Quick Background Information:
This is a short story I submitted to my school’s creative writing journal in my Freshman year of college. AND IT GOT IN! So I thought I’d share it here as my “Posting Stories” Project!
The Color of Sound
The concert hall was exactly sixty four degrees inside. Rather chilly, especially on a cold autumn evening. The audience flooded in from seven different entryways. Three on the balcony, four on the floor. While they are waiting for the production to start, women dressed in long skirts raise their eyebrows, purse their lips, and shield their snickers behind fans and expensive opera gloves. One woman openly glares at another, who dared to buy the same Mac Duggal peacock bodice ball gown. Needless to say, they did not make eye contact for the entirety of the performance, but after, feathers would fly.
The men however, could not possibly care less. Once every two weeks they were dragged to this same opera house by their wives or sisters or mothers. Sometimes even daughters, and definitely during a football game. They were pulled here to sit in the same red velvet seats and stare dazedly at the same cream and gold high ceilings. The architecture was the same. The players and conductors were the same. It was decidedly dull. The production had hardly begun before one elderly gentleman in a tailcoat had fallen asleep. He was frighteningly motionless, but no one dared to reach over and check his pulse because the lights had begun to dim.
A hush went over the audience. As the conductor made his way across the stage, the only sound that could be heard in the grand Vienna State Opera House was the ruffling of fur wraps and the crossing of aristocratic legs. The conductor turned to the audience and bowed. He then turned back to his orchestra and took a deep breath, raised his arms, and tapped once. Twice. On the third tap the head violinist raised his arm and drew the first note.
It was beautiful.
The color that ghosted out of the violin was a light aqua. It clouded over the first four or five rows and dispersed in a quick movement. It was ribbon like.
Then came the cello. Its deep melody was a wine burgundy, and it did not ghost but thrust into the air. A storm cloud of red, and then it was gone. Suddenly following it was the great booming sound of the timpani, which covered the audience in a blanket of Charleston green. Forgetting their matching gowns, both peacocks were smiling and playing with the smoky tendrils, wafting it between their fingers and tweaking the sounds.
That was the beauty of the opera; the symphony. It was about shaping the colorful sound waves between your fingers and letting it wash all over you before it disappeared into the rafters.
“You can get the same effect turning on the radio at home.” One husband or brother or father would scoff.
“It’s not the same, and you know it. There’s something about…LIVE music that just makes you feel exactly that. Alive.” She’d counter.
Both would agree to disagree as they headed off to the Vienna, neither truly dissatisfied. Because once dragged from their couches or work benches, or even from the underbelly of their cars, the men would enjoy being doted on by their female companions. Adjusting bow ties and jackets. They would feel rich and important as they walked through the ornate doors, their expensive black shoes clicking on the marble floors. They would check the coats and file in, only sulking to prove a point. When the music finally started, they would feel, in a small way, alive. While not a single jacket sleeve would find its way into the air to play with the sounds, many secret smiles would play at the edges of their mouths.
As the climax of the piece slowly grew, the excitement and rainbow of sound would build. The string section was always the deepest oceans of blues and teals, and small trickles of sea foam green. The winds were yellows and oranges and pinks, darting around like the sparks of fireworks. The percussion was a forest of deep greens and dark greys, mixing together to be the ominous yet beautiful backdrop to their bright companions. Tonight a piano accompaniment joined them, and from it sprang the most beautiful reds and purples that danced over the heads of the enraptured audience. One of them tickled the nose of the sleeping elderly gentleman, and the young man next to him sighed in relief when the old man jolted awake, proving he was in fact alive.
The final note was always the most extravagant. Everything seemed to hold still as every color at once waited in anticipation. There was clear silence, and then the color of music was everywhere. It splattered itself all over the women and their gowns and furs. It etched itself into the buttons and bow ties of all the men’s coats. Everyone was a different color, and the conductor was every color. An occupational hazard that he never ever tired from.
Finally, the colors evaporated. Like chalk in the rain, it was erased from existence, fading away from the dresses and jackets, and disappearing to wherever the color of sound goes. The conductor lowered his arms in one fluid motion, turned to the audience and bowed.
Applause erupted and everyone stood, as was customary for such a brilliant performance. When it was done, the men stretched their limbs and offered their arms, escorting their ladies from the building and back to their expensive cars. On the long drive home, no one tuned into the radio.
It would be a pale performance in comparison.
Copyright©2014 – by Shelby Sullivan