• Published 3rd Jul 2013
  • 966 Views, 48 Comments

Flight of the Parasprite - Planetarian



A seemingly harmless insect threatened to leave Ponyville in a famine! Can the Ponyville musicians find a way to save their town once again?

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The Carnival of Altomare

The day was young in Ponyville.

A buttermilk-colored Pegasus was by herself, making her rounds as she quietly hummed to her birds, ferret and bunny companions nearby. She was over a meadow that was adjacent to the woodlands.

She had a wicker basket on her back. The basket had more volume than that of the dainty Pegasus's torso, but she was not encumbered at all, for the load was a full basket of flowers.

Hoof-picked wildflower to be exact. Poppy, Pheasant's eye, Cornflower, Aconitum, Wild Rose, Foxglobe and whichever that struck the fancy of a pair of critical eyes.

She was on a mission.

A Squirrel scurried about, as it presented the buttermilk Pegasus with a stalk of Dandelion. The Pegasus halted herself, turned and lowered her head to meet the Squirrel at eye-level, as she gave her thanks to the little creature.

"Thank you, little Squirrel. But remember: these flowers are for Princess Cadance. Only the prettiest ones will do!"

The response was gentle, yet firm. There was to be no compromise when it comes to the Royal visit.

A sudden gust of air had scattered the head of the Dandelion far and wide, as the stalk was sapped of any vigor. The Squirrel watched this episode with slight embarrassment, as it withdrew the stalk to its back and it promptly left the Pegasus with haste.

♪Lalalalalalalalalala~♪

The buttermilk Pegasus with pink mane gingerly made her way to a basketful of apples that were placed atop a tree stump. The tree was as wide as the Pegasus, with the various variety of apples within the barrel-basket piled to the height of the Pegasus.

*Brweeee-*

The Pegasus stopped dead in her tracks as she quickly swiveled her eyes, ears and head in order to identify the source of the noise. Two apples came tumbling down from the kinetic shock of the Pegasus's movements.

The Pegasus stayed in her position, waiting to see if the source of the noise would emerge.

Then, as if on cue, an insect with a soft, furry, roundish body stood atop a piece of rock. It bore two pairs of translucent wings and had compound eyes of Jade. It stood on two pairs of legs.

*Brrrre-bweeee!*

The wings amplified this soothing, chirping sound... moreover, the pitch of the creature could actually be varied.
The caution that had grappled the Pegasus had completely vanished. This was an adorable little guy!

"Hello, little guy. I've never seen anything like you before."

The little insect hovered its way to one of the apples that had landed onto the meadow.

"Oh! Are you hungry?"

*Bwee.*

The insect seemed to have conformed the Pegasus's guess.

The Pegasus stomped on the apple for the convenience of the insect in consuming the fruit.

"Here you go!" The voice had no malice.

The little furry insect did not heed to the apple on the ground for some reason. It sped to the wooden barrel full of apples instead, and it promptly devoured the entire lot in a frenzy.

The Pegasus gasped at the sight. The basket was thrown to the ground by the time that the insect had finished with all the apples that were once piled atop of the container.

The affable insect then returned to the side of the Pegasus, as it circled her.

"I guess you were hungry!"

The little bug went to the Pegasus's pink, luscious mane and nuzzled against it affectionately. It then buried itself within the mane, ever so delighted about being surrounded by the softness of the fine hair.

The Pegasus declared in the open:

"You are the cutest thing ever! I can't wait to show you to my friends!"

The little Pegasus was filled with delight, and she all other thoughts were purged from her mind.

The toppled wicker basketful of flowers and the upturned barrel were forgotten as the pony turned her way to the town, happily humming to herself once more.

Her friends simply must see this cute little furball!

My little pony...
Ah ah ah...
(My Little Pony)
Friendship sounded so off-key to me.
(My Little Pony)
But now you're here, and now I see...
A loyal backing
Honest melodies!
Songs to share
With loving harmonies!
Joyous dance --
Such a lovely feat --
And magic makes the perfect beat!
You are my little ponies...
Friends make the best music of all!

Ponyville was a hive of busy activities.

The recently erected amphitheatre in the center of the town was a construction zone, filled with streamers, balloons, signs, loudspeakers, wiring assemblies, and ponies.

