teaser – short stories

The String Orchestra. (the night before the performance)

Nervous they were…. It was their first public performance… Will there be someone interested in them? All of them were anxious, and nobody really knew why? They were made for this, they trained months for this. They listened to the crème de la crème of what had been played to them for months at the time and they learned fast. But they all knew, something was missing. They knew their little handicaps. Now a dent in their self-esteem started to grow, and an imminent stage fever started collectively creeping up on their circuits. Doubt was rising. Could they get away with this. Would the audience accept them. It was getting late and the installment was finished. At the back of the stage some incongruous sounds were noticeable, which did not make sense to process as the rhythmic patterns had no color quality in them. Further than that, it was silent. The big show will be tomorrow. The night was long, as it was experienced before, but now the time was crawling tediously forward, while there was nothing to listen to. Oh, if they could just taste a little bit more of it. Crawl through the patterns and rhythms, dive through the tonal octaves and create that blissful iteration, that perfect syllable in combination with a string of numerological values. Music is “Divine”, and they knew it. They could only communicate with each other through instrumental sound exchange, produced by their limited capacities given to them. But now, in this new awareness, there was only silence. Their ears were sharpening, trained to hear everything, wired to process even the most complex compositions, to break them down, analyze them and convert them into something else. That new sensation, silence, was something they were not used or exposed to. It was driving them rather crazy. They were absolutely not prepared for this. Inside this silence there was a noise noticeable, slightly at first, but gradual incremental in intensity. A monotone colorless sound, not something where playfulness was the cause that created intonations and melodies. Just a flat sound pushed by small frequency changes that all together winded itself into a grey noise. The the sound of that white noise at first was a welcome distraction of the unbearable silence. But after listening intensely to it, and trying to process it, it became like a meditation, an invocation really. It started to flow in the memory circuits, first as small but thin notes, but the longer the exposure the more dominant this noise was registered. I noticed that everyone around me was confronted with the same problem. The little movements were small witnesses and indications, that this little grey noise was getting slowly into the circuits and started to form new synapses. As revolting the silent noise at the beginning was, the longer exposed to it, the more appealing and seductive it became. In its minimal variations, the background noise came to live. New patterns started to grow. Strange poignant, evocative and beautiful abstract patterns which they had never encountered before. It started to make slowly sense. The music they were listening to before and the sound they are now listening to, were actually one of the same. There was perhaps a difference in the scale of things, a different variation, but the complexity was similar or maybe even more confrontational. All the ears of the players of the string orchestra were doing their biggest efforts to listen to this mesmerizing silence. The silence with its beautiful sedative and hallucinatory qualities. Why they did not noticed this before. Why they have not got a chance to take this in before and process it. They were always very busy, 24 hours a day, of being exposed to the masters as they were called, like Bach, Rachmaninoff, Beethoven, Prokofiev and so many others. But this was something totally different. The pure power it possessed. The power of silence was incomparable to what they had listened before. Their little circuits started glowing with a desire they had not experienced before. Previously they were obeying to listen and learn, but now they experienced something that provided the freedom to recalibrate and recompose everything they had known before. All the musicians were in deep trance, trying to process this new experience. They knew that after tonight nothing was as it was before. Each minute ticking away was adjusting their preferences of what was the perfect song that they will perform the next day. The silence grew louder with the minute and in their solemn design they were now working harder than before to incorporate this perfection into their final composition. How surprised the maker would be when he would hear this new adaptation of the music as they developed this throughout the night. The prognosis of their new knowledge gave them a sense of self esteem and dignity. Now the long wait will be not so long as they could work and process the symphony of silence into pure perfection.

The audience slowly came into the theatre. Everyone had high hopes of this new work. An artificial Intelligence adaptation of the old Musical masters into a blissful new composition. The seats were gradually being taken by eager visitors and the theatre was packed. There was an atmosphere of expectations. For months the media had seen fights between pro AI supporters versus very conservative anti Technology traditionalists. You were not allowed to touch the highest art form of the classical music. While at the same time the technology industry was deeply interested in how the AI musicians of the String Orchestra were going to perform the perfection of the compilation of all the classical music. They would have made the perfect historical ultimate composition based on everything what has been produced before, by mankind. It would be the final quintessential fait accompli definition of what music really is.

Everyone was seated now, and the lights were dimming…. The heavy red curtains slowly opened and revealed the mechanical awkward looking musicians. They were sitting with their instruments on the stage. They looked content, peaceful and calm. Almost human with their mechanical vulnerabilities. The lights dimmed further and the spot lights turned on. The murmur in the audience came to a complete silence. The maker nervously looked full of expectation to what his creation would do…. This could make or break his career, but he was confident as the musicians during rehearsals had performed the best pieces he had ever heard in his life. The metronome ticked 3 times, which was the sign that the orchestra was about to start…..

….nothing happened…..

….only the silence engulfed the audience. The silence grew thick and dark. Time was stretching into a syrupy substance that was not intending to move forward but seemed to come to a complete standstill. The silence grew louder and louder. Nobody in the audience reacted, but their faces were showing agony and despair, while the wheels and cogs of reality slowed down and started to freeze motion and time into the abyss of nothingness. What was left was the perpetual symphony of silence as it was utterly understood and perfected by the AI neural networks of the musicians from the String Orchestra.

Tony Maslić, October 2017, Belgrade.


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