Eternal World Symphony

on February 4, 2015 in Science Fiction

The music never stops completely, but there are lulls, bridging pieces between the movements when most of the orchestra is at rest.

Musicians whose shifts are up depart during these periods as others move in to take their place, and it is only during them that audience members are seated. The intricate dance of ushering patrons to their seats–seats which have just been vacated by departing guests–is as carefully conducted as anything that happens on the stage.

Tickets are priced depending on the location of the seat, the projected duration of the movements, and number and quality of musicians who will be called on to stage them. Anyone who participates in the Eternal World Symphony is guaranteed to be among the best performers of several worlds, but there are stars among stars.

As an adult, I could never afford to sit through more than a single movement in the back of the highest balcony ring during a slow period of the off-season, but I make a point to do so every year or so.

When I was a child, my class was specially selected for the honor of spending the better part of a day at the Eternal World Symphony. In theory we earned it, but in practice the competition was so fierce that it had to be luck as much as anything.

Anyone in the galaxy can receive the archived feed for a moderate price per minute. It’s our world’s principal cultural export. These fees, along with ticket sales, pay for the symphony, though just barely.

It takes a lot longer to compose a piece of music than it does to play it, of course, which means a great many composers must be educated and employed. We’ve gotten clever about this, using algorithms to help create music out of the life and culture of our planet: births, deaths, weather patterns, highs and lows of all sorts.

But we couldn’t very well just stuff data into a computer and play whatever comes out. There has to be a heart in it somewhere. Someone has to take the raw output and turn it into something beautiful.

So we have a small army of musicians playing the music produced by a large army of composers from every quarter of our little planet. Other worlds shake their heads at what they see as a monomaniacal waste of resources, but they still tune in and listen. They still buy the best of tracks. They still pay a fortune to bring the musicians who’ve put their years in to their own worlds to play for them.

We get the symphony feed for free. I listen to it often, when there’s nothing else to do. Some people carry it around in their ears everywhere they go. Still, there’s nothing like hearing it live, nothing like seeing it in action. There’s nothing else like it in inhabited space.

The music never stops. It’s been going for three hundred years and counting.

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One Response to “Eternal World Symphony”

  1. beappleby says:

    This reminds me of the bit in “The Phantom Tollbooth” where there is a great orchestra playing all the colors of the world, and if they stop it’s like a coloring book – just lines. They play silently, but they play the sunrise every morning.

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