The Gradual Week 11
- As the effects of the volcano subside, Sandro can still not reach Cea by phone. He settles into transcribing his inspirational pieces and working out details. Four days pass before Cea calls him. She's fine and similarly holed up at home with her parents. She invites him over to meet her father, who's a fan of his. Sandro heads over and discovers her father's name is Ormand.
- Ormand seems much younger than Cea's mother, who is an infirm 80-year-old. He even seems younger than Cea. Sandro remarks on this and Ormand tells him that he, Sandro, also looks younger than his age. Ormand explains that the two men have shared a common existence travelling among the isles, and this has kept them young. Ormand claims to be an old admirer of Sandro's work - in fact, he's And Ante. He suggests that the islands can speak to he and Sandro, and that Temmil did exactly that during the eruption. This is because they are both adept. As Adept Musicians, they are atuned to the gradual and can hear the music of the islands. In fact, they hear the same music. And Ante wasn't copying Sandro, he was playing the music of the gradual. He tells Sandro to surrender to this - it's his lot. He then picks up his guitar and starts playing the same melody that had inspired Sandro a few days ago.
- Sandro leaves And Ante to his strummings and exits the house. On the way home he meets Cea in the street. She seems aloof, and when he asks why she explains that she can't deal with another adept like her father. She's afraid of what Sandro will become. She wants to leave the island to be away from her father and Sandro. They part - seeming having ended their relationship. He returns home and has a shower.
- Alone at home, Sandro ponders a future where he travels the islands. He's no longer satisfied with Temmil. He strolls about town, then goes to a night club hoping to find Cea. When he doesn't, he returns home again. The volcano erupts again. He opens his mind to the music and decides that Temmil's real charm lies beneath the surface, not on it. "He alone heard the music that night. He alone responded."
- In the morning Sandro packs a few belongings including his violin and locks up the house. He heads down to the harbour, and Renettia the Adept finds him. She's unsurprised to see him and is prepared to guide him down the path to being an adept. He spends the next few hours in her company, making markings on a practice stave. He's dubbed with the name 'Violin' and told never to tell anyone his name, nor to look directly at the people arriving on the boats.
- The next day, a tour boat arrives and Sandro is moved to find his first customer (or mark?), a man named Taner Couter. He examines his stave and from this knows from whence he came, where he's going, and to charge him 40 Simoleons. Renettia stays at his side through this for support.
- Things take quite a turn for Sandro over these chapters. I didn't foresee him being or becoming an adept, but it seems logical (as logic goes in this novel) that this be the case. Though not explicitly stated, perhaps it's only Adepts themselves who don't know they are adepts that need the service of Adepts? If the general population doesn't need them, they would be seen as scammers, and the real need for their services would not be much talked about. There's a significant amount of hand-wavium here, to nobody's surprise, but it sort of holds up.
- Some loose ends are tied, but there are still nine little chapterlets in which to ties things together. I'm curious to see what happens.
- The quoted text below from Ch66 seems relevant. Any thoughts? Do musicians, composers, experience time differently when they are composing or playing? Does music come from the fundament?
‘I too have heard music all my life,’ said Ormand Weller, Cea’s impossibly young father. ‘Some of it was what I now know to be yours. I heard tides and winds and the sounds of seabirds, the blast of wind on a moor, the suck of a retreating tide. It was beautiful, moving, mysterious, deeply true. I was young, I thought the music was mine. Inspirational, as you say. Later I discovered it was Sussken’s, not mine. Yours, Sandro. The music that speaks to us from the islands is not unique, as we believe or as some of us prefer to believe. It is in fact communal, consensus, shared, part of the gradual. It is present in the fields of time that lie around every island. It is the great hall of music, the fundament, the sky, the world. Some of the other adepts describe a vortex, a gradient, a distortion of time, but to me the gradual is a heart, a living soul, a continuum of musical response, sung to us, played to us, spoken to us by one island, by the next island, by all islands. We alone understand it.’
Also, there's this passage from the end of Ch68:
Music for me was the voice of the human spirit. It existed only in the space between the instruments that produced it and the ear that appreciated it. It was the movement and pressure of molecules of air, dispersed and replaced instantly and unceasingly. It lived nowhere in reality: gramophone records, digital discs, were merely copies of the original. The only real record that existed of music was the original score, the black pen marks on the staves, but they were cryptic, had no sound, were written in code – they had no meaning without the human spirit that could break the code, interpret the symbols. And music survived not only the lives of those who played it, but the life of the man or woman who composed it.
Much the same could be said for stories, could it not? Note here that 'black pen marks on staves' are used in their musical context. It seems to me that as an adept, Sandro's life is literally a musical score - the score of his life is recorded on his stave. The odd back-and-forth movements needed to keep time are rather like following the notes up and down the scale. The time he keeps is different from the non-musicians. He experiences refrains. Does life itself have meaning if we are not equipped with the tools to break the code? How far can the analogy be stretched? This wouldn't be the first time Priest has played with this kind of thing, where he tries to interpret an abstract concept literally. In his first novel, The Inverted World, the main character lives a very different, non-linear physical existence.