• Member Since 11th Oct, 2011
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I'm older than your average brony, but then I've always enjoyed cartoons. I'm an experienced reviewer, EqD pre-reader, and occasional author.


Partway through her morning practice routine—and routine it is—Octavia seems to have gained an audience. Well, if that mare wants to listen, she'll get a good show.

Expanded from the tenth-place finisher in /fic/'s first minific write-off, "What Lies Beneath."

Featured on Equestria Daily!

Cover art by drawponies

Reviewing help from Mystic and Chris.

Chapters (1)
Comments ( 44 )

Octavia's my favorite, and I really believe you did her justice in this one. Thank you.

Not sure if I'm getting as much out of this story as its potential might have been. Some of the phrasing and construction in the earlier sections felt a bit awkward to me, and I noted some instances of what I felt were superfluous commas. I'm also not sure I agree with the narrative voice sounding like Octavia's, but that's all headcanon, so it's not really subject for debate.

That said, I think this story has a really great theme. I'm kind of in two directions about it—on one hand, when we're contemplating the extemporization of a simple occurrence or set of occurrences into a larger, more thematic meaning, I feel like minimalism is almost always better because it lets us draw out that meaning in a more natural, personal way, and there's some extra description or contemplation in areas here I could do without. On the other hand, the explication is almost all internal, which makes sense. I feel it fits better in that light, though my personal preference is towards a more poetic analysis of the material, rather than what we seem to be led to believe is Octavia's somewhat clinical observation of a wholly personal phenomena.

The jargon didn't really add much to the piece for me, aside the delightful title usage which I think is wonderful, and very fitting.

Derpy's introduction as an character rather than a narrative element also felt awkward to me, though that's possibly further headcanon intruding. Something about the pace of the dialogue just felt forced, I suppose.

Either way, a good read, though something I'd be interested in seeing a slight angling of approach towards. Looking forward to seeing it go up on the TVS.

Apologies if my unsolicited feedback is bothersome at all.

No, it's always interesting hearing others' take on something, as even an interpretation of a character that I hadn't considered or wouldn't use myself contains some nugget of insight that will be useful in other stories. Even if you have a different vision of Octavia's voice than I do, it's another vector for character development that I could apply to her or someone else. Thank you for your thoughts.

Your comment about the description or contemplation that you'd like to see toned down is something I had to work on. There were some very blunt thoughts in there before, and Mystic immediately jumped on them as something that felt like a giant neon sign telling the reader that he was to notice this point, dammit.

And the dialogue at the end was something I struggled with. The original version was very terse and rushed, and Chris took issue with a couple of aspects of it, so I'd already reworked that part once. And sometimes it takes more than one try to get it right. Or two. Or three. I'm curious what exactly you mean by the character versus narrative, though. Is it that she worked better when she was some external thing that only the narrator had access to? In that case, would you have liked it better if their interaction were summarized by the narrator instead of presented "live"?

Well, before Derpy was introduced and used to speak, or rather when she stopped being an element to Octavia's contemplation and was given an attempt to realize herself as an entity (I'd say 'person' but we're working with equines here), it feels like she fell flat. Specifically because her dialogue was absent of any notable personality (the Derpy in my head is 'child-like', as you've used liberally elsewhere, but not in her speech here), and fell kind of flat. It didn't do a great deal to advance the story either - her exchange with Octavia may as well have been 'and finally they spoke' - as a result, she's still a vessel for the advancement of the story's contemplation, but she doesn't feel organic.

A bit of the difference in opinion definitely comes down to style: I love short snippets of everyday life like this, but I enjoy them when they're minimalistic to the point of forcing the reader into contemplation, or when they focus on the poetics of the mundane. This is kind of in between, and I think it is something that could work well, but it needs to feel more organic than it does in parts. It was specifically bits of the information (which looked like remnants of the necessity of jargon in the original story) and the interaction at the end that faltered for me; I think the epiphany Octavia's led to is a worthwhile one, but her route to reaching it could have been gentler.


(I'd say 'person' but we're working with equines here)

Persons don't have to be human, though. I'm not really sure where the idea that they do came from.

In its colloquial usage, and referenced by the show, we often use species designations for singular entities rather than one that's common among humans.

Ahh. There was me lining up to say that the jargon was making it difficult to enjoy. I know nothing about music and found myself getting pulled out of constantly because I had no idea what most of it meant (even though it didn't necessarily matter to understanding the work).

That aside, the thing that really sprang to mind was a rule (more of a guideline, really) I picked up from one of NorsePony's blog posts on writer's tips: make sure every character wants something. Some of the description for rather forced because it seemed to be covering up for a lack of underlying direction, as if my attention had to be micro-managed because there was no overall course set. With a little more empathy for Octavia's drive, much of the indirect monologue could have been skipped and the engagement raised significantly—something I could relax into. Too much effort was spent making sure that I was thinking what the author wants me to think, and it makes prose rather stiff and tiring for the reader.

