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  • J.A. Willoughby

A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC: Getting a life of its own

Creative works like art, photos, music, and writing, are not unlike offspring. They are, or were, once a part of us and then they make their way out into the world. Admittedly, this is not a new concept.

“And now, once again, I bid my hideous progeny go forth and prosper. I have an affection for it, for it was the offspring of happy days, when death and grief were but words, which found no true echo in my heart.” - Mary Shelley, Author's Introduction (page 5), Frankenstein.

Most of us who create feel the emptiness where something should “be”, the compulsion to make it happen, and the feeling of satisfaction and fulfillment when the work “becomes” of its own. The metaphor can be taken a bit deeper using the offspring analogy, in that no work is better or more favorable than another. The progeny does make its “way out into the world” to see how it is received, rejected or an inspiration to others, adding something of substance, a contribution to our society and culture – or not. And, if we are to make a complete and total offspring observation, cloning (by way of intellectual property piracy) must also be mentioned – but that is another topic unto itself.

Each “offspring” has its own personality, too. Just as no song, story or piece of art can in the mind of its creator be favored over another, each is unique in every way: the way they were created, the techniques and devices used, and its own process of growth and development.

My latest story, A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, available now, is one such creation. It has “become”. It is now finished and ready to be pulled out of the hangar, and be sent to fly on its own. It has its own siblings, however, and is currently a story of its own, along with two collections of stories that have come to be, THIS SIDE OF CENTER-ORIGINAL STORIES (2014), and THIS SIDE OF CENTER-ENCORE. Like the other collection of stories, this one too holds its own uniqueness for me – it is the longest story I have written to date.

I consider this novella to be a test flight, possibly one of several, before I take on writing a full novel. Just as I performed as a musician in local bars, at high school dances, small clubs and theatres before making recordings and playing in large halls and an arena, I need to gain experience writing many different types of things before I can confidently take on the role as an author of a novel. I started developing that in A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC. I needed to experience the world I live in through almost child-like eyes – the naive, tech-deprived eyes of an 18th century man, in effect growing and developing along with the character. And I needed to do it patiently. That takes time and many words.

In my story, on the eve of the New Year, 1777, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is suddenly and mysteriously transported to a rural Pennsylvania countryside, a college town nearby. He is befriended by some university students who do not know his true identity, only that he demonstrates to them that he is a musical genius.

For many months I saw in my daily life, things that we all take for granted, through the eyes of the main character. I needed to see my world through the eyes of a twenty-something musical genius from another century. I've done the “twenty-something” thing a long time ago, so I have that experience. And I am a musician, but we'll put the brakes on there. I am familiar with Herr Mozart's work and enjoy it immensely. But I consider myself a listener, not an expert on his technique and writing. I do understand and can research history, however. And being a WWII Living History hobbyist, I could relate to the need to be authentic, with regards to his character and the way he is presented in the story.

My research was culled heavily from the book, MOZART by Marcia Davenport, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1932. I purposely refrained from watching (again) the 1984 film, “Amadeus”, an enjoyable and entertaining Academy Award winning Hollywood depiction and representation of his life, in favor of actual historical research. In her book, Ms. Davenport presents transcribed letters passed to, from and between Mozart, his wife, friends and members of his family. His speech patterns then, were available to me as were his upbringing, his attitudes about relationships with women – and their thoughts about him, his hobbies and passions, his quirks, habits and mannerisms, his obsessions, compulsions and delinquencies – and of course, his genius.

It soon became apparent to me that he was quite the rock star of his day in manner and deed; powerful and famous in certain circles, overindulgent and therefore constantly broke, a vulgar immature cad (depending on who you talked to), and admired and very likeable, all at the same. Of course, I did not want “Woferl” to be a completely despicable character, one that the reader would hate. So, I mentally listed his good qualities (along with a few questionable ones for historical accuracy) and snatched him from history. I made him vulnerable by throwing him into our 2016 world, a character one can sympathize with, and caused him to adapt and grow, something any good parent or artist, writer or musician would do, before pulling their creation “from the hangar” and give it wings to take first flight.

I'll let you read it to see how it turned out, but suffice it to say Mozart had to grow as much into our century, as I did into his. So, in that respect we, Wolf and I, have had a very special and unique relationship and, “fictionally-speaking”, the longest that either one of us has had to date. ~ JW

Some Research Triva while writing A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC

The story takes place in River Crest, Pennsylvania. Others of my stories have taken place in River Crest, as well, which is loosely based on my hometown of Danville, a small town situated along the North branch of the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania. (River Crest will continue be the center of activity in all future “local” stories)

I used actual street names from Danville in this and other stories. In this case, Hofer Street, where I lived as a boy. There was no boarding house there, however, and I chose the street name at random. (Interesting to note is that the town street signs are spelled incorrectly as "Hoffer" which does not correspond to historical records, apparently naming two streets (NIcholas Avenue and Hofer Street) after a resident carpenter (Nicholas Hofer) who emigrated from Baden Germany.)

Strangely coincidental, while researching the story, I discovered that “Hofer” was the surname of Wolfgang's (oldest) sister-in-law, Josefa, a soprano who sang some of Mozart's works.

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