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Master and Apprentice

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“I think you’re ready now.” Tuomas said, looking up from the computer screen, where a thin green bar kept track of the piece of music that was playing.
I stopped the music, pressing the button a little bit harder than the necessary.
I was kind of annoyed, since I had been working on that piece for two months at least, under the pressure of him constantly asking me if it was ready, saying that he was really really curious and shit like that.
And now he had stopped it right before the best part.
That bitch.
But I had learnt that it was normal for him to behave like that sometimes.
He put his feet on the desk, leaning back on the chair and fidgeting with his pencil.
“Yeah, you’re definitely ready.”
“Ready for what?”
He didn’t answer right away, as he usually did when he wanted to build up some suspance, but he looket at me, smirking.
“For your first official collaboration with Nightwish.”
That was... uhm. What?
My first what with who?
Nah, he was joking, of course he was.
Or was he...
“You know... when I thought about this moment I imagined things a little bit differently.” He hadn’t stopped smiling, so of course the first thing I said was a dead ass serious:
“Are you shitting me?”
He blinked a couple of times, before bursting out laughing.
“Do you really think this is a joke?” He slapped himself on the chest in a very Chris Evans-like move, the left boob grab, the internet had called it.
“Isn’t it?” I replied, sarcastically.
He crossed his arms and looked at me with raised eyebrows, without saying a word.
Just wait a second.
Nah, it couldn’t be. Right?
Nightwish were one of the most famous symphonic metal bands in the whole world, and Tuomas Holopainen was one of the best (if not the best) composer of the time.
No way that your average nobody would write something for them.
“Wait. Are you really asking me to write a song for Nightwish?” I asked, still very suspicious.
“Nah. I don’t want you to write a song for Nightwish.” And there it was.
I knew there was something just not right, but I couldn’t say that I wasn’t a little bit disappointed.
“I want you to write a part of some songs for the new album.”
Oh shit.
My mind was playing on loop that clip of the fire drill from The Office.
Stay calm. Everybody stay calm. I repeated to myself.
“Do you know I am going to cry, right?”
“Yeah, I guessed.” He threw a pack of tissues at me, with a big shit-eating grin on his face.
“You don’t have to answer me right now, I’ll give you some time to think about it.”
He said that like he knew exactly my answer.
And he did know, for sure.
“I’ll do it.”
He smiled, the proud smile he had when I played for him my first original piece, four years earlier.
Right in that room we were sitting in, on the same keyboard near the only naked wall in the whole room.
He said that it helped him focus on the strings of dreams in his mind.
“If I look outside the window every string would disappear but the ones about nature.” He had explained, pointing at the window, on the other wall. “And I’d be making albums and albums about that tree over there.” Then he had shrugged.
“I could do that, if I wanted to. But it’s not why I make music. I don’t want to make music about what I see around. I want to make music about what’s in here.” He had pointed at his heart. ”About my heart strings.”

“Do you know why I picked you among all the others?” He asked, shaking me from those memories.
I shook my head.
Honestly I had been asking me that since the very moment he had chosen me.
Really, why me?
Yeah, I had been playing various instruments since I was four, but I wasn’t nearly as good at either playing or composing as half of the other musicians.
Actually I had signed up to that “send your piece and we will send to Nightwish to see if they like it” contest just because my friend told me to.
I used to compose short pieces and upload them on my youtube channel, that had around 30 subscribers.
Ten of which were my family and twelve my friends.
But then I just thought well, in the worst case they will reject it.
And then they had called me, saying that apparently I could win the contest and that I made it to the first fifteen places.

“I chose you because you cried.”
Ah fuck, he remembers.
Yes, I had cried. I had cried really hard when they had made me listen to an unreleased track.
I remembered that moment clearly.
I remembered thinking and they tell me that angels don’t exist... because only an angel could make such beautiful music, something that reached deep into your soul.
I rolled my eyes.
“No, wait. Don’t worry, ten of you cried listening to that song.” Oh, really? “But the thing is that you started right away. The other nine had to listen to it at least twice and it was the lyrics and the singing that moved them to tears. For you it was the music.”
I looked at him.
He wasn’t looking at me, he was lost in the memory of that day, moving his eyes to the left and to the right, up and down, as if he was rewatching a movie.
“Everyone loves the words, everyone needs the words to really feel something, to understand what I felt when I wrote that music. I have always thought of me as someone with a lucky soul. A soul that could go beyond words, beyond language and directly into the heart of the piece, into its very essence. If my theory is right, you and I have the same kind of lucky soul. If I tried to teach the things I taught you in these years, it would have been just a waste of time. They wouldn’t have understood. You had that thing that the others didn’t have. You have that thing that makes Nightwish... well... Nightwish.”

I let the words sink in.

Talking with Tuomas was always surprising.
Sometimes you got the big nerd no one expected him to be, an endless pit of book and movies references, card games and an unholy ammount of wierd facts.
He knew things that made you wonder if he actually had first hand experience about that, and that could make a room full of happy people go really silent, or start an existential crisis.
“Did you know that when a decapitated flatworm regrows its head its old memories come back?.”
“What the fuck, Tuomas.” was the most common response.
Because, really. How could he possibly know that?
Could he talk to flatworms?
Honestly it wouldn’t be surprising, at this point.

Other times he was like that.
Deep concepts expressed with words that barely made sense, but that were somehow able to send the exact message he wanted to send.
Once, at dinner, Marco had said that it was like he was possessed by one of the Lovecraftian gods.
Jukka had replied that maybe it was the secret stock of hashish in his room that did the magic.
And I had confirmed that it wasn’t hashish or any other drugs so maybe it was the god?

“My style is not the same as yours.” I said, without thinking.
“People don’t want to hear Tuomas Holopainen. They want to hear music that talks to your soul. It doesn’t matter what language it speaks. The language of the souls is just one, it’s international. Everyone speaks the same. Different music styles are like accents. You know that language, I taught it to you, so now it is your duty to speak to people and make them feel like you felt when you wrote that music. Tell them how you felt when you listen to my music.”
That made me cry.

“So, Tuo, have you two already talked about...?” Floor asked that night at dinner.
They had just started working on the new album, so the day before, they all moved into Tuomas’ “cabin in the woods”, where they all lived together until the end of the recording sessions.
“Wait, you all knew it?” I shouted, from the kitchen.
Since Tuomas and I moved there two weeks in advance, the others had still the “I’m too tired from the trip to cook” card to play.
“Of course we know, he told us.” Marco said “He’s the composer, not the boss of us.”
I brought the pasta into the other room and sat it down at the centre of the table.
“Pasta with zucchini, shrimps and cream. Mom’s recipe.” I announced, gesturing around with the wooden spoon.
“Oh my God I love that!”
Yeah, Floor. I know you love it.
“What do you think?” Emppu asked, around a forkful of pasta.
“I accepted, obviously!”
“Oh, God, he threatened you, didn’t he?” Jukka said theatrically, grabbing my wrist. “He said he’d kill your family if you didn’t, right? Or maybe he paid you. You paid her, didn’t you?” He then asked Tuomas, who laughed out loud.
“I offered her biscuits. We have biscuits on the dark side.”
“You son of a bitch. You never offered me biscuits. I am offended.” Jukka turned to the other side, taking his plate with him and placing it on his knees.
“Watch it.” I warned him, taking the plate back to the table. “It will fall, if you keep it that way. And don’t worry, I’ll share the biscuits.”