It was a mixed blessing from the calamities that the little town had to weather in the span of a mere year. Things however were looking bright.

The satellite speakers were being mounted onto platforms, with the famed DJ PON-3 directing their placements. She was assisted by the weathermare Raindrops and by Electric Blue, the electrician Pegasus.

"Hold her steady. I will do the angling..."

Vinyl Scratch was over the bleachers as she applied her telekinesis on one of the front right speaker towers.

"Ok. Tighten her up! Double-check the polarity when you're done!"

Octavia paced incessantly in this chaos, her eyes never leaving Vinyl Scratch.

The Cellist was tense. She and Red Tape took charge with the musical and the bureaucratic arrangements for the casual visit to the Ponyville music festival... since there's nothing casual about it when The Princess was to visit Ponyville.

The artistic and staging director was none other than the fashionista Rarity. She was in her own kingdom, slaving away at the gowns that the performers were to wear for the event. Frankly, Rarity's virtuosity with everything fabric was absolute.

"Vinyl, are you absolutely certain that having speaker amplification would be ideal for this open-air setting?"

The unicorn with cobolt blue mane brushed off the earth pony's skepticism.

"Don't fret it, Tavi! This is gonna be killer. This baby should pack enough punch. I am getting 5,000 watts of RMS out of this sub alone!"

The grey mare was seriously concerned.

"Please, Vinyl. I do not need some sonic cannon. We need balanced acoustics that will not slaughter the trebles and render all details under the incessant thumps of untamed bass..."

The rebuttal came with the DJ asking for another leap of faith.

"Oh please Tavi, ye of little faith. It'll be fine. I got enough juice and enough skill to make this awesome. Trust me. Why don't you go and look over what the others are up to and leave the set to me..."

"I don't want to have Red Tape's public performance ordinance to get revoked on us..."

Vinyl Scratch unleashed her puppy eyes upon the reserved mare.

Octavia pondered about this for a good, long second.

"...all right. Address the setup then... I will go and see how everyone else was doing."

The unicorn grinned while the reluctant earth pony turned around and headed out of the amphitheatre.

Octavia was quite delighted with what she saw of Ponyville.

True to Rarity's vision, the boulevard that led to the small masonry bridge was adorned lavishly with ribbons, knots and bells. The trees were uniformly trimmed, and the indigo ribbon theme was executed with Bock-like precision.

The gray mare was mentally tuned to BWV 1068, "Air" D-Dur.

The bridge itself was no different. The railings were accented by flowers and there was a sense of lightness in the design language that came through with grace. For a mare that was devoted to the pursuit of form, seeing this sort of carefully orchestrated design was akin to Rarity opening her soul to the musician, in all its majesty.

The mare saw earth ponies watering plants and erecting signs, and it was good.

"That was splendid, keep up the good work."

Such dignity and poise from every corner!

This volta played out without interruption in her mind as she switched to the second passage; the musician was superimposing the ribbons with the slurs and the knots with the beamed semi-quarter notes.

Octavia went along as she made praises of the preparation crew. The ponies deserved to be praised.


But then, out of the blue, a loud, offending mistake had appeared, in the form of a plaque that greeted the Cellist's eyes.

The bronze-cast characters that were mounted on the backplate spelled out the following words:

WeLcomE PrinceS CaDanCE

The characters glistened. The bronze was highly polished, enchanted and lavishly detailed. The gold accent, the embedded gemstones, the backplate of pink marble... were top notch. The sign was among some of the best in workmareship.

So close, yet so tragically flawed.

It was utterly bewildering, and such an affront to the harmonious chord, that the prim mare hadn't the means to comprehend her vision.

The mad minute went by. Octavia had no facial expression, not for the lack of will, but for the lack of vocabulary.

I... I.... I...

Her inner voice struggled mightily to translate itself so as to create the concept which the mare could depend upon to form coherent speech.

This cannot stand.

An answer had come. Finally, the mare's heart cried out in anguish.

This was an insult so foul that it threatened Octavia's core being.

Her audience of two Earth Ponies (who were trying to elevate the plaque onto a building) were beginning to show concern about the frozen mare of Chenneigh and Canterlot.

"Ur... Miss... Octavia..."

This shall not pass.

