This story was written for the Reedsy contest "Musical Genius".
More specifically by the prompt: "Write about a character who was considered a prodigy when they were young."
The Discovery of Music
There once was a time when mankind didn’t know music. The only sounds men and women produced were noise and voice. People talked to each other abundantly, but there was no rhythm in their words, no melody in their sentences.
The word “lyrics” couldn’t be found in any dictionary, simply because it didn’t exist yet. As for music, there was the knock-knock of the carpenter hammering nails into wood, the kling-kling of the blacksmith forging metal on his anvil, the klang-klang of the trolley driver warning people to get out of the way, the ting-ting of the milkman on his round, the bling-bling of the working girl winking back at him, the kaching-kaching of the shopkeeper selling her protection. In short: all things human were characterized by a cacophony of onomatopoeia.
Music only existed in the animal world. Birds sang songs high in the sky; whales sang melodies deep in the ocean. Bees hummed their joy; wolves howled their sorrow. Cats were the exception; when they tried to bring a sonata in the moonlight, it sounded as if a small child was being murdered.
It was in those days that a shepherd used to lead his sheep into the mountains to graze. One day, the good man spotted a small pack of wolves sniffing an object he couldn’t identify. They were acting strangely, so he chased the gang away by shooting his gun in the air. Imagine his surprise when he discovered the wolves had been circling around a newborn child.
“How did you survive all alone in nature?” the shepherd asked, but the only answer he got was a tune that immediately made him love the child. He took the boy to the village and went to every household, asking if a baby went missing in the family. No one knew where the child came from.
Although he wouldn’t admit it, the shepherd felt relieved. His wife had always wanted a son or daughter to care for; now her wish had finally come true.
“Let’s call him Wolfgang,” the shepherd told his wife, referring to the circumstances in which he had found the child. They decided to raise little Wolfgang as if it were their own son.
In the first seven years of his life, the boy didn’t talk to humans, yet the shepherd was sure he could talk to animals.
As soon as Wolfgang could walk, he accompanied the shepherd and his herd in the mountains. One time, a lamb went missing. The shepherd didn’t know where to start looking for it, but the boy went to the oldest sheep in the flock.
They baa-baa-ed, and meh-meh-ed in a way the shepherd had never heard a sheep baa or meh. At the end of their bleating chant, Wolfgang pulled the shepherd by the sleeve and led him to a narrow crevice. The lamb was trapped inside.
Thanks to Wolfgang, the poor animal was rescued in time.
In the village, the shepherd wife used to baby-sit the neighbors’ kids when their parents were in the city for several days to sell crops and livestock. One night, she took Wolfgang with her. When it was time for the kids to go to bed, they refused with loud protests. They weren’t tired, they said, they still wanted to play.
Wolfgang chose that moment to utter his first words. What he said didn’t seem to have any meaning, but it had a soothing effect on the other kids: “Toora, loora, loora. Toora, loora, li. Toora, loora, loora.”
The kids started yawning and were fast asleep before Wolfgang could say “That's an Irish lullaby.”
From that day on, Wolfgang could speak, but there was something peculiar about the way he spoke. When someone brought good news, he repeated the news with such enthusiasm that people were even happier than before. When the news was sad, he could echo that sadness in a way that everyone felt pain and healing at the same time. It was as if he could put emotions in his words.
Wolfgang didn’t call it “speaking”; he said he was “singing”. Soon the whole village was fascinated by that word and the concept it stood for.
The shepherd turned an abandoned stable into a meeting place. He built a podium and a bar, and every Saturday night, little Wolfgang would entertain people with his exceptional voice.
At first, the shepherd had provided chairs so that people could sit down while listening, but the strangest thing happened: people discovered that they couldn’t remain seated. Their feet started tapping on their own when Wolfgang was singing. Their legs forced them to move; before the villagers knew it, they discovered dancing. The chairs were moved to the side and the shepherd’s stable became the first dance hall in history.
One Saturday, a villager who had moved to the big city was visiting his family. He couldn’t believe his ears when he heard Wolfgang.
“That child is a prodigy,” he said. “He could be a star on stage in the city!”
As the shepherd and his wife had never been in the city, they decided to see what the place was all about. The former villager introduced them to mister Music, the owner of the largest theater in town. When mister Music heard Wolfgang sing, he immediately offered the boy a contract.
“This is my discovery,” said mister Music. Although this wasn’t entirely true, you could say that this was how music was discovered.
For months in a row, mister Music’s theater was completely sold old. Everyone wanted to see Wolfgang and listen to his performance. People came from all over the country to hear the boy, who had in the meantime become a handsome adolescent. On general request, he went on tour throughout the country at the age of sixteen.
Incidentally, one of his concerts in the capital was attended by the king who was very curious about the young man everyone in his kingdom was talking about.
“I like this,” the king said. “We need more of it.”
He invited Wolfgang to the palace, and asked the shepherd's son if he would be willing to share his talent with other people: "Can you teach our people to sing?"
“I could try,” Wolfgang said, and that's how he started the first music school in the world.
Obviously, he encountered people who, just like cats, would always sing out of tune. Fortunately, he found a solution that allowed even those people to enjoy making music too. He taught them how to make sounds that were in perfect harmony with the words he sang.
In the beginning, they used hammers, bells, and horns, but as “making” music became increasingly popular, blacksmiths and carpenters started making instruments to be used for the sole purpose of playing music.
Today, a namesake of the shepherd’s son, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, is much more famous than the hero in this story, but the fact remains that we would never have heard of Mozart if little Wolfgang had never brought music into our world.
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