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The Melody of Mutantkind

Posted on Tue Mar 12th, 2024 @ 19:01 by Alastair Temple & Claire Cavendish

Chapter: Winter's Crest Festival
Location: Music room, Avalon Institute
Timeline: Wednesday, 16th of September, 1992
1945 words - 3.9 OF Standard Post Measure

Claire sat behind the drum set, quietly observing as the film crew set up for their shots. Alastair wasn't too far away from her holding his guitar. The sound engineer was trying to find the best place to record the music, so they had asked the music teacher to play some tunes before the kids would come in and make their music. Claire was there to hit the drums when directed to do so, no music or rhythm really, just noise to make sure they had the balance right. Her foot was idly tapping on the bass drum, giving a soft but carrying thrum. It was the nervous energy of having these outsiders film everything trying to find an escape from her body.

Alastair was a lot more confident under scrutinizing eyes, even being recorded. He had been performing professionally for years after all, and even shot a few music videos. Mostly those consisted of the band acting all dark and playing their instruments in a forest, with some local actors, cheap ones, acting out the story of the song they were recording the video for, but it counted. Part of him wished Claire would keep a little bit more of a rhythm, which would make playing a rhythm line easier, but he was professional enough not to be outwardly too annoyed.

"Who would've thought I'd be drumming for Somnium..." Claire leaned over to Alastair to try and talk to him without making too much sound. There was a signal from the sound guy and she hit the toms for a bit, stomping her feet, now actually in a proper rhythm, "Was it like this when you recorded music videos?"

"Yeah, more or less," Al replied, readily. He shrugged a bit, then clicked his distortion pedal and played a chugging rhythm section to the beat, improvising a bit as he went. Or so Claire might think. In truth he was just feeling out some rhythm lines for the project he was working on; taking Robert's old half-written songs and completing them, with intent to record and release them under a new project name. "It's more like a jam session. You know, practicing with the guys, trying out new things, finding lines that work, getting inspired."

Claire sat a bit more upright and started really keeping a rhythm. Hitting the base on the first and third, the snare on two and four. Putting in a high hat on every eighth. She had dabbled in quite a few different musical instruments before she settled on dancing and singing. She'd not be able to do anything much more spectacular than this but she could probably carry this beat for a while. "I'm glad to be of service."

"Just one more minute, alright?" The producer put up a hand towards the two Avalon faculty in apology for taking so long to get everything right. The kids outside the door were also probably getting quite impatient.

Al smirked. "You're fine, boss," at the producer. Honestly, he was used to way more delays and do-overs, when recording albums or music videos. At least for the latter he got to travel to nice parts, beautiful forests, abandoned villages, old castles - much like this one actually. He'd have to get with Claire to talk about maybe recording a music video or two in or around Avalon, when the time came. The aesthetic fit the mood of the music he liked to make. Speaking of - he clicked off the distortion again and launched into a soulful, mid-tempo solo. His guitar sang out its melodic cries, a solo from one of the band's old albums, one of his favorite ones that he wrote.

There was a moment where everyone just seemed to stand and appreciate the music being played, the dull rhythms of Claire's drums seemed to only amplify the complexity and colour of the guitar solo being played.

"Alright, that should do it." The producer called when the solo seemed to find its natural conclusion. "You can bring in the kids. What song are you practising for Friday?"

"Do you hear the people sing, from Les Mis," Al replied easily. "I'll be accompanying on guitar, just doing chords. Blake Smiths will be adding some rhythm on the drums," the music teacher glanced over to Claire with a nod. "Then later in the day Miss Zhao and me will do a performance of Vivaldi, on guitar and violin," Alastair grinned, already filled with glee about the whole thing.

There was an exchange of glances between the BBC crew before the presenter shrugged and stepped up towards his marked spot. The room behind him filling up with kids taking their spots. The journalist took up position near Alastair, they'd do a small interview before allowing a short bit of music. "Mister Temple, standing in front of crowds of tens of thousands to standing in front of a classroom of teens, what a turn your career has taken, was your knack for music a mutation all along?"

Alastair was used to interviews, though rarely for something as big as the BBC, with the audience that came with it. One trick he learned about interviews was to take the question that was asked of him, turn that into a counter question, then answer that question. "Do I believe my affinity for music is a product of my mutation? No, I don't. I might not have discovered it if not for my mutation, but other than that, I don't believe they are related," he answered, dropping a hook for follow-up questions.

