Bach Against the Wall

The smooth and mellow tones flowed out, rich and low, filling Trace One with a soft harmony that went deeper than the surface. A subtle shift of the bow, and another chord soared up sweetly from the varnished wood and taut strings.

With care, Greg kept his gaze on the sheet music, busily taking in the glissando of notes and adjusting his fingerings to match them as he sawed on, his concentration completely on the music circling around him. Had he bothered to look up he might have noticed the slightly astonished stares of Mandy and Warrick as they peeked in through the glass and watched him silently, both of them listening to the sweet, formal melody reverberating (albeit slightly muffled) through the thick transparent walls of the room.

Greg played on, pursing his lips, knowing the tempo was too slow, but aware that it had been a long time since he’d played, and rushing it would lead to mistakes. As it was, the rolling chair wasn’t quite high enough, and the improvised music stand of a plastic Evidence bin barely kept the score propped up, but those were minor issues, and as always, the sheer pleasure of producing the music soothed him to the soul.

Bach was made for the cello; he truly was. Oh people loved his pieces for the organ, sure, but these calm, complex Suites held a power and structure that spiraled to heaven, and Greg knew that within the perfectly arranged notes and harmonies lay the challenging charm of mastery. Tackling Bach was like taking on the wildest rollercoaster; the hardest equation; the Everest of fingerings.

At least that’s what his old teacher, Mr. Nightbell used to murmur. Greg remembered him in all this thin, tweedy glory; a mop-haired man with nicotine stains on his fingers and a fierce brilliance with a bow. Bach was his God, and even now Greg remembered the monk-like dedication Mr. Nightbell had for the ordered harmonies and arpeggios that filled Tuesday afternoons before dinner. Sometimes Chopin for a warm up, or Mozart for a change, but always back to Bach before the end of the lesson.

A well-learned one too, Greg had to admit as he fought a distracted grin. He was relaxing into the music now, letting it flow easily, taking in the personality of the big curvy girl between his knees. She was more than just a piece of evidence in a robbery; she was a grand old dame of maple and cherry wood and Greg loved the faint perfume of her varnish. She rested well against his shoulder, and he reached the end of the page, using the tip of the bow to flip to the next one, amused at how it was all coming back to him.

Music . . . he loved the stuff. Even though at times he’d ventured about as far as a person could from good old J.S. and Mr. Nightbell—and Urban Verbs and Menace certainly qualified—it was all the same core. One man’s harmonies were another man’s cacophony, and despite the dichotomy, it all came down to the same basic practice of putting organization to sound. Bach had more structure; Rob Zombie more improv, but each had power . . .

With a grin, Greg wondered if anyone had ever tried playing “Screw the Law” on a cello.


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