The Collaboration

by John Knouse

Lou looked around at the group seated in the woodland glen. He glanced at the paper in his hand, and spoke.

"Looks like all are here that are going to show up," he said. "At this point, I'm in, Frankie's in, Rob's in, Felix is in, and John is in."

"What about Pete?" Frankie asked.

"You know what's about Pete, Frankie," John said. "He hates my guts and absolutely refuses to be a part of this, the saccharine charlatan that he is."

Frankie stiffened. "Oh, please, I know he's your 'special friend,'" John continued. "I can't help it if he's off in a snit."

"Please, please, guys," Felix piped up. "Let's just all get along so we can do something great."

"So what about Serge R?" John asked. He said it "Surger."

"Not certain, John. But I think he's going to show up and pitch in some. Maybe Wolfie, too." He sighed. "IF he ever stops flitting around with the ladies and settles in a bit. You'd think, after over two centuries--"

"How are we going to divvy it up?" Rob interrupted.

"Well," Lou said, "The way it looks like it'll work out best is this: John and Rob work together on the first movement, Frankie takes the second, maybe with help from Pete if he ever climbs off his high horse, Felix will do the third, a short third, unless maybe Surger works with him, and I'll do the last, and I'm hoping I'll have Wolfie in on it. If he ever gets it in his head that he needs to--"

This time Felix interrupted, "But we all review and critique each other."

"Right," Lou said. "We each write out sketches and themes for our part, then give copies to each other. We then each come up with some ideas for variations and combinations and such, and give it back to whoever's doing that part. Then we write out a whole draft of our part, keeping in mind each other's ideas, and again exchange them and review them. Then we make a second draft which we each review in its entirety, and we get together and hash it all out together. Then we find some poor unsuspecting sucker to channel it through."

"It's going to have to be someone thoroughly versed," John protested. "I will not have my work run through some dribbling fool!"

"Relax, John," Rob said. "There's plenty to choose from. I'm sure that we'll find someone with the sensibilities that we need."

"Like yours?" Felix almost sneered. "Someone whose brain goes bezing around the corner at the drop of a hat?"

Rob glowered at him. "Like you were any angel," he said.

"Well, maybe I am now."

"I was just a little depressed," Rob insisted.

"You're all a bunch of fools," John muttered.

"Please, please, gentlemen," Frankie pleaded.

"Yes, gents, let's get back to the work at hand," Lou added.

"Hey, Lou, how come you're so much nicer and more diplomatic now than you used to be, anyway?" Frankie asked. "You used to be known as an old--"

"Enough," Lou growled. "Maybe I know what's going on now because I can hear it all."

They shortly adjourned the meeting. True to all their words, they were diligent in their work, and even Wolfie and

chipped in as hoped. Pete remained choleric about the whole thing and refused to participate.

They met again some time afterwards to review progress.

"Hey, Louie, I like your sketches," Rob said, " Thanks for farming them out, so I could read your beat."

Lou rolled his eyes. "My God," he said, "Can't you come up with better puns than that?"

Rob, looking smug, said, "Look, if Surger can call one of his The Rock, I can play with words, too."

"Anyway," Wolfie said, "I had something to do with it."

"Yes," Lou said, "When I finally pried you away from that little--"

"Hey, you're not my father, so don't sound like him!" Wolfie snapped.

"Lou knows he's good," John said. "Mine are good, too."

Wolfie looked a little pained. "Do yours have to be so gooey?" he asked. John was momentarily speechless. Wolf hastened to add, as John lifted his finger and furrowed his brow, "But really, I think it's really good. We just need to make sure that the whole thing goes well together."

"Well, Wolfie, it's a little difficult working with Rob, you know, but I'm doing my best," John replied.

"I beg your pardon?" Rob asked. "Whose idea was that whole progression of cadences in the middle?"

"I'm not denying that you are contributing," John conceded.

"Hey, Frankie," Felix said, "This looks like you finally wrote your third movement."

Frankie just shrugged. "You know I actually wrote it a long time ago. It just wasn't quite right. I always meant to get back to it. . ."

When finally they finished, it was a monumental work they had on their hands.

"Gack," Frankie noted, "This might be too much to push through anyone's brain."

"Gack? Frankie, what's this Gack, anyway?" Wolfie asked, having finally showed up to join the meeting.

