Richard played the piece again, slowly, fingers stretching for the high notes while the left hand kept the bass line moving. Then the theme, both hands hard. The notes on the score blurred, every phrase reminding him of a different melody from a long-forgotten time and place, of a radio or phonograph song. An epiphany: how in the name of miracles could Beethoven have written anything at all while stone deaf? In those days with quill and ink…

Another fumble, he started again, mind scattered into shards of nonsense images. Did Glenn Gould experience visions like this? Did all great composers? Rachmaninoff ‘s Prelude in C # Minor, the three thematic notes, restated again and again, building, building… The flurry in the middle, a breeze to play, his ‘banging piece’.

Came Stanley’s voice, a clarion call to his befuddled mind, “This is what happens when you try to play piano on acid. You pick up good vibrations and she gives you the excitations.”

He heard laughter somewhere, ack, damn Russians. He thought briefly about trying Ravel’s Bolero, and knew instantly – that would be madness. Too late! The oboes and their hypnotic opening theme was already crowding all else from his mind. Or was that Scheherazade?

The sim chip paused, inserted titles, credits and anti-piracy admonitions. Mongo blinked and the Featured Escapement clip initiated: “Long ago, in a galaxy…” The Cro-Borg snickered: he loved the Ancients’ humorous take on history…

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