"No."

The singular adjective was a noun.

"No. Nay. Negative. Neigh. Nonconforming. Nihil. Nonsense. Null." Her face was of granite.

An interjection. "What are you, some diction-"

Promptly denied with a bellow. "NEVER!"

The Earth Pony had to struggle mentally to maintain her composure. The improper capitalization aside, having the gender of the sovereign wrong was intolerable.

"I... why.. yes. I recall that The Princess was in fact, a mare, and not a stallion."

Octavia did not ask on the implied multiple instances of The Princess.

"We ran out of "S"es. " An Earth Pony with grapes and strawberry on her flanks spoke up.

"You can't have a plaque that says Princes Cadance. Take it down this instance. I implore you."

After having stomped her hooves, the Element of Honesty walked off in a hurry, leaving two Earth Ponies and a half-erected sign behind.

The music was soured. Octavia felt herself ragged and uncouth, albeit it was all just emotional sensations.

Octavia had to move herself to the catering for the venue.

She came to the house of dreams, also known as the Sugarcube Corner.

Mister and Missus Cake were diligently working to meet the quota, while fighting against the Pink Terror that was Pinkie Pie.

She was no queen... no. She was king of the Carbohydrates.

She bore this white beard of frosting and had a crown of rock sugar! Her words on her delectable subjects were absolute, and She's made her indelible bite marks on them in her wake.

The Pink Terror, the Destroyer of Logic, the Order's Bane.

This was the madmare, an ally to Bluenote the hedonist.

The sheer sight of Pinkie Pie was enough to prevent Octavia from entering the premise. Octavia felt that her psyche was too battered by the traumatic signage to have the nerves of sustaining her will through the "Pinke Pie Experience."

Octavia Philharmonica was not a mare of supreme theatrics. It was unlike her to work into dramatics about ponies, but she was not fully herself...

The mare's head hung low. She changed her headings.

"Octavia! You won't believe what I've-"

Fluttershy went from a full gallop to a sudden stop. She came to the rescue of Octavia!

"Oh! I'm sorry! Am I interrupting?"

Octavia's head was raised, and she had a longing to her face.

"Oh... Oh! Fluttershy, not at all, not at all! It's all too good to see you."

"No! Not at all! Come on in and make yourself at home!"

The "Pink Comet" was out, but Octavia's tattered nerves had mended.

"What's going on, Fluttershy?" Asked Pinkie Pie.

Fluttershy's elation was contagious.

"You won't believe what I've found on the edge of the Everfree Forest."

The buttermilk mare looked to her wing on her starboard wing.

"Come on out, little guy! It's ok."

A flying insect that droned pleasantly emerged from the trimmed feathers. The bug had a shade of cerulean.

Two more emerged shortly thereafter. They were brown and golden respectively.

"Three?" The Pegasus was puzzled at the number.

"Those are... amazing. They sing in a way. What are they?"

Octavia was very enthused by these flying insects. She can see Fluttershy using them in her ensemble... and they are undeniably adorable to look at.

"I'm not sure. I am also not sure where these other two came from."

Fluttershy lifted her foreleg to the direction of the bugs that were hovering above the three ponies.
"May I keep one of these with me? I would like to study it..."

Octavia asked while inviting one of the bugs to land upon her hoof. The golden one was receptive, and Octavia was able to derive that their wingspan was roughly four hooves in diameter, and that the creature was cuddly and soft to the touch.

Fluttershy gave her tacit approval, as she made the invitation to Pinkie. "Pinkie? Do you want the other one?"

The pink mare shot a look of an upset stomach. Her tongue spilled out and her eyes crossed and rolled up.

"Urgh! Parasprites. Are you kidding?"

"Urgh?" Fluttershy could not register what Pinkie Pie had said.

"A para-what?" Octavia was equally baffled.

"Urgh! Now I gotta go get a trombone from Medley!"

Octavia posed. "A what?"

Pinkie Pie found this question incredulous. "Trombone. You know!"

She mocked the slide being manipulated with her left hoof and the embouchure with her snout.

The gray mare shouted. "But you aren't even performing!"

It was no use. Pinkie Pie went in full gallop.

"We must follow that Pinkie Pie. Octavia stated while tugging the Parasprite in her mane. "I fear for Medley."

