Working on the faun was the hardest and best thing I had ever done. Deb and I had to learn first flute too, in case Eva and Flutty were ill on the night. We took turns. I can’t explain how wonderful the piece is. It seems to hold a whole world within it, a world free from pain and confusion, a world of peace and wonder. We can enter that world and could explore it for a life-time and not be finished. I loved handing over the phrases to Obi, having him develop the theme and hand it back to me.
One day, Deb asked Brian if she could take me home as she wanted to practise the harder passages of the faun. I was jolted and bumped about in her arms. I was aware she was walking on hard surfaces, going down steps. The noises were abrupt and scary. I felt sudden rushing draughts even through my case. Deb had me on her lap for a while, but there was a rumbling and a strange swishing of doors opening then closing. Deb put me down next to her. The long rumbling happened a few more times. The doors whooshed again. I felt a flurry as Deb got up. The doors shut. Then I heard, muffled and from a little distance, ‘Oh, my flute!’ but it was too late. I detected her voice shouting ‘Oh, please, my flute, my flute!’ but I was trundled away.
I was picked up quite soon after that and shoved into a musty bag. In the darkness of my case, I felt scared as a new person jolted and bounced me about. Over a few days my case was opened and closed. I was tossed onto a chair, left on a table, thrust onto a shelf. It was as if whoever had me just didn’t know what to do with me. After a couple of weeks of being chucked about, I was carried down a hill, taken through a door with a tinkly bell, so into a shop, I thought, and left there. Still in my case, I was put out on a shelf. I could detect the sadness of forgotten objects all around me. Old teddies, I think, from their talk, old dolls, stuffed dogs and old record-players. I slept, sad that Deb had lost me and that I would never get to play the faun with Obi, ever again.
I was picked up. I heard a rasping cough. My case was opened. Murky dusty light poured over me and foul air as again the person coughed. I was prodded and put back in the case. I was thrown into a bag and taken outside. I was bumped about and laid in a creaky container. I felt like I was travelling fast, but smoothly, and out in the fresh air. We spun round corners, zoomed down hills, creaked up hills. Then someone was carrying me up a path, I think. I heard the coughing again. We went up a step. I was chucked down onto something quite hard, like a bench. There was silence for a while. I strained my senses to try to detect where I was and what this new place could possibly be like.
I had almost started to doze, despite my unease, when the clips on my case were undone. I knew immediately that something was not right. The light was odd. Thin moving shafts of sun seemed to be cutting across the space in an odd way. What could that be from? I could sense an atmosphere of strangeness, the unusual, the scared. Cold, old hands took my foot joint and pushed fine tickly string through it with a stick. The person manipulating me was muttering strange words, and coughing and spluttering. I could not understand the words.
My core was picked up. My cleaning rod was used to thread silken thread through me. I was moved this way and that as knots were tied and retied and tested. My head-joint then had the thread put through the mouth piece and down and out again. My three parts were lifted and tied to something like a wire circle. My parts were spinning in thin air. I could not think straight. I felt sick. My foot joint was floating at an angle. My head joint was twirling crazily, and my core was swinging around and about. The metal circle above us squeaked unpleasantly. I had never felt this before. It felt like I was going to fall. This was much much worse than being dropped as a child learnt how to play C sharp! I wanted to be put together again, I wanted to be whole, to be held, to be locked, secure, in someone’s hands. ‘I cannot live like this,’ I wanted to scream, but, split into my parts, I had been silenced.
I had always been used to being held tightly nestled in my case, or held securely by somebody. This was disorienting. As my three parts started to swing more gently and slow a little, I could think a little clearer. I detected grieving, nauseous instruments all around me and realised with a jolt of horror where I must be. This was the Old Man’s Cave that Alto had talked of, the gruesome graveyard for dead and dying instruments. I felt like nothing had ever been this bad.
I hung there, dull and scared out of my mind, for many days. The big oak door creaked open and banged shut. The Old Man coughed. Dust settled upon my poor disjointed form. I swung, sick and ill with the silence, the motion and the torture. Flutes need to be played, I wanted to shout. Flutes need love, breath! Above all, we need music. We need sound and love, sound and love mixed together. But no breeze stirred that dusty room. I sensed the damp in the air corroding my silver. I felt a tiny popping on my surface where the metal was being hurt. Hundreds of other instruments and tens of other sad, grey flutes swung around me. Only when the sun sneaked through the high windows for a second, did they glint, but with a menacing, hard gleam, a disillusioned stare.
I made friends with a mournful clarinet called Clarence, and Pixie, a tarnished piccolo. Next to them was a twisted trombone, so hoarse he could hardly make a sound. We were all four cheered up a tiny bit by a mad violin called Fidel, who had been hung by his strings from the light. He would swing on his strings violently enough to bash his body against a metal curtain rail, so he could make short sharp exclamations, like ‘Whoa!’ or ‘Enough!’ or ‘Pop!’ which at least interrupted the tedium.
Every day the Old Man stumbled amongst us, stringing up more sad instruments. He would poke and prod us, or pull the door back and forth, sending gusts to make us cry and swing. He swore and muttered angrily about his ‘installation’, whatever that meant. He sometimes fell over and bashed things with his stick. Every time he went under a huge, dented tuba which was hanging from the ceiling quite far from us, at the other end of the room, he would reach up and smack it hard with his cane. The tuba’s deep clank of misery became the deathly punctuation to our long days.
Only once did the Old Man open a window. A fierce wind tore the metal frame from his fingers as a freezing gust ripped through the room. Us mobiles flew in frantic circles, our parts clashing with each other, colliding, hurting, scraping my silver-plate. One flute screamed in desperation, as the air shot through her parts, ‘I refuse to be ART! I am a FLUTE! Let me be a FLUTE!‘
‘Not art! Not art!‘ we echoed, using every tiny breath of wind left in the room.
The flutes stilled and again we hung there, for dusty weeks, silently praying for a way out. The only thing that kept me alive was the memory in every cell of my three parts, the sweet memory of the faun, the bouncy Street Urchins’ Chorus from Carmen, the melody from Sheherezade, and Fauré’s Sicilienne, all of which I cradled in my mind and listened to again and again in my memory. If I concentrated hard enough on the music, I could almost escape my plight. It was as if I could no longer feel my body, I had become pure spirit.
One day, I woke up with an even deeper sense of despair. It was so bad, that I thought to myself, ‘Pearly, come on, there must be something in all the beautiful music you have learnt, which will help you now.’ Out of nowhere, the melody of the Menuet before ‘Dance of the Blessèd Spirits’ came back to me. I hummed it quietly to myself. When I reached the Lento Dance, the rhythm changed and the intensity, and I realised I was making sound that the others could hear. At least, other flutes were joining in with me, with low buzzing harmonies. There is a part of the Dance where the flute is very high, but very quiet. It’s magical. It has a huge power. It’s like as if the flute is holding back, holding on to massive amounts of energy that are just ready to burst forth. We got to that bit, and by now all the flutes in the ceiling were helping, humming, droning, whispering, and suddenly we burst past the limitations of our sad, split bodies and could all hear the orchestral version in our minds, as one. The Blessèd Spirits had come to help us…I could feel their shadows all around us, twirling, linking us all together….we were Dancing with the Blessèd Spirits…. we were the Blessèd Spirits.