Modulations

bubbles 'Little Worlds' by Nathan Kendall

“Love?” Drin drops to his knees, straddling Dance’s tail. “What else can I get you? More water?” His hands sweep over Dance’s chest, check his vitals, cup his neck, go back to his chest when he coughs again. It helps.

“Water, yes, please, very good.” The sheer unbelievable amount of water flying past the house while he begs for a cup’s worth, makes him want to laugh.

“Of course, wait here.” Standing, he looks down at Dance, and chuckles, rather wildly. “Really, love, don’t move around much, you’ll go through the damn floor.”

Dance certainly feels heavy enough to go through the floor. His hand responds to his commands, however sluggishly, and he picks up the moleskine notebook and studies the numbers written there. His brain turns stubborn on him. “You know what, Barret? They are K numbers. They’re Mozart. No code, if you are a trained musician, you see? They give some hint at what we want in Locatelli’s catalog. The Sinfonia in D is maybe something in D in Locatelli’s catalog.”

“Well, crap,” Barret says, “what about those modulations I just fucking sang you? Like the throat singers of Tanu fucking Tuva? Why’d I do that? Auren Han doesn’t do anything by accident. I’m serious. Modulation. I’m getting this gut thing of having to, like, rotate the whole thing, like a code where you shift the alphabet forward, based on the key?”

“Yeah, you’re right,” and Dance’s voice sounds to his own ears like a cast skin of sound, “I do think you’re right. Like A becomes E–”

“The circle of fifths–”

major & minor keys in musical notation
diagram of major & minor keys

Drin is back. “You’ve got it, that quick?”

“–and the rest of the alphabet conforms. Yes, I think so.” He feels Drin slide a hand underneath his head.

“Jesus, your head weighs a ton.”

“Full of rocks,” Dance says vaguely. Drin holds the lip of the glass to his mouth, and Dance drinks, and sighs as he gets eased down again. Dance cocks his brows up, still squinting at the Moleskine. “The first one, you sang on the F, and then–” he pauses, blinks. “No, this is not right. This key gets used a lot, you know? And this one, it is not much used in the Art of the Violin. No circle of fifths getting happy all the way. Too simple.” He coughs. “First dead turn, beginners give up now and here. Why use both? Why not the number or the key?”

Barret is making funny little gestures as if he wants to rip the notebook away. “Well, what if… what if… what if we’re supposed to start with the Mozart piece and then shift to the second note to find Locatelli pieces with the same key signature, and then use the number to figure out which one? Say, large or small or medium numbers in the Locatelli catalog?”

“Oh, I know those,” Dance says, off-handedly. His tail offers the notebook over, but is refused with a hand gesture. “Well, most of them.”

Barret makes a fish-face. “‘I know those,'” he mocks, “‘I know everything.'” He snorts. “Jesus.”

The tail gives a little flourish. “Like most humble musicians, I merely–work my ass off.” And he marks the first one. “So how well do you know Mozart?”

Barret’s nervous giggle becomes full-throated laughter.

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3 thoughts on “Modulations”

  1. Besides editing to simplify and clarify Dance’s voice, I also made some changes in that big para near the end which discusses transposing the circle of fifths.  Here, I edited to make it a code-breaker’s dead-end.  Any musicians, please see if this makes sense to you, or needs fixing?

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