Octavia did not know of Pinkie Pie's musical aptitudes in full. Pinkie Pie was known for impromptu fantasies and spur-of-the-moment musicals, but this was the first time that the Cellist had ever seen the pink terror as an instrumentalist.

Pinkie Pie's ability to play music was of tertiary concern however. What was far more pressing to the mare of the sanity of Medley.

Fluttershy watched as the Cellist quickly gave chase to Pinkie Pie.

Medley was examining Bluenote's Tuba at her atelier. She was scrutinizing the rotary valve lever with the Tubaist watching her every move.

A plethora of mallets were laid out with surgical precision, having been properly sterilized and all. They were of rawhide heads, and only one was bare wood. The sizes vary. a couple of hollow wood dowels sat next to the mallets. A healthy assortment of screwdrivers were at the ready as well.

Clean rags, cleaning snake, brass tubing assemblies and various fluids were filed neatly nearly. Medley was a one-stop solution from tuning to in-house built-to-order instrument.

The mare was checking the rotary valves. The seating of the valves required a very delicate touch to calibrate. A padded clamp was used by Medley to screw the valve into position.

"You were hearing sounds because you forgot to oil the valves, Bluenote. No. There is no excuse. Just do it next time."

"I was starting to think that my horn's out of regulation... and there was a bit of unwanted motion..."

The Pegasus turned to address Bluenote.

"That comes from the valves not being tightened."

The mare continued with the checkup.

"The linkage arms are fouled. Seriously, where have your hooves been! Were you digging around in dirt or something?"

The technician was visibly angry at the abuse of instrument by the hooves of her lax owner.

"I need fasteners, size 2 and 3."

Bluenote obliged.

Medley squinted her eyes in order to manipulate the fastener. She had a hoof attachment that allowed her to mount the screwdriver upon her hoof, so she could use the fastener without having a lick of magic. This was a necessary innovation for any non-Unicorn to work on instruments.

The field of music was dominated by the Unicorns, as dexterity of hooves were inferior to telekinesis. Woodwinds and Brass that have exposed toneholes could not be mastered by anypony other than the Unicorns.

This sort of reality was something that Medley the Pegasus had to wrestle with, just as much as any Earth Pony would have as a musician. The problem with the creative breed is that they have this insatiable drive to create, to bring something into the world, and to express themselves. Bluenote was not exception.

Necessity is the mother of invention.

The development of keyworks, bladder seals, fine bearings and mechanical linkages were instrumental in revolutionizing the whole of music for the ponydom. Canterlot Conservatoire had been the center of this explosive period in Equine musical mechanics.

The Griffon Fliegerbald Böhm was responsible for the first modern flute. His keyworks had liberalized the use of Woodwind instruments to all of ponykind. The mechanical linkages allowed for multiple toneholes to be pressed by mechanical action, which was not possible with hooves.

Instrumental overblowing became very reliable, and the intonation of Woodwind was finally catching to the level of String instruments.

Bluenote's Tuba was a fine example of this tumultuous century of musical advancements, when the progress of change started to trickle to the Brass section.

"Ok. let me test something."

Medley grabbed a mouthpiece. Each player would have his or her voice for hygienic reasons, and also out of personal tastes. Bluenote watched Medley as she thought of the struggle that she had to go through in order to decide on her new mouthpiece not so long ago.

The precursor of Bluenote's Tuba was the Serpent, which was a long, coiled instrument that had exposed toneholes. The Serpant had to be played by a Unicorn player. It was notoriously prone to warping and it was frustrating to keep in good intonation.

Things changed with the bass section however, when metalworking had allowed such instruments to be made from sheets of brass, with strict mechanical tolerance during the building process guaranteeing reasonable intonation out of the box.

Medley sat down as she held the Tuba with her hooves.

C2-G2-C3-G3-C4-G3-C3-G2-C2

The reason why the sounds were in the natural scale was from the fact that Bluenote's Tuba was keyed to the pitch of CC. This made the instrument a bit of a rarity.

The technician was satisfied. This exercise was played out without the use of any of the valves, and all she did was change the pressure of the air column by embouchure. Such was some of the most basic of all exercises on any Brass instrument.

