Soul Music Page 22

'Yep. Er. Got a mirror?' The bell rang. And rang. An hour later Blert leaned on the door-frame of his workshop, a manic grin on his face and his hands on his belt to stop the weight of money in his pockets pulling his trousers down. 'Gibbsson?'

'Yes, boss?'



'You know those guitars you made? When you were learning?'

'The ones you said sounded like a cat going to the toilet through a sewn-up bum, boss?'

'Did you throw them away?'

'No, boss. I thought: I'll keep them, so's in five years' time when I can make proper instruments, I'll be able to take 'em out and have a good laugh.' Blert wiped his forehead. Several small gold coins fell out with his handkerchief. 'Where did you put them, out of interest?'

'Chucked 'em inna shed, boss. Along with that whaney timber you said was about as useful as a mermaid in a chorus line.'

'Just fetch them out again, will you? And that timber.'

'But you said-'

'And bring me a saw. And then nip out and get me, oh, a couple of gallons of black paint. And some sequins.'

'Sequins, boss?'

'You can get them up at Mrs Cosmopilite's dress shop. And ask her if she's got any of those glittery ankhstones. And some fancy material for straps. Oh . . . and see if she can lend us her biggest mirror . . .' Blert hitched up his trousers again. 'And then go down to the docks and hire a troll and tell him to stand in the corner and if anyone else comes in and tries to play . . .' he paused, and then remembered, 'Pathway to Paradise, I think they said it's called . . . he's to pull their head off.'

'Shouldn't he give them a warning?' said Gibbsson. 'That will be the warning.' It was an hour later. Ridcully had got bored and sent Tez the Terrible over to the kitchens to see about a snack. Ponder and the other two had been busying themselves around the flask, messing around with crystal balls and wire. And now... There was a wire stretched between two nails on the bench. It was a blur as it twanged an interesting beat. Big curved green lines hung in the air above it. 'What's that?' said Ridcully. 'That's what the sound looks like,' said Ponder. 'Sound looks like,' said Ridcully. 'Well, there's a thing. I never saw sound looking like that. This is what you boys used magic for, is it? Looking at sound? Hey, we've got some nice cheese in the kitchen, how about we go and listen to how it smells?' Ponder sighed. 'It's what sound would be if your ears were eyes,' he said. 'Really?' said Ridcully, brightly. 'Amazing!'

'It looks very complicated,' said Ponder. 'Simple when you look at it from a distance and up close, very complex. Almost . . .'

'Alive,' said Ridcully, firmly. 'Er ...' It was the one known as Skazz. He looked about seven stone and had the most interesting haircut Ridcully had ever seen, since it consisted of a shoulderlength fringe of hair all round. It was only the tip of his nose poking out which told the world which way he was facing. If he ever developed a boil on the back of his neck, people would think he was walking the wrong way. 'Yes, Mr Skazz?' said Ridcully. 'Er. I read something about this once,' said Skazz. 'Remarkable. How did you manage that?'

'You know the Listening Monks up in the Ramtops? They say that there's a background noise to the universe? A sort of echo of some sound?'

'Sounds sensible to me. The whole universe starting up, bound to make a big bang,' said Ridcully. 'It wouldn't have to be very loud,' said Ponder. 'It'd just have to be everywhere, all at once. I read that book. Old Riktor the Counter wrote it. The Monks are still listening to it, he said. A sound that never fades away.'

'Sounds like loud to me,' said Ridcully. 'Got to be loud to be heard any distance. If the wind's in the wrong direction, you can't even hear the bells on the Assassins' Guild.'

'It wouldn't have to be loud to be heard everywhere,' said Ponder. 'The reason being, at that point everywhere was all in one place.' Ridcully gave him the look people give conjurors who've just removed an egg from their ear. 'Everywhere was all in one place?'


'So where was everywhere else?'

'That was all in one place, too.'

'The same place?'


'Crunched up very small?' Ridcully was beginning to show certain signs. If he had been a volcano, natives living nearby would be looking for a handy virgin. 'Haha, in fact you could say it was crunched up very big,' said Ponder, who always walked into it. 'The reason being, space didn't exist until there was a universe, so anything there was, was everywhere.'

'The same everywhere we had just now?'


'All right. Go on.'

'Riktor said he thought that the sound came first. One great big complicated chord. The biggest, most complicated sound there ever was. A sound so complex that you couldn't play it within a universe, any more than you can open a box with the crowbar that's inside it. One great chord which . . . as it were . . . played everything into being. Started the music, if you like.'

'A sort of ta-dahhh?' said Ridcully. 'I suppose so.'

'I thought the universe came into being because some god cut off some other god's wedding tackle and made the universe out of it,' said Ridcully. 'Always seemed straightforward to me. I mean, it's the kind of thing you can imagine happenin'.'


'Now you're telling me someone blew a big hooter and here we are?'

'I don't know about someone,' said Ponder. 'Noises don't just make themselves, that I do know,' said Ridcully. . He relaxed a bit, certain in his own mind that reason had prevailed, and patted Ponder on the back. 'It needs some work, lad,' he said. 'Old Riktor was a bit . . . unsound, y'know. He thought everything came down to numbers.'

'Mind you,' said Ponder, 'the universe does have a rhythm. Day and night, light and dark, life and death-'

'Chicken soup and croutons,' said Ridcully. 'Well, not every metaphor bears close examination.' There was a knock on the door. Tez the Terrible entered, carrying a tray. He was followed by

Mrs Whitlow, the housekeeper. Ridcully's jaw dropped. Mrs Whitlow curtsied. 'Good morning, hyour grace,' she said. Her ponytail bobbed. There was a rustle of starched petticoats. Ridcully's jaw rose again, but only so that he could say: 'What have you done to your-'

'Excuse me, Mrs Whitlow,' said Ponder quickly, 'but have you served breakfast to any of the faculty this morning?'

