A jacket on a pile of clean but unfolded laundry. It was all approximately clean anyways, not too much of a dirtiness gradient going on. Standing quietly, meekly, behind the burgeoning cotton hill, was a dusty monolith trying hopelessly to hide its ebony black bulk from sight. An old grand piano. In better days, she was a magnificent New York Steinway Model D with a black satin finish and a penchant for Debussy, whose glittering whole-tone runs and lush, yet restrained, 20th century vocabulary perfectly showcased her sparkling high end and responsive yet firm action.
But, like an old retired spinster, she fell into disuse and faded into obscurity. What was the point?
I wandered around the apartment restlessly, looking for something of interest, even though I knew I wouldn’t find it. Everything was so familiar, old, worn from overuse. What was the use in buying another useless trinket? I’d only bore of it over time, another lap in the infinite race to achieving something more than a passing interest in anything.
Shelves. Endless shelves. At least, they once seemed endless. Hard disks, CDs, LPs, cassette tapes, printed scores, even inane wind-up toys playing out-of-tune “Twinkle, Twinkle”s and “Frere Jacque”s. Slowly, carefully, I’d gathered them all. What started as a few of my favorite piano works grew to encompass the complete oeuvre of the Romantic piano masters. Why stop there though? Bach, Berlioz, Boulez, Count Basie, Beatles, The. 25 letters left to go, might as well try. Try to finish it, complete what I’d started. All the music in the world. And when someone created something new? It would be mine. I would wait.
All the music there would ever be.
The academics argued, the news outlets exaggerated. It happened, eventually. Frustrated composers wondered what other soundworlds existed, if theirs was the only one. Searching, hoping for some forgotten detail, in vain. Same old laundry. Same old shelves. Same old sounds. There would be no more music.
No celebration. No joy that my long task was finally done, that no more shelves were to be conscripted into eternal servitude in those dark corridors.
My muse was mortal, after all. And she was dead.
Somehow, today, I felt something new. Anger. What foolish endeavor had led me here? Broke and alone, left with only these obsolete, meaningless trifles from another age. This bereaved widower had mourned long enough in the shadows. Turning away from the suffocating mass of plastic and vinyl, I noticed something on my desk: a match. Taking it carefully, I struck it against the brick wall and watched a flame spring into life. I watched as my hand let the flickering light fall to the ground. I left.
And it burned. All the music in the world burned on a funeral pyre made of wood, and brick, and linoleum. My apartment burned. And while it burned, it crackled and roared. The timbers groaned and creaked, crashing down occasionally in a thunderous cacophony.
I thought to myself, with a smile, “Nobody has ever heard the burning of all the music in the world. Nobody has ever heard a phoenix sing so beautifully.”