"How do you feel your mutation helped you discover your other talents?" The interviewer seemed pleasant enough with his line of questioning. It was all about the man and not his position at the institute, or the kids there.

"If not for my mutation I would not have been kicked out on the street by my parents at thirteen," Al replied easily, eyes focused sharply on the interviewer, expression unreadable. "I would not have spent several years living on the streets, scrounging together half a meal every day," Honestly though, this was a half truth. Al had spent a lot of time in bird form, eating what ravens do. Seeds, fruits, hunting small animals like rodents. It wasn't as terrible an existence as he let on. "Eventually I made a friend who gave me his old acoustic guitar and taught me how to play so I could earn some money busking in the city. And that was the start of my love for music."

"Is that what you're hoping to be able to give these kids here at Avalon?" the interviewer asked.

"What I hope to give these kids is - " Al paused a moment, thinking of the right words. " ... a safe place, so that they don't have to go through what I did. A place where they can be themselves, without being judged for what they are, just for what they do. A place where they have a roof over their head and a warm meal every day. Where they can learn about the world. I don't just 'teach music'," Alastair made air quotes, as he sat down on one of the student desks. "But through the medium of music I teach them to express themselves, where words do not suffice. Through music analysis I teach them to think critically about things people take for granted, to think about why things are the way they are, why they make us feel the way they do."

There was a great many things Claire had expected or even hoped from inviting the BBC over and having these conversations with her staff and looking at the preparations for the festival. This interview wasn't even part of it in her highest expectations. She felt pride for what they had been able to provide. To the kids. To Alistair. To the community.

The interviewer nodded along as he laid all of that out, "I think we can all follow along with that, but perhaps the people at home will wonder about the choice to sing a song about rebellion and rising up against the establishment. It's something that might scare some of them. Why this particular song?"

"I like the melodies and harmonies," Al smiled, letting that remark sit for a moment before turning more serious. He knew that wasn't what the interviewer meant. "Just a few days ago we got another student, dropped off at our doorstep by a father that was disgusted by the fact that she had manifested mutant abilities. A father that just the day before told her he loved her, but now wants nothing more to do with her. When I look into her eyes I see myself. I see all the other students here that have a similar story behind them. A similar tragedy."

"Why 'sing'? To let all these kids know that we stand together. Side by side. All of us. All any of us want to do is live our own lives, free from oppression. You, me, them - free from persecution," the dramatically-haired music teacher continued. "My intention with this music choice is to remind everyone that we are all one people. One humanity, where everyone deserves to be free - black or white, man or woman, gay or straight, mutant or no. We are all one people, we all stand together in this world, and we all deserve to be free to live our lives."

"Still, it's an incendiary way to do that, isn't it? Why not 'We are the world'? Why not 'Imagine'?" He wasn't about to let this one go so easily.

It was one of the worries that had been expressed when they made the selection, and Alistair was putting a good spin on it, that didn't mean Claire was at ease with the line of questioning, but interrupting it would certainly not reflect well on them. She could always insist on cutting the section.

"It's only incendiary to people who wish to oppress us. If the shoe fits, so to say. For these kids it's a promise that they have a safe place where they are allowed to be themselves," Al remained entirely calm and outwardly comfortable, with practiced ease. "In the end, this festival is for the kids, for the students, to show that they are just like anyone else where it matters. It's to show that, when it comes down to it, this institution is a school like any other, where we teach students what they need to successfully integrate into society. Some times that means standing up for yourself. Taking offense at children - children - standing up to those who would bully them is a choice that says more about the people taking offense than it does the children. 'Imagine' is too passive. 'We are the world' might've been a good alternative, yes. Maybe next year. This year, I just didn't have the time to prepare and rehearse that. So, sing it is."

"Alright, let's hear the people sing then!" The interviewer stepped back out of frame and the camera panned to take up the entire band, who were all quite anxiously awaiting their music teacher's cue to start their rehearsed song.

Al picked up his guitar again, strumming a chord or two to ensure it was still in tune. A nod at the band and the assorted students standing ready to sing - and the drummer started a count, tapping his drum sticks along with the count. "And a-one, a-two, a-one-two-three-four!"


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