“So.” I smile what I hope is a winning smile. “Do tell!”
King Guz is now sitting, facing me. He says nothing.
I knew that wouldn’t work anyway. “So do I call you Guz?”
“What we call each other doesn’t matter here, just as it doesn’t really matter exactly who does any telling. It doesn’t matter as much as you think it does, anyway.” He reaches up, removes the cartoon crown from his head and regards it for a moment. “You don’t have to use royal address or anything like that either.” He looks at me and holds the crown up. “This DOES matter, though, for association.” He puts the crown back on his head.
“Does it have anything to do with Attila?”
“You would think so, but no, it doesn’t. Not in any direct way, at least. The record skipping. THAT is the matter for thought here. That record is only the one that you remember the most clearly. There have been others.”
“Dan Fogelberg’s Phoenix. The third copy finally didn’t skip.”
“I’m sure there were others, though I don’t remember any vividly right now. I think there was a Beethoven symphony. Maybe one of the early U2 albums?”
The king nods. “The point being that there have been numerous. And 8-track and cassette tapes that were defective. And even CD’s.” He tilts his head to one side and frowns. “CD’s, that were supposed to be perfect and indestructible.”
I feel my own face darken. “That’s what they all said. People claimed that you could toss them around and beat them up, and they would still play.”
“But they skip too.”
“Yes. Sometimes even new.” A sudden jolt of memory widens my eyes. The king waits, knowing that the memory has come.
A long pause.
I sit forward in my chair and close my eyes, trying to remember the exact wording. “You have to listen through what it sounds like, and hear what it’s supposed to sound like.”
The king nods. “That’s very close.”
“Can you say it, please?” I realize that I want to hear it in that Mufasa/Darth Vader voice.
He obliges. “The sound isn’t really the music. You must listen through the sound in order to hear what the performer is trying to do.” I can almost hear it in the other voice; I’m sure it’s a direct quote.
“You told me that.”
“The king told you that, yes.”
I close my eyes to remember. “I was complaining that I wanted to get a better stereo.”
He nods, and then points at the player in the corner. “He pointed at that machine, and reminded you that its very name indicates ‘high fidelity.’ The point, of course, was that he agreed with you that it was not so.”
“But he was telling me that this did not get in his way, as I thought it was getting in my way. He was able to hear the music. He heard it in spite of pops and clicks, in spite of occasional skips, in spite of the soft hum in the speaker. He could hear the music, because he did not think of the sound as the music.”
The king nods again. “You got this point much later, when you read about it in connection with Charles Ives.”
“Yes. What Charles Ives was told about music by his father. But I realized that he had already told me, before I even knew who Ives was.”
He sits back in his chair, smiling. “So there you are. The telling was long ago, and not something new you were awaiting.”
I pause and think about this.
I look him in the eye. “I’m still not at all sure that I’ve been told what I’m supposed to be told now.”
He shrugs comically. “Now you want to be SURE that you’ve been told. That’s a whole other matter! Do I really have to do something more to make this clear to you?” He stands, again putting his large fists on his hips and gazing down at me. “There’s being told something, and then there’s hearing it, figuring out what you’ve been told, GETTING it.”
I respond more meekly than I intend. “And that’s up to me.”
“Damn straight. NOW you see that this is not just about MUSIC, right?”
More meekly still: “Right.”
“You need to get your ass behind you.” He’s exactly quoting again.
Without further comment, he turns and leaves the room, trudging heavily down the hallway.