Discover more from Pass Along Songs
One Note - I
The Motely Crew
“When we sit with images and sounds, rather than flee farther into our rational minds, the imagination quietly reawakens to the possibilities of wonder and awe.” - William O’ Daly
Ryan Kumar (Busk): The son of computer programmers who immigrated from Punjab, India to London to pursue careers in cybersecurity, Ryan lives and breathes music. Despite his obvious talent (he has been able to play almost any instrument he picks up from an early age) his parents believed it would be a mistake to encourage him. Not only did they discourage his interest in music, but made it clear that their support depended on him studying computer science. After pursuing a degree in cybersecurity, Ryan entered his father’s firm and has been working there for six years. Unbeknownst to his parents, however, he has never stopped playing the guitar or writing songs. On the weekends, he performs at a spot down by the River Thames where he has a small but loyal following. His AltLife name, Busk, refers to “busking,” the word used to describe street musicians who perform in public places for donations.
Aakesh and Junal Kumar: Originally from Punjab, India they are the parents of Ryan and his two younger siblings Myra and Juneeta. Trained in cybersecurity, they started their own small firm and have built a reputation for being both professional and excellent at their work. When Ryan graduated college, they brought him into the firm thinking he would eventually take over when they retire. However, Ryan’s love of music and what doctors believe is narcolepsy have been ongoing concerns.
Stefan Meier (Dizzy): A German neuroscientist and music aficionado whose groundbreaking research into how the brain translates sounds into music has won him international respect and acclaim. He is particularly interested in how different kinds of music - classical, heavy metal, ballads, instrumentals, rock, etc. - affect the emotional center of the brain. Stefan lost his wife Astrid less than six months ago.
Astrid Meier: Stefan’s beloved wife who passed as a result of the contagion. Grief-stricken and lonely, Stefan finally agreed to join his good friend Jessica in the virtual world of AltLife in hopes of meeting new people and hearing some good music.
Cedary Sequoia (Cedary): A botanist, environmental activist, and full-blooded Cherokee whose work centers around the interconnectedness of trees in old-growth forests. Her essays and published papers have been instrumental in educating the public about the important role trees play in maintaining healthy ecosystems. Cedary (pronounced Say-Dar-ee) believes that trees are sentient beings and their preservation is critical to restoring the health and balance of the planet and its inhabitants. She and Stefan met at a conference and became friends after he invited her to visit his home in Hummel and spend time amongst the old-growth beech forest there.
Kelly Grossman (the Valkyrie): A young reporter with the southern California paper, “The Inland Burbs Gazette” Kelly covers gaming and tech news for the paper. She was assigned to cover the audio anomaly (often referred to as the “audio virus”) and has been doing interviews with Stefan Meier, a well-respected neuroscientist who does research on the effects of music on the brain. Kelly has been involved with an old boyfriend from high school named Clive, who disapproves of her interest in the audio anomaly and has been pushing to be allowed to move in.
Clive Seedorf: Kelly Grossman’s long-time boyfriend from high school. Like Kelly, Clive aspired to be a journalist until life intervened and he was forced to take over his father’s auto repair shop. Clive has been pressuring Kelly to move in with her.
Samantha Evans: Editor of “The Inland Burbs Gazette,” who sees the story she assigned Kelly as her ticket back to the big leagues in newspaper publishing. She is not afraid to rock the boat if it generates buzz and page views for the paper.
Jessica Chang: A neuroscientist researching and teaching classes on social-emotional learning in children at a major university in southern California. Jessica is a fan of Stefan Meir’s work and a supporter of the Music Road Trip venue in AltLife. It was Jessica who urged Stefan to join AltLife after his wife passed away from the contagion.
The Music Road Trip Venue: A small club in the virtual world of AltLife started by Ryan Kumar (Busk), Stefan Meier (Dizzy), and Cedary Sequoia (Cedary) who wanted to create a place where friends could come and enjoy good music without having to worry about being infected by the virus in physical reality.
The first question they always ask is, “What did you do?”
The second is, “Who are you?”
And the third, the inevitable third, “Why you?”
The simple answers are, “Nothing, no one special, and not a clue.” But they don’t want to hear that. Like dozens before her, this uninvited newshound was hoping to get an exclusive - to ferret out an undiscovered clue - to trick me into telling her how we pulled it off. Because the truth was just too hard to accept.
Here’s the truth. I have no idea what combination of people, events, and songs triggered the anomaly, but if I did I sure as hell wouldn’t tell a journo sporting a Jessica Rabbit avatar named Hot Tips.