"Just some slang I picked up off a recent arrival," he explained.

"You'd think we had Tony B. and Gus and Gummo the one-man band doing the orchestration," Rob complained. "Good grief, we'll need at least an ensemble of five hundred!"

"Why not?" Surger shrugged. "You do what you need to make the music."

"A Khoisan click singer?" John asked. "Just what the hell--"

Frankie bridled. "I think it'll work very well, thank you, John."

"I sure never could have imagined anything like this," Wolfie said. "It's taken me the last century just to get comfy with Surger's and Pete's work, and this is way over the top from there."

"The ultimate Romanticism," Frankie told him, brightly.

"Don't you think two hours is a little long?" Lou asked.

"Tony B. took longer, you know that," John growled. "He took longer with everything he did. But maybe we should clip it a little."

"Yes," Felix added, "I'm afraid they're right, gents. I don't think we could ever force this through anyone's existing neurons."

They breathed a collective sigh. "All right," Lou said, "Let's get back to work."

They finally pared it down to an hour and a quarter, and down to a cast of only two hundred. Then they began looking in earnest for their target.

"I've got him," Felix told the group, triumphantly. "Ernest Kohler."

"Nice Deutschisch name," John announced.

"Hear, hear," Louis added.

"Sounds good to me," Frankie said.

"What's wrong with a nice Russian kid?" asked Surger.

"You're outvoted, Surger," Rob said. "We're all quite Teutonic in this bunch. Except for you. But you're a nice guy anyway."

"Yeah, well," Surger grunted, "You'd think there'da been another Russie in on this."

"Anyway," Felix said, "I think we can get this on tap through him."

"But wait, wait!" John said. "What do we know about him other than his name?"

Wolfie spoke up. "Is it someone who can handle fame as well as I did?"

"Hopefully better," Louie said. "Hopefully a LOT better. I mean, you're still fooling around with every--"

"So tell us, Felix," John demanded, "What about him?"

"Well," Felix replied, "First of all, he's been wanting to write a symphony. I think that's kind of a prerequisite. Second, he's bright. Well, actually, more of a quiet genius. He loves classical music, and would like to think himself," Felix grinned slyly, "a reincarnation of Johnny, here."

Several of them snickered; John sniffed but looked pleased.

Felix continued, "He's not been very successful so far, because of problems with depression. Seems to go with genius a lot, eh, Rob?"

"Yeah, I'm not the only one," Rob said. "I mean, Frankie here, and of course, you know Pete, and even you, Louis, to some extent."

"Don't forget me," Wolfie added.

"You're just looking for an excuse," John said.

"I actually had an excuse," Lou said. "You know it turns out I had lead poisoning."

"Anyway, this guy's actually written some pieces that aren't bad," Felix continued, "He's got some talent, already."

"But he's an unknown?" John queried, complainingly.

"Well, yes, John, but he's open to input."

"Don't you think someone more prestigious would have a better chance of getting it into performance?" John persisted.

"Yes, John, I don't doubt it," Felix replied, exasperated, "But you know, I've told you and told you, someone like that just isn't open to this kind of input. Like, we could never shove this into YOUR head if you were out there still."

"That's right," Frankie said, "John's so full of himself that there's room for nothing else."

"Please, please!" Louis said. "Let's be gentlemen here!"

"In any case," Surger chipped in, "I'm confident that this one will be SO good that even an unknown can get it into performance."

"Right," Felix said, "That's the point."

"Perhaps he could enter some competitions," Surger continued. "I'm sure he can't take the whole thing at once, so he can perhaps create part of one movement as a competition piece, and start getting play that way."

The download, as it were, went successfully. As Surger had noted, it was necessary to channel the music bit by bit, repeating a bit here and there as they went along. As predicted, a shorter work opened the door to the possibility of the longer work being performed.

Some time later, the group met again after the first full performance. "Look at that!" Rob said, grinning from ear to ear, "Look at that review!"

The others looked where he pointed. The review read:

A fantastic new composer has written a fantastic new symphony. Steeped in classical and romantic traditions but with a sense of progressive exploration, it's as if Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Brahms and Rachmaninoff had all gotten together to cooperate to give their finest. . .

"Well, hell," Wolfie said, "Uh, so to speak. . .They actually remember us!"

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