Hi there! You’re reading a story from Sixth and Lavaca, a short fiction EP for SXSW 2012 hosted at saladonions.tumblr.com. If you like it, add a short tale of your own to http://sxswstories.tumblr.com. From a tweet to a novella, everything’s welcome!
It had been born in the throat of the woman… no. It had been born in the mind of the woman, as the woman’s wonderings about life, as her fears and the song was those fears reconciled, a cry out to those around about the way things ought to be. Her family had heard it, then the town, and the town sang back to her yes, this is the way things are. Some of the town came to her and insisted they give the song life, and so they took its threads and its raw sentiment and built it with strings and drums built it up like muscle on bone until the song was fully formed, and it was happy.
And the woman and the people led it from town to town to play. Between times it would smoulder and boil and pressurise in the van, waiting to see day. At every chance it would escape into the van, trickling through the lips in a hum, or dancing on the strings of the guitar. It wanted to be free. So when it was let out, first in the corners of dank bars and then on stages, it danced between the players and soared over the heads of the crowd in ecstasy.
One night, the man with the sunglasses heard the song and wanted to spread it. People would have to contribute a small fee, of course. But it was only just. The song was let out on the stage of the studio, and when it tried to soar it could only soar above the cold metal of machines, the mesh of microphones. It seemed menacing, but because the song is driven to always fill its space, it investigated. Inside it was pushed, tweaked and enhanced. It found reverberation where none had existed and as muscle had been put on the bone, so skin was stretched over the muscle, toned and coloured and buffed.
It rode with wax grooves, addicted to the needle, flat and dark like molasses. It only wanted to spin, and so it span in its wax, then span inside small rectangular plastic, and then the world threw up its arms as it span as the most delicate plates of silver, a million mirrors in the hands of the people. The song found itself as a guest in the rooms of psyched up boys and sobbing girls and thumping across dark dancehalls, or joyriding in cars on the way to the beach. It always carried the same tune and the same ideas, but in every place it was wanted for something different.
Too many wanted it, and in time, it found itself being split in two, then four, copied and halved and doubled, fragmented to millions and stored across the globe with thousands of brothers and sisters. Some pieces sat on cold, dark disks in Siberian pirate vaults, lonely and unplayed, and this made the song sad. But others found themselves celebrated, hosted and streamed and analysed by niche communities and while it sometimes unnerved the song to have its existence pored over in this way, it so loved to be engaged with that it made the song come alive, in defence of itself, and when the woman the first sang it had died, it sang all the louder, the same song but sung in lament.
It sung in the same bedrooms but now it was singing in tiny speakers, too, riding in ears on trains at no more than a whisper – intimate performances with millions at a time. It sung as it always had but because it been allowed to roam free, to graze on culture, it sung in downpitched chords, chopped up with breaks and hammering into Eurotrance breakdowns. And it loved them all because they all had the intent it was born from: to connect, only to connect.
And if you have your wits about you as you wander through the hotels and along Sixth, skirting Emo’s or Stubbs’ or the Driskill, you may hear that same song at play. You may not recognise it, but if you listen hard, between the words and beneath the tone you will catch hold of the same sense of joy, the same gliding and coasting ecstasy and the relentless intent: behind every bar: share me, play me, set me free.