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Funny Historical Fiction Science Fiction


Moog Music Factory,

Asheville, North Carolina,

April 6th, 1980


Demonstrating prototypes to money grubbing shareholders was never Steve Masakowski’s strong suit--but this product spoke for itself. It was radical. Audacious. Tubular, even. 


Today, he was introducing the Moog Liberation Keytar.


'Pretty soon, pop stars will be wielding the Liberation onstage. It will provide keyboardists the freedom to move and dance while they play like never before.' Steve said.


After tightening the final screws on the keytar's plastic casing, he stood back from the workbench smugly. 


‘There she is. Any questions?'


Nobody spoke. Jerry, CEO of Moog, had to rescue Steve from drowning in the silence of the reticent shareholders.


‘Excellent work, Steve. Care to give us a demo?’


The grunt of a shareholder slightly resembled approval.


In a moment, Steve's preprogrammed MIDI rendition of Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier would be filling the room. This particular prelude was was arguably the German master's best work.


This ought to get the stale, male and pale buggers on my side.


As Steve pressed the button down, he hoped for nodding and tapping along. But what he got were puzzled expressions and horrified gasps leaving wide open mouths. He looked down and saw an empty workbench. His finger had rendered the Moog Liberation invisible--not the intended effect of the demo at all.


One would think the impressiveness of the keyboard's disappearance would far outweigh any stuttering polyphonic rendition of a Bach classic--but the board members and shareholders were not impressed. Steve was given an ultimatum. He would have to construct another prototype within a week, or face termination of employment from Moog. The problem was that the blueprints for the Liberation had gone missing.


*


April 6th, 1733, Leipzig


Returning to my study this morning after Sunday service, I saw that a keyboard had inexplicably materialised atop my desk. It looked like the bastard child of my lute and harpsichord. How dare they copulate on the holiest of days?


The instrument has the same configuration of black and white keys as any keyboard—but its keys are not made of wood. They are smooth and hard, made from an alien material I do not recognise. The keyboard, labelled 'Moog', is replete with a great number of buttons and knobs.


In utter astonishment, I locked it away in a cupboard--for I do not know its origins. Is it a gift from god, or a trick sent by the devil?


April 8th


God has given me no indication that ‘Moog’ is His handiwork. Once I had found the courage to investigate the instrument further, I saw that it possessed no aura of malice. Rather, the prevailing feeling was my own bafflement at its workings. Dare I try to make a sound with it?


Eventually gathering the will to lay my fingers upon its keys, I heard only silence. It is bound by metal screws which I dare not tamper with for my own safety. What if-- encased in its interior—in place of strings and hammers, there are malcontent demons waiting to be unleashed?


In an attempt to coax out sound, I cautiously tested all possible combinations of buttons and knobs whilst taking notes. It wasn’t until I found a small, discrete switch on the back of the body, and slid it into the ‘on’ position, that a green circle illuminated and it produced sound. 


The startling timbre of middle C caused me to gasp. When passing in the hallway, Anna Magdalena knocked on the door to see that all was well. She enquired about the strange sound but I did not know how to explain it. Should I have said it was my lunch repeating on me? A boisterous bird on the windowsill? A rather violent yawn? In the end, she lost interest rather quickly—as she tends to do.


For a few hours, I did not dare touch the keys for fear of rousing Anna’s attention again. After consulting my German/English dictionary, I made use of Moog’s volume knob which allowed me play quietly and undisturbed for a while. 


Its keys are joyously smooth. I felt a freshness, a fluency, a flair in my playing that I have not felt for years--a certain verve and indefinable effortlessness.


The excitement left me rather exhausted and I was early to bed—but not before locking my precious 'Moog' away safely. No one else knows--and I intend to keep it that way.


April 10th


Arriving home from organist duty, I was desperate to play Moog. I am enthralled like the first week I met Anna. Except that this secret affair is between a man and his instrument. Ensuring to lock my study door and lower the the volume, I played fervently for hours until supper. 


The many controls change the timbre and quality of the keyboard’s sound. I giggled with glee as I imitated the towering pipes of the church organ on such a small and compact keyboard. I don't know how the sounds are recreated so faithfully. It must be God's work.


April 11th


I am a leaky faucet. New ideas are pouring forth every day—faster than I can catch them. I need a bucket. The larger the better. 