In fact, I recall a lesson from a book that said to remove such things and see if the core concept actually had more power that the author thought it did. For example, the inner monologue 'No, don't leave!' felt harshly out of place. The slightest of physical cues and a resumption of play would have made the case much more powerfully, but the monologue itself comes off as having the intention driven home rather brutishly. Much of the monologue felt the same when I read it, and by the time the twist came, I just wasn't in the mood to be taken with it, yet I think in many places it the story would have worked better by simply removing them.


Having some music experience, yet none of the detailed work. There is something unique about music's language. When you hear it, no matter the form, when you listen, you learn and love in your own tastes and views. One may know it in expertise, one may know it in love of song, yet to find that synergy, that harmony, is all together rare.

But a lovely short, it was.

I thought this was very well done.
I especially liked the fact that you subverted the expectations people had for Derpy and Octavia. Ignore any comments about characterization. The whole point of this piece is transforming Derpy from a :derpytongue2: to a more three dimensional personality and I think you did masterfully in that regard.
I can't see how the language turns people off. This is probably because I grew up in a musical family, and the terms were familiar; so I can't tell if your terminology detracts from the story or not. I personally liked it, because it added authenticity to your Octavia and made the change of her perspective of Derpy more drastic then it would have been otherwise. All in all this was a wonderful short. Have a 'stache! :moustache:

One thing I found really interesting is how Octavia's thoughts about how she wants others to just say they enjoy her music, rather than ramble about jargon, is almost exactly opposite from how I and many other writers want others to comment on their stories. While "I love it!" feels good, nothing beats an intricate, detailed comment.

And then, of course, greatest of all is a positive comment full of understanding as well as suggestions for improvement... which Derpy then gives. I know nothing about music, but through the characters' emotions and actions, I was able to relate it to something I did know about. That bit of parallel commentary was delightful.

I often think of a story's like/dislike ratio as a view-weighted factor of audience-perceived quality. Thing is, it only really works when conceived as a fraction.

This story has no dislikes. I really really wanted to dislike it just so that it's like/dislike ratio would make mathematical sense.

So me pressing the like button counts for a lot more than it usually does here. Good story.

Welp. This is my new headcanon for Derpy. And possibly Octavia as well.

Well done, mate. Really well done. A delightful little read--you've worked your way into Octavia's head rather successfully. Like with Derpy's critique, I have no complaints, really. Short and sweet, bit brimming with emotion, and a good smattering of comprehensive musical knowledge that made this seem all the more "real". Kudos.
It looked into a deeper side of Octavia than many of us dare to tread, and it very much applies to all artists. The question that we all have asked ourselves at some point: Why do we create?
I can only speak for myself, but I think that whatever reasons you have hidden away are with good intent.

I enjoyed this, my friend. Cheers!

I don't think I've ever before seen those two characters interact in a fic. Awesome story you did there. I think what really made me REALLY LOVE instead of "just" REALLY ENJOY this story was Derpy's unexpected knowledge of music. It's a nice little touch that really does it for me, like Fluttershy's knowledge of sewing in-canon.

I'm not sure what you're saying here.

This was wonderful. Speaking as someone who plays cello for a living, it is refreshing to read an Octavia (and Derpy in this case) story that really seems to understand the music, the instrument, and most importantly, why they are played the way they are! Bravo

Oh, I liked this! 'Cause I'm like Octavia, I know all the theory and stuff (Bachelor of Music Ed FTW), but that's not the point of music. Those are the tools and techniques; the point of music is to take in the beauty that has been written and make it our own, to make a kind of glorious dance between the composer and the performer. And we should, like Derpy, use knowledge to enrich our enjoyment, not weigh it down and make it stuffy.

I loved the twist of Derpy having in-depth knowledge of music and music theory. People should not be ashamed to squee over suspended chords and picardy thirds. (We did a recent piece in choir this year, "The Dark Night of the Soul" by Gjielo, and I was bouncing up and down, going, "Oh my goodness, it ends with a plagal cadence, that's so perfect!" and maybe one person understood my fangirling. It was sad.)

Also, I like this line: "An audience was an audience after all." It's true! I've done a few concerts where there were more of us in the choir than in the audience, and you know? It doesn't matter. An audience is an audience. If we make one person's day, that's worth it.

Anyway, thank you, I loved it. :twilightsmile:

Knighty needs to add a "friendshipping" tag.

I appreciate all the comments and votes!


This was somewhat of an indulgence for me, which will likely limit its audience, but I did want to capture that feeling of making music. I used to compete in performance and composition in high school, and while I chose another route as a profession, music is still a cherished hobby. While I rarely play anymore, I still have fun writing music, though mostly for choir these days.

This one's for the music lovers.

