Performer: Mattie Peck
We typically imagine speech as a relatively unmusical experience when compared with instrumental performance, despite the fact that it maintains a great deal of rhythm, dynamics, and pitch content. Similarly, we often perceive instruments, like the oboe, as relatively uncommunicative when compared with speech, due to the absence of language. To broach this apparent disconnect, I began with a text by Wyatt Schroeder, which explores the interactions of a son and father just after the death of the mother. This compelling prose creates some meaningful opportunities to explore and blur the lines between the voice and the oboe.
Text by Wyatt Schroeder:
I caught him tapping his finger against the desk with a neurotic pulse, like a clockmaker testing the time. It was hard to ignore him as I fussed with dinner, because he kept saying things like “Thomas was wrong. You don’t rage against it. You simply fade.” All the while, pounding the chair with his fist and foot.
On most days, his brow’s well-worn expression betrayed his emotions, but the two seemed to read off the same hymnal that Sunday. He kept going on - I wasn’t even sure if he was addressing me - saying, “There are no wise men or good men just wild men and grave men.” Just shaking his head side-to-side like a pendulum.
I knew it was hard for him to stare at a blank page like that. His words had counseled others once; his prose had shot passion into veins and earned a penny to his pocket. But all of that was years away now, years in the rearview mirror. Fame under-stays its welcome, I guess.
I slid the plate in front of him and told him to eat before his supper got cold. He just told me it would warm up again in time.
After I cleared his half-digested plate, I reminded him that lovers may come and go, but love remains with our best ambitions. He snorted and waved his hand at me, dismissing me to go clean the dishes. As I turned away, he told me that love didn’t exist outside of those we loved.
He was just so sullen, so I acted out the worst parts of the modern novel. I took on the voices of characters until he was laughing, chuckling, smiling. It was good to see his brow relinquish its chokehold over his expression. As the moment settled, he looked down at his feet and said to himself, almost in a whisper, “and death has no dominion.”
As I smoothed out the wrinkles in the tablecloth, a knock came to the door, a black-suited body silhouetted through the blinds.
After the service, we walked the grounds – the two of us – in silence. Him, with his country senses, just watching his feet trod on the ground, and me just watching him. Though he would admonish my saying so, his heart was too sensual to watch the lowering. Three. Four. Five feet. Six feet. It’s too far for an earnest man to bear. But his expression remained unchanged. He glared at the grass as he had eyed the onions.
He sighed and met my stare for the first time that day. He gritted through his teeth and said that the pastor did no justice to Dylan Thomas.
Fade, fade into the dying of the light
And death has no dominion