Serpent still existed in the form of the wrap-around natural Tuba. Such instruments would be used in parades, and anypony could learn to master their limited harmonic series.

"How was it?"

The Tubaist had her eyes closed when she was listening the instrument.

"Sounds just right to me."

Natural trumpets and cornets were transformed radically during the current century, and they gave birth to the Tuba.

Prior to the use of keyworks and valves, an ensemble had to have cornets and trumpets of varying length to cover the octaves, as each horn was locked into its own harmonic series.

"Ok. Pedal tone next." Medley then played the following sequence:

C2-B1-A1-G1-F1-E1-D1-C1.

The only way to change the pitch of a horn was to change the length of the horn somehow. Unicorns skilled in alteration did such things, but this was hugely inefficient, and overly taxing for the caster to manage.

Medley had descended to the C1, and proceeded to hold the note for four bars. Bluenote could feel the instrument sending shockwaves around the basement. Notes this low were to be experienced physically, perhaps more than they can be sonically.

Trumpets would replicate the effect of length variation by the use of valves. The valves would reroute the air column to various tubing length, making it possible to play in all keys without having to switch to a different horn. This breakthrough had led to the birth of modern Symphony Orchestras.

"How was it?" Medley demanded of Bluenote, while being out of breath.

"Wonderful. You fixed it. My horn was a few cents flat. You're the best, Medley."

Bluenote praised the proprietor of the music store without reservation.

"All right. Take over. Play something for me."

Bluenote looked on at her horn, and then at Medley, as she watched Medley taking out her mouthpiece, draining away the condensed vapors that had accumulated over the bends of the Tuba, and only to be met with the horn to her face.

Bluenote got her mouthpiece mounted, and she took a seat with her tuba firmly in her laps.

The rival design of using keyworks instead to manipulate the toneholes bore into the Brass wall was not favored by Canterlot. The Conservoire chose valve instead. These new instrument gave the Unicorn musicians unparalleled dexterity and range hitherto the era of brass horns.

Medley had immediately identified the piece. "The Carnival of Altomare..." The tune was in allegretto.

The first sets of triplets from the basic form of the Fantasia was played out. The Legato was executed beautifully. As the instrument was warmed, there was no issue with intonation. The coda was delightful to hear, and the expression was sweet. The ascent and the eclipse swelled the Pegasus with a sense of pride about her work.

The four-valve Tuba operates on the same set of acoustical principles that govern its piston counterpart, but the three valves were mapped to three touchpieces that were shaped into the contours of the right hoof.

It was clear as day that Bluenote wasn't done yet.

Medley went to fetch a Slide Trumpet. She was accomplished enough to be the accompaniment of the Tuba. The girl looped the basic form as Bluenote delved ever so deeply into her Fantasia, as the blue Earth Pony injected more energy into her playing.

The Trombone works on same principle of length alteration, with far less fuss. The slide changes the length of the instrument, and it became the first of the truly capable and universal brass instruments. The Earth Ponies and the Pegasi readily embraced the slide Trombone when it first came into fruition.

The second repetition was getting technically demanding, as Bluenote had opted to expand the original work into fast passages. This required a dexterity that can only come with experience, and a degree of freedom that can only come from the heart. Sextuplets were occasionally thrown in for good, innocent fun.

Bluenote's Tuba was a customized solution. The placements of the valves were altered, so that the fourth tuning valve would be placed closer the bell of the Tuba, and the Tubaist would use this correctional valve with her left hoof.

The third iteration came up, where Earth Pony was demonstrating pure bravura in this segment. Nonuplets were now used. The accenting was very pronounced in the start. Glissando were introduced to great effect. Bluenote's tonguing techniques were impeccable.

The piston valves which relied on claw's digits to operate were infeasible to non-Unicorns. However, the invention of the rotary valve had given birth to a whole new set of touchpieces that the non-Unicorn could readily adapt. Uptakes were slow however, as music was still more accessible to Unicorns than to the other ponies.

The three main valves were spaced further than the usual stock that Unicorns and Griffons would have used. These valves were linked to three touchpieces that had divided the hoof into three quadrants.

These quadrants could be independently pressed by the twisting motion of the right hoof. bending the hoof forward will allow for all three valves to be pressed, while a backward flick would enable only the second to be depressed. It was quite easy to form the 1-2, 2-3, 1-2-3 and 1-2-3-4 position on this Tuba.