Yes, detailed feedback is more useful than a simple "I liked it." But Octavia's in a position that she knows she's good, and is happier when she's managed to make that emotional connection with her audience. It's a fine point, and there are certainly more objective ways to declare a musician good than a writer. In the end, of course, writers and musicians alike would certainly prefer having it both ways: being told their work was appreciated, and getting a detailed explanation of why. :raritywink:

That was just awesome and adorable! I loved how Octavia wants to please Derpy a little more each time then Derpy confronts her with so much wonderment and attention to detail and musical knowledge! :raritystarry::derpytongue2:

Lovely, charming, sweet fic that had me smiling. I've had a rough few weeks, so this was a treat to read, and I needed something like this. So thank you. <3

As I was reading it, I was listening to some of my favorite string music. This, in particular:

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/ASNMQwcbax8" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

I think it was rather fitting background music for this story. ^^

Moderately short, but it still carries the feeling and impact of a fic thrice it's length. My interest in Octavia notwithstanding, this is probably one of the best fics I've read in a while. Definitely a favourite. Thank you for creating this marvelous story!

This is well written and deeply written.


A madrigal is a vocal piece.

On-topic: awesome story, love reading stuff about Octavia, especially when the writer actually uses proper musical terminology :rainbowkiss:

A madrigal can be transcribed for any instrument. When a violin plays Rachmaninov's Vocalise, is it not still a Vocalise? Maybe not in presentation, but the transcriber wouldn't take it upon himself to change the title to suit.

I think it is very telling that Octavia would mistake Derpy's earnestness for some kind of child-like judgment-less enjoyment.

Author Interviewer

Gratifyingly good job with the jargon, old bean. :3

Ironic that this story, expressing a longing for simple appreciation rather than technical criticism, has pages of technical critique in the comments, but seems to be the only story on fimfiction without a LOL or a MOAR.

Still. Where do you get those wonderful commentators? :trixieshiftright:

Oh, I've seen you around Chris's blog. You know these folks well. A veritable rogues' gallery.

This was a beautiful little story.

I like your writing style. Simple start, a bit more info in the middle, a twist towards the end, and an ending that makes you think about it.

Gosh, the only complaint I have is that you called it a cello instead of a bass, but honestly, even the creators of the show think it's a cello, so who am I to judge?

Really, I can't tell whether it's supposed to be a cello or a bass. Things become oddly proportioned when transferred to quadrupeds, so unless the writers care to name which it is, I'm not sure we can know.


Pascoite's Canon.


One of the writers called it a cello, but they clearly couldn't tell the difference between a cello and a bass. (They said it had to be a cello because of characteristics that both instruments share.)

I think it's a bass because you sit to play the cello but stand to play the bass, and Octavia is standing, and also because the slope of the upper C-bout and the direction of the tuning pegs suggest a throwback to the classic double bass violone. However, I had a whole argument with another instrumentalist who was firmly in the cello camp, and our conversation was inconclusive.

In the end, I prefer it to be called a bass, because I play the bass and am somewhat sick of people calling my instrument a cello. I can only assume Octavia is just as frustrated as I am by the discrepancy, whatever the actual identity of her instrument.

I've certainly done that before... zeroed in on a technical detail and drawn a conclusion from it that the writers probably never intended or would even have the knowledge to include. I agree that the instrument's proportions are closer to a bass, but I'm not sure playing it standing is conclusive, since equine posture may well make playing many instruments seated problematic. In my mind, she can play all the strings anyway :pinkiehappy:

I just wish I could figure out how she does it! I have enough issues using fingers, but all she has is a hoof!

Easily one of the best slice-of-life one shots i've ever read.

In a word, genius.
I'm not familiar with most of the musical terminology in use here, but it was effective none the less. I was pleasantly surprised to see Octavia humbled by the end of it too.

For some reason this put me in mind of Rear Window, which is odd, because it's not a hitchcockian murder-mystery or even closely related to it.

But there's a scene, or two scenes, where a pianist plays and a woman listens to him playing, and it's the one thing that reminds her life is worth living. Just a scene that plays out in the background. Only this isn't quite like that either...

I felt it though. It was lovely. :derpytongue2:

This was good. You're pretty fluent in music talk

I find that most people will develop at least one hobby to the point they achieve considerable expertise in it. Classical music is my thing.

This story started out as an experiment to see if I could make this much jargon work in favor of the story, in reaction to a piece someone I knew was writing where the jargon served no purpose but to let the author toot his own horn, as it were. There's a fine line between making jargon engaging and just coming across as showing off. People seem to enjoy it, so I guess I hit pretty close to what I was hoping to do. Thanks for reading!

And I thought your short version was fun. This was even more so.

I've had fun expanding a lot of those minis into short stories, but I've had to pick which ones. Some just couldn't be expanded much without inserting useless padding, because the short version already says everything that needs to be said, but the ones I think can benefit from some additional space make for interesting explorations of what more there is to the story.

Link to the original? Would love to read it before this story.

It's one of the chapters in my short story collection "Tales of Interest!"

Thanks, will give it a read later.

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