If you have ever been in an orchestra, you already know how the different sections have a bond. Percussionists, strings, woodwinds; they all usually keep together outside of rehearsal and performances. The symphony orchestra in this story was no different.
It was December and the orchestra had just finished their annual holiday concert. The woodwind section, affectionately called “The Pipers,” usually went to the Wild Rover Pub after shows to continue their after-show high and perform Jazz and Irish jigs while drinking and enjoying each other’s company. After 2 am, they all went their separate ways and promised to call and check in the next morning.
As the hangovers tapered off, phones began to ring and text messages were sent. “I’m okay.” “Home in one piece.” “See you at rehearsal tomorrow.” Everyone confirmed their whereabouts except for Ashley, the Piper’s second clarinet player and the arranger of music for the orchestra. She was a light weight when it came to drinking, so the group figured that she was just hit pretty hard from the previous night’s festivities.
Ashley was always the first one to get to rehearsal and the last one to leave. She arranged the music for the director and in the event that someone was sick, she would visit them and nurse them to health. She had no family of her own. The orchestra was her family, and she loved making “Beautiful Noise” with them. The following day when she did not show to rehearsal, the Pipers began to sound the alarm.
For weeks they searched for Ashley after rehearsals and shows,. They filed a missing persons report, and the weeks turned into months. After almost a year, the orchestra began to believe they had lost their Piper forever.
The same December that Ashley had disappeared, a Jane Doe was found by the river. She was a vicitim of a senseless mugging, taking her purse that perhaps had $20 in it. The woman’s body was brutally injured; face swollen and bruised, fingers broken. She had no identification and had been left for dead. She was found by a few local residents and rushed to the nearby hospital where for two months she remained in a coma. As her hands began to heal, they made strange movements, and she hummed classical pieces as her body recovered. One of the nurses took note of this and mentioned to the doctor that if she woke up, music therapy might be helpful in her treatment.
It was February when she finally awoke. Her face was still very swollen and healing from major reconstructive surgery. If anyone knew her before and wanted to find her, there may be no chance of it now. Her hands and fingers had healed, but were very weak as was the rest of her. Her rigorous physical therapy included visits to a psychologist and hypnotherapist to attempt to uncover who she was. Music seemed to be a main theme. Concert halls and playing music with friends were all she could remember. She remembered the music but not the faces.
During one of her therapy sessions, Jane was brought to the music room and was asked to pick out an instrument. She chose a clarinet. It seemed familiar. She remembered how to put it together, how to moisten the reed. It all seemed right. She played a few notes, but didn’t have the breath control to play for long. “It feels right,” she said hopefully. “I just need to practice. I will remember.” Time passed and her playing improved. She worked as hard at playing as she did with her physical therapy. As she continued to play she also began to write her own music.
For her hypnotherapy, she kept trying to remember who her friends were. “All I keep seeing are the instruments. Two flutes, one of them with a piccolo, one clarinet, two oboes, a bassoon, a bass clarinet, a double bassoon, and two saxes,” she described dreamily. “We made music, but that’s not what I called it. It was… noise. Yes, beautiful noise. That’s it!” Jane was smiling broadly.
“What is?” inquired the doctor. He kept his excitement to himself, wondering if she had suddenly made a breakthrough.
“That’s what I am going to call my piece, ‘Beautiful Noise’.”
“The orchestral piece you showed me?”
“It’s just for the woodwinds, but yes. An eleven piece woodwind section. Strange, right? I suppose I wrote it for them, the instruments I dream about.” She sat pensively admiring the inner workings of the subconscious mind. “I suppose I remember something, since eleven piece woodwind sections are hard to come by.”
“Well, here is something to think about,” the doctor said, handing her the latest arts section of the newspaper. “Next month, there will be a memorial concert for a musician and they are looking for original music submissions. I think you should apply.”
Upon seeing the submission, the director of the orchestra knew that “Beautiful Noise” would be the perfect piece to play for Ashley. He remembered how she used to help new orchestra members get over their fears by making loud, purposeful mistakes in rehearsal and stating, “What? It is just beautiful noise.” It was a phrase she used often and the music was exactly the piece to remember her by.
It was one year to the day since Ashley had gone missing when the holiday concert opened. Jane Doe and two of her nurses were in attendance to see and hear her piece. There were many tears as the director and the bass clarinet player shared stories of Ashley and her great kindness and how after a year, they had still not found her. The stories seemed familiar to Jane, but it could just be that she felt at home in the theatre.
The director introduced the memorial piece. “Ashley was a unique musician as all are. She related music to many aspects of her life and she truly made this group feel like a family. It is appropriate that this next piece is called ‘Beautiful Noise’ and written for the woodwinds. Ashley was very close with her fellow Pipers and often called some of their improvisational mishaps ‘Beautiful Noise’. We hope you enjoy it.” Jane’s eyes widened in recognition of the story. What are the chances that another clarinet player – a missing clarinet player – would also call it beautiful noise?
After the performance, Jane went back to the car to retrieve her clarinet. “Let’s go to the pub down the street.”
“It’s getting pretty late,” said one of the nurses. “We should get back.”
“You’re off for the rest of the weekend. It can’t hurt to go for one drink. Besides I think some of the musician go and do improv there.”
“How do you know that?” The other nurse asked with piqued interest.
“I don’t know. I just do.”
They got to the Wild Rover and sure enough the Pipers were there sharing a solemn toast, to Ashley.
“Excuse me?” Ashley said, tapping the bass clarinetist on the shoulder.
“Hi, can I help you?”
“I wanted to say you all did a really great job with my piece.” Jane couldn’t seem to find the words to ask if they knew her.
“Oh you wrote it? Hey, we’ve been wondering where you came up with the name for it.” Some of the other Pipers turned to see who was talking.
“Well, I’m, uh.” Her hands were shaking, words failed her. One of the nurses put her hand on Jane’s shoulder.
They explained how Jane was a victim of amnesia and that she remembered bits and pieces about her past and Beautiful Noise was something that was prominent in her memory. Jane explained that she remembered the instruments and how they played together, but she couldn’t remember the faces or names of the musicians.
The others looked at Jane with a little confusion. Her voice sounded so familiar, but looked so different. A flute player saw the instrument case in Jane’s hands. “Do you play?” the flute player asked.
“I’m remembering.” Jane said nervously.
The bass clarinet player looked closely into Jane’s eyes. “How badly were you hurt? How much surgery did you have?”
“A lot. My cheek bones were shattered, a lot of the skin was cut up. I was told there was a lot of surgery, but I was in a coma for two months so I don’t remember looking like anything other than this.”
“But you remember the music?” An oboe player asked.
“Yea. It’s something that keeps me together. It feels familiar. Right. Like when I play, I’m home.”
“Well let’s play then,” said the bass clarinet player picking up his instrument.
They played and played until after last call had rung out. Slowly, the group began to realize that Jane Doe was indeed their lost friend, Ashley. She had found her family again and the Pipers were eleven once more. As for Ashley, her recovery was slow but with the help of her friends and their beautiful noise, she began to recall the life she had before.
BIO: “Well where do I start with one of these things. Let me start by advertising that if you like my story please visit GypsyAudio.org to actually here some of my stories come to life in the form of audio theatre. I also do a lot of acting on that site and have since been dubbed the “Voice of Gypsy Audio,” which is pretty cool. I am primarily a voice actor, but have recently started to take my writing a bit more seriously and have been happy with the results and feedback so far. I have a website www.gypsylaura.com. There you can keep up with all the stuff that is out there with my name on it. I also want to thank Amanda Clark and Dave Sobkowiak for editing “Beautiful Noise”.”