To take full advantage of this fillip, I will be heading to my country retreat to write free of distraction. It will be a blessing to have no church duty and no interfering wife. My carriage to Zwenkau arrives tomorrow. 


April 14th


To conceal Moog from the coach boy, I wrapped her in a blanket and hid her inside my clothes case. The coach boy insisted on loading all of my luggage onto the roof rack, but I refused for Moog to go up there. She made the journey by my side.


Each passing furlong of the journey strengthened the notion that this keyboard is a divine tool. I must do Him justice and harness the sacred, for the betterment of humankind.


April 15th


Having settled into the cabin by the lake, a new prelude poured out of me quite easily. This well tempered clavier—this perfect keyboard—is the instrument for writing with. The new prelude I speak of begins with rhythmic arpeggios that stay similar throughout, but shift in tone--creating many moods.


Ambulating around lake Zwenkau with the keyboard strapped to my shoulders has unleashed previously untapped creative power. My work is feeling altogether fresher and more vital than it has for years. I must, however, be discreet during my perambulations—for I do not wish to be discovered in possession of such an inexplicable device.


April 16th


I have decided that ‘The Well Tempered Clavier’ is a fitting title for this new set of songs--in tribute to this finest of celestial instruments.


April 17th


It looks as though my brief but prolific time with Moog could be drawing to a close. Its keys are warbling and droning and I cannot write. The moaning timbre suggests a loss of power—but I cannot breathe life into her as I would a pump organ. I despair at losing a great ally. Has she done her service and is she ready to return to the Lord?


Yes, perhaps there is even a limit to God's inspiration. Or perhaps the journey here took too long and I missed His window of opportunity. 


The temptation to tamper with Moog's interior and investigate her source of power is great. But I am loathe to push my luck and upset Him. Perhaps if I am patient, He will grant me more time with her. 


April 18th


Moog is dead. And if those are God’s fingers around her throat, then so be it. His will is final. Perhaps I have angered Him with my egotism? My competitive nature and desire to be the best could be mistaken for such a sin. 


Today—as I wept frustratedly—I hammered Moog’s keys and buttons, and she vanished before my eyes. Is her being snatched away from me a sign that I should have mourned her passing more gracefully?


Now I am bereft of a muse and an instrument. I must return to Leipzig and finish writing my preludes and fugues. One can only hope that Moog’s inspiration carries over to the harpsichord and piano. What a short lived, but beautiful gift. 


*


When the Liberation keytar landed back on the workbench in the Moog boardroom in 1980, it did so quietly and without any fuss. Steve was handing out the hastily put together new edition of the blueprints to his engineers for the rebuild when one of them noticed a familiar sight.


‘Um, Steve—what’s that sitting on the bench?’


The half a dozen engineers pushed their chairs back and stampeded over to the workbench.


‘It’s the Liberation!’


'Oh, thank god.' Steve said. Bach would have approved.


‘Ah, good work,' Steve's CEO said, as he walked into the boardroom. 'That was a fast build! Now the shareholders can finally hear that demo. Mind if I give it a whirl?’


‘No! Don’t press the—‘


The CEO had already strode over and hammered the demo button with a gleeful grin.


Steve pulled at his hair.


*


Johan Sebastian Bach got to spend more time with his beloved Moog. He made good use of it by writing the rest of The Well Tempered Clavier. But he slipped and pressed the demo button again, sending Moog careening forwards through the spacetime continuum to 1980 again.


Bach took losing Moog a second time rather more stoically. And to him, its comings and goings were still attributable to divine intervention. He thought its visits to be relative to how chaste (or not) a life he had been living. So he polished up his already squeaky clean lifestyle in the hopes that God would grant him more time with Moog.


Steve and his colleagues were oblivious to the fact they had been playing temporal ping pong with a musical giant. Not only had their Liberation keytar played a part in helping Bach write one of his most famous pieces, but it looked pretty badass slung over the shoulders of Gary Numan and members of DEVO as they strutted their stuff on MTV. This is a testament to the versatility of the Liberation. Never before had one musical instrument been both the closely guarded secret of a 19th century musical genius and a bold and brash musical statement in the decade of excess.





