Last December, I blogged about John McDaid's "Keyboard Practice, Consisting of an Aria with Diverse Variations for the Harpsichord with Two Manuals," I story I workshopped with John in Toronto a few summers ago. John's an amazing, polymath of a writer, one of those short story writers like Ted Chiang whose all-to-infrequent work breaks new ground with each new installment.
Keyboard Practice is hard to summarize here: like much of John's work, it is stupendously weird and expansive. I am so mightily pleased that it is available online in full, at last -- not least because it spares me the near-impossible task of summing up a major work of fiction by John McDaid. Run, don't walk.
(I'd be remiss if I failed to point out that my story Anda's Game (originally published in Salon and reprinted in Michael Chabon's Best American Short Stories -- podcast reading by Alice from the Wonderland blog is here) is up against "Keyboard Practice" on the preliminary Nebula ballot -- whew, tough competition.)
I'm an unreliable narrator. Everything I know about classical piano could be stored handily, uncompressed, in the lobotomized set-top box of an antique cathode television. Still, it falls to me to transcribe the events surrounding the Van Meegeren Piano Competition of 2023 and the alleged visitation by the late Stefan Janacek.
Stassy intro, nep?
Yar, yar, copied; 'swhatcha get when I type not talk. Gomenasai. Not a storyspeaker -- ich bin eine musicalische opster. I clip, I doop, I rap, I dub and shunt, pull leitmotifs from the noosphere 'n' singledoubletriple layer, pack and run the tuples, skiffy ins-n-outs wrapped moebial around sparse, selective, show-don't-tell syllables relevated from the subway and limousine earth. A hardwired hook sniffer: What edge will cut through the commodified wash of minute-15 Will-Have-Beens? Hafta lay down a tuff rhythm groove and scan for a tasty solo line; grimly practical, paratactical composition.
But a keyboard is needed to massage this medium. Got to force myself to sit down, sluice, educe the force that through these carpal tunnels drives the florid. Grep the keystroked sense of this, in at least a first approximation, before it evanesces.
Because I don't believe in ghosts. I never have. I never will. And yet, tonight...
And yet tonight, I saw one.
With my own eternally doubting fingers.