After the third question, I called up my gestures menu, selected “Fold Arms” and “Scowl,” then waited for Hot Tips’s inevitable, “Fuck You!” and middle finger salute as she teleported away.
“Wow Busk, you sure told her, didn’t you?” Dizzy smirked from his seat atop the pile of old apple crates stacked to the left of the stage.
“Yeah you were so articulate,” Cedary chimed in from the crate beside Diz. “Best interview yet.”
“Oh bite me!” I snapped back. “I’d to see either of you do any better.” Today was already shaping up to be a royal PITA, and I’d only just logged in. “You know as well as I do that we didn’t have an interview scheduled.”
“Right,” Dizzy agreed. “Besides, we don’t do interviews anymore.”
“We’ve said all we have to say on the subject,” Cedary added.
“Everything we know is posted on our website,”
“No, we don’t give private tours.”
“No, we don’t care to speculate on the causes, political ramifications, or spiritual implications of the event.”
“Donations to the “Solve the Mystery Fund” can be made on our Patreon page.”
“Any amount is gratefully accepted.”
“For all other inquiries, please contact our agent, Elvira Know-Nothing.”
Well done,” I said, cueing my eye roll and slow-clap. “I’m impressed.”
“You should be,” Dizzy said with a chuckle. “We’re impressive. What’s eating you anyway? You seem genuinely miffed.”
“I am,” I admitted, “but I’m not really sure why.”
“You shouldn’t let those reporters get to you,” Dizzy said, jumping off the crates and taking a seat beside me on the stage. Dizzy’s avatar looks like a cross between a smurf and a baby dragon with puffs of smoke curling out of his nostrils. The colors change from baby pink to gold to turquoise and magenta depending on his mood. You’d never guess he’s a neuroscientist in his first life, but it suits him.
“I know,” I agreed.
“Besides,” Cedary added, “they’ve been great for business. I’m still stunned about that multi-stream deal. If good old DigiWriter hadn’t been there at the show and written that first-person account, we’d still be pinching pennies.”
I know, I know,” I agreed again. Everything my two partners were saying was true. Because the anomaly or audio virus or whatever you want to call it started with us (affecting only those attending the concert inworld or listening to one of our eight Livestream channels), it was assumed that we’d worked some kind of high tech wizardry or pulled off a massive media hoax.
To be fair, only those who didn’t experience the anomaly were calling it a hoax. The rest of us? Well the rest of us were gradually coming together like migratory birds returning to the place of their birth. For better or worse, that place was here on a tiny plot of virtual land, in a tiny virtual club created by three old friends who wanted to give out-of-work musicians a place to play and their fans a place to hear them. I understood why everyone felt compelled to be here, but that didn’t make it any easier.
If you live on a desert island without cell service, access to the web, other human beings, or newspapers, you can be forgiven for wondering who these bozos are, what an audio virus is, and what could possibly have happened to cause such a fuss. An actual description of the experience will have to wait, however. I’m still too stunned and confused to write anything coherent. But I will. I promise I will, and I’ll try to get Dizzy and Cedary to chime in too. In the meantime, I can set the stage.
As I said, my two friends (Dizzy and Cedary) and I started a virtual club for musicians and their fans. This was right in the middle of the plague when it wasn’t safe to share air with anyone, so avatars and virtual spaces made a lot of sense. The club was popular because we featured performers with real talent and a commitment to people and the planet. No death metal, hardcore punk, or crack rock for us. Think James Taylor, Jason Mraz, and U2 with some Joni Mitchell and Nina Simone thrown in for good measure.
That day, the last musician - a young guy who goes by the name of Shucks - was just finishing his set with “Love Will Keep Us Alive,” by the Eagles. Members of the audience had pulled out lighters and were swaying in time to the melody when it happened. And nothing has been the same since.
Notes from a Pesky Reporter
Jena here. As one of the reporters (I do not have a Jessica Rabbit avatar) trying to make sense of this story, I confess to being more than a little skeptical and confused. On the one hand, things like this don’t happen in a rational, science-based world. On the other, too many people were affected to be able to just write it off as a fluke.
If you have any idea about what is going on (or simply want to scoff) write to me at JenaBall@CritterKin.com.
P.S. There will be no direct questions for you to ponder going forward as I am hoping that the story itself will keep you guessing and looking for answers as it unfolds. That said, any questions, feedback, or criptic critiques are welcome :-)
P.P.S.S. This is the last post in this series that will be entirely free to read. I will continue to publish reviews of concerts and musicians as time allows, but the One Note saga will only be available to paid subscribers. I hope you’ll understand. I have a strange addiction to eating and paying bills.
Copyright 2021 by Jena Ball. All Rights Reserved.