t take such long leaps her beauty might last longer. Or is she sneaking past a lusting man. A man who hasn’t missed an opportunity. A representation of all men and what? Chivalry? No. Not chivalry. It’s hopeless. No inspiration.
“I should have been a painter.” He put on his coat. “To take what you see and put it into the same format, from seeing to seeing. Not from seeing to hearing. Maybe even imagining, believing something and then to music. Nope. It’s not easy.”
Johann crossed the market place and walked into the lobby of the Staatsoper. “Haydn will help me. He always has.”
“Excuse me? Uhm, sir? Are you talking to me?”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to bother you.”
“It’s okay, sir. If you-”
Johann hurried away, into the auditorium. “Okay, Joseph. Teach me. Teach me as you did Ludwig. Overwhelm me.” The music started playing.
“What? This is Daphne by Strauss.” Johann stared at his ticket. He rubbed his eyes. Still unclear. “Good man, can you read to me the opera title of this ticket?”
“Uhm, yes.” The man turned around and looked at the ticket. “It’s Daphne by Richard Strauss.”
“Thank you.” Johann left the seat. “I have seen Daphne. I want to see my Daphne. But her name is Ingrid.”
“Sir? Are you alright?”
“Yes. Sorry to bother you.”
Johann ran out. Smiles, laughter, the stone squares of the market place of the Innenstadt. He walked up the stairs, to his apartment.
“All those youngsters. Copies of Ingrid. Their collarbones and their long necks close to symmetry, but covered in ink. Modern spots, not pure. Like my Ingrid.” He sat down at the klavier. “Where was I? Ah, the approaching of Ingrid. One… One-two… one-TWO. Naked feet on a stone meadow. No, not an urban meadow. A far off meadow of mythological proportions. She lets me in there. I get to see her dance over the dew covered grass. Will she ever reach me? The ominous winds tell me no, but her smile. I can’t concentrate on the smile. Not right now. The naked skin against the grass and the occasional fluttering of the dress. If I just stay here. If I can stay there I’ll never have to think about the unknown, the meaning of smiles and winds. We’re just in a moment full of promises. Not yet committing to see if she’ll ever reach me. Not yet ready to face her smile.”
The following nights Johann sat at the window, lowered and raised his finger while stamping on the floor. Students came and left the golden waterfall of the Innenstadt. He added and removed parts to his composition.
“Ingrid, please help me. Do you have straight hair or curly?”
“What?” The nurse leaned forward. “I have short hair, but I guess it’s kind of curly. Now Johann, can’t you play us a fine song at the clavier? That one song. It always makes me cry.”
“Ah of course.”
“The one, what was it called?”
“Ingrid, but I wrote it so long ago, I barely remember.”
“You always say that. It’s starts in C.”
“C Major. Yes, but then?”
“Come, Sophia. He’s going to play ‘Ingrid’. I don’t know. Something about a golden waterfall and a meadow.”
“…and moments of promise. I remember now.”
“It’s such a beautiful melody.”
“Beautiful? Maybe. It’s a love full of suspense. Will she reach him?”
“What do you think?”
“Ha! I have spent a lifetime thinking about the answer when I should have spent a lifetime finding out.”
Johann closed his eyes and started playing.
“Wait.” Sophia put her hand on his shoulder. “Why didn’t you find out then? You’re so kind and nice. I’m sure she would have liked you.”
Johann placed his hand on his knees. “Because I built something out of a fragment.”
The image is of the Musikverein in Vienna, Austria and from the good people of PacHD at www.pachd.com