The most technically demanding segment was the forth repeat, where nonuplets were the norm. The articulation was top-notch. The tremolo was delivered without disaster, and the shakes were just great. Bluenote's virtuosity was in full force here, and it was clear as to how close Bluenote was to being that of a professional concert musician.

Bluenote didn't push the technical demands quite as hard in the fifth loop. Rather, she had opted for additional flair by stressing on certain notes. However, she made the whole exercise effortless, and Medley was able to keep up with Bluenote without trouble throughout the various permutations on the same basic theme to the tune.

Bluenote was having fun, and she was playing to her heart's content.

Life in Ponyville came to a standstill, as ponies flocked to Medley's Music Emporium to enjoy the music that came from the basement.

Pinkie Pie had an Accordion, and she was seated within the show floor, while she played by ear with the solo Tubaist as additional accompaniment to the main part.

"Ah can't believe that somethin' dat clunky can sound so light n' fast. It's like she's fiddlin'."

Applejack spoke to Apple Bloom in a quiet whisper.

Octavia and Fluttershy were flabbergasted by the technical aptitudes of Bluenote.

Fluttershy turned to Octavia as she asked the mare about the music.

"Have you ever heard of this piece before?"

Octavia gave a curt nod.

"I've played the Carnival of Altomare as a technical etude and in improvisation practices before. Some musicians have played it on the Piano and on other instruments. This is the first time that I've heard of it on a Tuba."

Octavia looked at Fluttershy for a second. "I can play the basic form of the song to you. I think that you can make your own variation for your bird vocal section. It'll be an interesting exercise."

Fluttershy nodded as the music reached its finale.

"Clean bill of health, but please grease your slides and don't slack off on maintenance schedule! And by the way, You can't just give this Tuba a bath and call it a day!"

Bluenote was a bit defensive.

"Well it's not like I would expose the rotary valves in the water..."

Medley had more to say. "Still, I really can't believe this..."

Bluenote looked on at the instrument designer.

"Your Tuba will be just fine, believe it or not. There's something about the Elements that... I don't know what it is. Your Tuba has not a single scratch on it, and it looked absolutely pristine, just out of regulation."

Medley frowned.

"I know that this Tuba's been abused by the foals, or else you wouldn't be sitting here, having it looked over with me, would ya?"

Bluenote gave a guilty gaze at her interrogator.

"I started getting curious when the bear didn't do anything to my harp after having it toppled over. That shouldn't be happening, but it did."

Before Medley can continue, the sound of frantic hoofsteps and crashing noises would stop the proprietor's train of thought.

A pink blur came and it swept across the store, with this thunderous applause coming from the entrance of the music store.

"THAT WAS SUPERB! BLUENOTE IS THE BEST!"
"ImjustgonnaborrowthesetosavePonyville! Backwitththemlater!"

The voice was that of Pinkie Pie's.

"What the... what's going on!"

The floor was missing a whole drum set, an Accordion, a Natural Tuba and a Harmonica.

Octavia and Fluttershy emerged on-scene, only to find the devastation from Pinkie's wake, while the rapturous crowd demanded an encore from the resident Tubaist.

"We are too late..."

Octavia uttered quietly.

The Pegasus was boiling in seething anger, as Bluenote made her way to the ground floor of Medley 's store, with her Element in her hooves.

"Somepony had better tell me what in tarnation is Pinkie Pie doing with my instruments! Right here! Right now!"

The mare's eyes had flames in them, and her wings were as menacing as if they were claws. The sound of her stomp reverberated across the floor.

Medley looked as if she could outright murder a pony on-scene.

The golden Parasprite emerged from Octavia's mane, as it flew innocently in the air.

Author's Note:

I wonder if the world-building is appropriate here. It was a good section of infodump just on brasswind...

I really believe that Bluenote was not incapable as a musician. She's just not willing to devote herself as Octavia had.

Pieces featured:
Tuba, Carnival of Venice, Fantasia.
Strings: BWV 1068, "Air" D-Dur.

(yes, the opening really mirrors the "Swarm of the Century. Things only start to take off the moment when Bluenote gets on the Tuba.)