'That's right, Mr Stibbons,' said Mrs Whitlow. Her ample and mysterious bosom shifted under its sweater. 'None of the gentlemen came down, so I got trays taken up to them all. Daddio.' Ridcully's gaze continued downwards. He'd never thought of Mrs Whitlow as having legs before. Of course, in theory the woman needed something to move around on, but . . . well . . . But there were two pudgy knees protruding from the huge mushroom of skirts. Further down there were white socks. 'Your hair-'he began, hoarsely. 'Is there something wrong?' said Mrs Whitlow. 'Nothing, nothing,' said Ponder. 'Thank you very much.' The door closed behind her. 'She was snapping her fingers as she went out, just like you said,' said Ponder. 'Wasn't the only thing that's snapped,' said Ridcully, still shuddering. 'Did you look at her shoes?'

'I think my eyes shut themselves protectively about there.'

'If it's really alive,' said Ponder, 'then it's very contagious.' This scene took place in Crash's father's coach-house, but it was an echo of a scene evolving all around the city. Crash hadn't been christened Crash. He was the son of a rich dealer in hay and feedstuffs, but he despised his father for being dead from the neck up, totally concerned with material things, unimaginative and also for paying him a ridiculous three dollars a week allowance. Crash's father had left his horses in the coach-house. At the moment they were both trying to squeeze into one corner, having tried fruitlessly to kick a hole in the walls. 'I reckon I nearly had it that time,' said Crash, as hay dust poured down from the roof and woodworm hurried off to find a better home. 'It isn't- I mean, it ain't like the sound we heard in the Drum,' said Jimbo critically. 'It's a bit like it, but it isn- it ain't it.' Jimbo was Crash's best friend and wished he was one of the people. 'It's good enough to start with,' said Crash. 'So you and Noddy, you two get guitars. And Scum, you . . . you can play the drums.'

'Dunno how,' said Scum. It was actually his name. 'No-one knows how to play the drums,' said Crash patiently. 'There's nothing to know. You just hit them with the sticks.'

'Yeah, but what if I sort of miss?'

'Sit closer. Right,' said Crash, sitting back. 'Now . . . the important thing, the really important thing is . . . what're we going to call ourselves?' Cliff looked around. 'Well, I reckon we look at every house and I'm damned if I see der name Dibbler anywhere,' he growled. Buddy nodded. Most of Sator Square was the frontage of the University, but there was room for a few other buildings. They were the sort that have a dozen brass plates by the door. The sort that hinted that even wiping your feet on the doormat was going to cost you dear.

'Hello, boys.' They turned. Dibbler beamed at them over a tray of possible sausages and buns. There were a couple of sacks beside him. 'Sorry we're late,' said Glod, 'but we couldn't find your office anywhere.' Dibbler spread his arms wide. 'This is my office,' he said, equally expansively. 'Sator Square! Thousands of square feet of space! Excellent communications! Passing trade! Try these on,' he added, picking up one of the sacks and opening it. ' I had to guess at sizes.' They were black, and made of cheap cotton. One of them was XXXXL. 'A vest with words on?' said Buddy. '“The Band With Rocks In”,' Cliff read, slowly. 'Hey, dat's us, isn't it?'

'What do we want these for?' said Glod. 'We know who we are.'

'Advertising,' said Dibbler. 'Trust me.' He put a brown cylinder in his mouth and lit the end. 'Wear them tonight. Have I got a gig for you!'

'Have you?' said Buddy. 'That's what I said!'

'No, you asked us,' said Glod. 'How should we know?'

'Has it got dat livery on der side?' said Cliff. Dibbler started again. 'It's a big place, you'll get a great audience! And you'll get . . .' he looked at their trusting, open faces, 'ten dollars over Guild rate, how about that?' Glod's face split into a big grin. 'What, each?' he said. Dibbler gave them another appraising look. 'Oh . . . no,' he said. 'Fair do's. Ten dollars between you. I mean, be serious. You need exposure.'

'Dere's dat word again,' said Cliff. 'The Musicians' Guild'll be right on our necks.'

'Not this place,' said Dibbler. 'Guaranteed.'

'Where is it, then?' said Glod. 'Are you ready for this?' They blinked at him. Dibbler beamed, and blew a cloud of greasy smoke. 'The Cavern!' The beat went on . . . Of course, there are bound to be a few mutations . . . Gortlick and Hammerjug were songwriters, and fully paid-up members of the Guild. They wrote dwarf songs for all occasions. Some people say this is not hard to do so long as you can remember how to spell 'Gold', but this is a little bit cynical. Many dwarf songs[20] are on the lines of 'Gold, gold, gold' but it's all in the inflexion; dwarfs have thousands of words for 'gold' but will use any of them in an emergency, such as when they see some gold that doesn't belong to them. They had a small office in Tin Lid Alley, where they sat either side of an anvil and wrote popular songs to mine along to. 'Gort?'


'What do you think of this one?' Hammerjug cleared his throat. 'I'm mean and turf and I'm mean and turf and I'm mean and turf and I'm mean and turf, 'And me an' my friends can walk towards you with our hats on backwards in a menacing way, 'Yo!' Gortlick chewed the end of his composing hammer thoughtfully.

'Good rhythm,' he said, 'but the words need some work.'

'You mean more gold, gold, gold?'

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