July 15, 2022 18:57

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15 comments

Aeris Walker
16:29 Jul 16, 2022

Absolutely loved this one. So freaking clever. Bach's journal entries were by far my favorite parts, and you wrote them so so well. Great idea, great execution. These are just a few of the many awesome lines: "One would think the impressiveness of the keyboard's disappearance would far outweigh any stuttering polyphonic rendition of a Bach classic--but the board members and shareholders were not impressed." "God has given me no indication that ‘Moog’ is His handiwork." "Moog is dead. And if those are God’s fingers around her throat, then ...

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Jim Firth
19:04 Jul 16, 2022

Aeris, I'm really pleased that you dug the diary entries. Speaking of spirituality, it almost felt blasphemous to be writing from Bach's POV--because I'm not an expert on him! Yes, we have touched upon a few similar things this week--the power of music, and as you said, spirituality. Both had pianos/keyboards as key characters or parts of the stories. When you flagged that line up, It made me think 'Temporal Ping Pong' might be a better, less obvious title. But I couldn't resist doing a Bach pun! Thanks for reading, and as ever, the i...

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Aeris Walker
21:18 Jul 16, 2022

Oh no, I love the title. “Temporal ping pong” is super clever too, but almost carries more of sport/game connotation. Bach is a nod to the musical theme, while still capturing that 80s digital/techno age vibe.

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18:44 Jul 24, 2022

What a mashup!! O Moog, we hardly knew ye. Jim & Ted's Excellent Adventure, indeed. Love the puns... Gary Numan reference was delightful.

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Jim Firth
19:46 Jul 24, 2022

Deidra, Thank you! There is an album called Switched On Bach featuring the Moog playing Bach compositions which is an interesting idea, but falls a bit flat IMO. Hah! Maybe if Bach and Beethoven were paired together on a quest, they would be like Wild Stallions on a bogus adventure, saving their wives from evil robot versions of themselves. Ah geez, now I'm going to have to write that, and plagiarise Bill and Ted :)

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Glenn Holt
04:29 Jul 22, 2022

I kept on wondering where this story would go. Loved the interpretations that Bach made of the Moog. It got me interested enough that now I want to know more about the liberation (assuming it exists). I know MIDI does because I played with it years ago.

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Jim Firth
08:16 Jul 22, 2022

Glenn, Thanks for reading! I'm glad it kept you guessing and piqued your interest. Yes--The Liberation is the real deal :)

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Michał Przywara
20:45 Jul 18, 2022

Love the title on this one, and the story delivered :) Bach's approach to Moog, his curiosity gradually trumping his trepidation, was well developed. I like how he framed his discovery using the terms of his day, though it's true, a keytar might not be all that unfamiliar to someone who already plays other keyed instruments. I also like that the Liberation's vanishing isn't really met with curiosity, but rather irritation. That's so depressingly corporate :)

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Jim Firth
07:52 Jul 23, 2022

Michał, Thank you, that's a very eloquent summation--'curiosity trumping trepidation'. It would definitely go on the blurb for the story if I ever need one! Perhaps there is scope for a sequel titled 'I'll be Bach, (You be Beethoven)' haha :)

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Michał Przywara
19:05 Jul 23, 2022

Oh man, with a title like that, you almost have to :)

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Kevin Marlow
20:21 Jul 17, 2022

Thumbs up to any human who mentions Gary Numan and DEVO in the same sentence.

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Jim Firth
06:19 Jul 18, 2022

Kevin, What kind of human is that? The best kind--a Devolved Numanite :)

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Kevin Marlow
14:29 Jul 18, 2022

Count me as one, I saw Gary Numan's 2018 My Name is Ruin Tour, it was a truly memorable show.

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Mike Panasitti
18:36 Jul 16, 2022

The first image and sounds that came to mind as I began reading was Eddie Van Halen playing the chords to "Jump" on a keytar. Before I had time to completely digest the disappearance of the Moog, Bach had made his appearance in the story as a result of a leap in space and time. Asynchronous synchronicity! This was clever (as your stories always are), a tasty melody for the mind.

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Jim Firth
19:11 Jul 16, 2022

Mike, Oh, heck yeah. Now all I can see is David Lee Roth doing the splits in the air, haha. And those chords will be rattling around in my head for a while! Thanks for reading, and I like the phrase 'Tasty mind melody'--that made me chuckle :)

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