music, prose

Damage Case

The door shut in a loud noise, and the members of the jury were chatting about something vague. George came in with his Rickenbacker, introduced himself politely and tried to smile. He was not nervous, he rarely ever was, but to say he felt impressed would be an understatement. Not that any of the members of the jury were known to be great players or anything, but they had that particular power that could turn you into something, or put you down, sending you right into oblivion.
They nodded when George said his name, and one of them smiled. He stood up, moved towards George and, as if it was magic, disposed a glass of water on the table right next to the candidate. George immediately felt hungry. That was how things went with him : if someone told him to do something, he felt the need to do just the opposite. That probably explained why he became a bassist altogether. Another member was looking with attention at the instrument, and after a good ten seconds, came to ask
“Is that a 4004lk?”
“It is, sir.”

There was no more exchange after that; George waited for more questions, or a follow up even. But the member had all the information he needed. As George was about to proceed, put himself into position, thought about the chords and about something positive, the member that was on the far right raised his hand. A stopping motion. He kept silent, but still scribbled notes down on his sheet of paper. There was no way he could have been writing about George’s presentation yet, he thought, he hadn’t done anything yet. For a moment there, George felt scared : what if they were judging him on his appearance? On his posture? On whether or not he can hold his bass the right way? What if they don’t like Rickenbackers? It struck him quite rapidly that no members of such a jury could be a member of an anti-Rickenbacker lobby.

The far right member then nodded for George to proceed and he did. He began by mentionning that this was a heavy piece, that he had composed after reading about World War II. It was called, Bomber. He started with a few strums, and his fingers moved as fast as he had expected. Training always paid off, and training, was not really training when you liked what you did. In other cases though, training could become a real torture. George went on and on, he alterned between picking and strumming, and changed rythms. He knew his specificity was that he played the bass like one would play guitar; that was a conscious choice, a deliberate move – a gutsy one, even. In every way possible.
When he came to the last chord, he bended it a little and played with the disto. Proud of himself, he looked at the jury with a genuine smile. He loved what he was doing, there or in general; but they did not seem that responsive.

The water-serving member was nodding as he wrote single words on his sheet; George could not make out what they were. The one in the middle did not move at all, which was really worrying. And the far right one, well, he was staring right into George’s eye. The candidate felt a shiver go down his spine and for a fraction of a second, George thought about putting the Backer back in its case and leaving. He pictured himself, not saying anything, avoiding any eye contact, and exiting the room without daring to shut the door.
“Thank you. Now for the other part,” one said.
He stood up and handed a sheet of paper to George – it was time for the other half of the trial, where he had to read a tab and play it on the spot. George had always wondered about the men and women whom decided to create such a thing : how in the heck is that supposed to show if someone is a good musician or not? Does it show stage presence? Charisma? Does it underline creativity? Originality? But as any other lazy but yet slightly talented musician, George knew that he was biaised; he was honest enough to aknowledge it.

The tab was not a complicated one, George felt. If anything, it reminded him of Seven Nations Army, which he loathed with all his fibers. There were bits and pieces which he felt were common, utterly simple and sometimes even ridiculous. There was no ingenuity in playing the bass like that, it made it feel reductive, weak, sad. George did his best with what he had : a complicated mind but a knack for playing by his own rules. The jury also remarked that, and once he was done with that part, asked him questions about his perfomance, about music, about interpretations and reading through tabs. They asked him to comment on the repartition, which made him smile, and to give his opinion on the use of disto in such a track. He felt he answered everything he had to; not everything that he wanted to. There was a moment when George was tempted to say what was on his mind, and he began to do it, but soon retracted. Confusion was all they got, and confusion was all he got too.
Is this really how they choose who’s going to make it, and who’s not? he thought as he left the room, sweating, thinking about the future, not believing in any optimistic prospect. Just resigned.

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