The History of Song

The history of song is the story of a young girl.

She was born with movements that followed the pulse of a heartbeat, with a long neck and skin like leather. As she got older, banjo strings began to grow from her head like hair. She would grasp little bundles of them when they got tangled up, and pull them taut (it never hurt, and she never understood why not), and form her fingers into a little claw and strum them free instead of brushing. She never spoke, and she never knew if she could, because she never tried.

The history of song is also the story of a young boy.

He was born with bones that made sounds like icicles when he moved, and he was long and broad. As he got older, guzheng strings began to grow from his head like hair. He would pick handfuls of them when they got knotted up, and pull them taut (it never hurt, and he never asked why not), and form his hand into a little claw, and pluck them free instead of brushing. He never spoke: though he tried every day when he woke, no sound ever came out.

They lived like this, on opposite sides of a river, until one morning she saw a small boat in the middle of the water, and she waded out to it, and he did the same. The boat was just big enough for the two of them, and they both lay down and listened to the water and found that they didn’t need to speak.

After some time, she brought her fingers to his hair and he let her play him. And after some time, he did the same, and she let him. While the sun set, they closed their eyes and went to sleep. As they drifted with the boat down the river, their hair wove together into a fabric that played itself on the breeze of their breath. The night deepened as the cloth rippled songs about the water and the wind, and as it did so, it lullabied them into a dream they never woke from. When the sun rose again, the boat still drifted in the middle of the river, and string music floated softly from it, but there was no one inside.