• Published 24th Mar 2013
  • 13,274 Views, 1,251 Comments

Syncopation - Terrasora



Octavia Philharmonica, the Canterlot Conservatory's rising star, is about to begin a whole new part of her life; one that involves an old friend, an ambitious businesspony and a certain eccentric DJ.

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The Concert and Moments After

Octavia stood backstage, just behind the curtain. The auditorium was full, hundreds of ponies dressed in their best. The cellist understood why they were there; it was a social event, a gathering for the elite. Half of them, maybe only a quarter, had ever heard Octavia play before. The rest would look at others with superior sneers. “Oh, I attended the most wonderful concert played by quite an accomplished cellist. She’s been compared to Yo Yo Mane, and it was a lovely piece. Such a shame that you could not make it.”

Octavia did not play for them. ... Well, in a way I do.

The grey mare played to turn that sneer into genuine sympathy for those who missed her concerts. Music should be enjoyed, not turned into a measure of social status, something to gloat over. She performed with the intent of drawing ponies into her music, leading them away from the pomp and circumstance of Canterlot, and she often succeeded. They were irresistibly drawn back to her and always brought others to watch her next performance.

“… And so, without further ado, Miss Octavia Philharmonica.”

That was the Master of Ceremonies, finishing his introduction. He pushed open the red velvet curtain, appearing before the cellist. It was Professor Arpeggio.

Octavia’s previous nightmare came rushing back, the disapproval of the little old stallion, and the laughter of the audience as she fell without having been able to play a single note. The grip she had on her cello tightened.

“Miss Philharmonica,” the kindly professor spoke in his usual hushed tone, “you will do wonderfully. To use a colloquial expression, ‘Knock them dead.’ Not literally of course… unless you have to.” Professor Arpeggio trotted off, chuckling at his own semi-joke.

Octavia blinked. This is not my nightmare.

The curtain drew back, revealing an empty stage, no music stand, no sheet music. Octavia would walk to the center and play the piece by memory as she always did.

This is not a dream.

She strode forward. Every pair of eyes fell on the grey mare as she walked across stage, cello carefully balanced across her back.

This is reality.

Octavia placed her instrument on its pin and stood on her hind legs, finding the intricate balance required to play. She did not rush, she did not have to. The cellist was the soloist; the reason everpony was seated in that large round room. She had all the time in the world.

This is my concert; my last concert as a student, my first concert as a professional.

She found the balance. Her right hoof gripped the bow and she nestled it against her leg. Octavia closed her eyes. If a cufflink had fallen at that moment, everypony would have heard it hit the floor.

The cellist smiled. I haven’t been nervous for a concert since I was an amateur.

Octavia began, coaxing a single warbling note from her cello. It began softly, barely audible but slowly grew in intensity. This was Harpo’s signature, a beginning meant to catch the attention of the audience as the note grew louder. A slight uneasiness fell on the listeners and nopony knew exactly why.

Then the music truly began.

The cellist broke the tension, playing higher and higher pitched notes. The music momentarily relaxed her audience. A few leaned back into their chairs, not even realizing that they had been leaning forward. But Harpo did not believe in a relaxed audience and the purple stallion, water bottle clutched in hoof, smiled to himself, knowing what was coming.

The relaxing music broke, loudly replaced by a dissonant figure. A few dapper ponies jumped. A group of especially distinguished ponies whispered a chorus of “My word"-s. In the front row, a certain composer chuckled softly.
The grey mare’s hooves bounded across her cello’s neck, playing a halting and threatening tune before breaking into a quick and dissonant dance tune. The audience looked towards the cellist, eyes slightly glazed and breathing unconsciously held. They were captivated by the music.

But Octavia didn’t notice this. Her eyes had been closed ever since that first note, not even aware of the spotlight shining down on her. All that the cellist could see was the sheet music, the confusing mess of sixteenth notes, triplets, and slurs that manifested itself in the position of her hooves, the slight differences in the pressure of her bow as it slid across the strings. She swayed in time with the music, moving back and forth with the contour of the notes.

The piece peaked, crescendo-ing into a flurry of notes and then quickly falling down. Octavia shifted her hoof from the A-string to the D-string, unconsciously working out the problem that had seemed so difficult that morning.

Harpo smirked; he had written that part for the sole purpose of challenging Octavia and she had played it perfectly, made it seem like she was playing "Where is Hoofkin". How much more can you possibly grow Octavia Philharmonica? You’re impossibly talented and a hard-worker to boot! Leave something for the rest of us plebeians.

Yet, the composer couldn’t help but feel a twinge of pride as his friend stood on her stage. In a sense, the next part of his piece was a reward for Octavia. He had marked it “Esibizionista,” a Bitalian word that means, literally, “Show-Off.”

And the cellist did exactly that.

It was an upbeat tune, a marked difference to the melancholy and dissonant sounds of the rest of the piece. Music students would be writing essays on the meaning behind it for years to come. Some would claim that this piece represented a war; others asserted that it was a fight, and still others said that it provided a clear insight into the depressed nature of the composer, probably caused by alcohol. Harpo already had his own explanation prepared, whenever critics would think of actually asking the composer for an explanation.

I am a misunderstood artistic genius. Now let me eat in peace.

Harpo was a rather strange stallion.

As the composer mused to himself, the rest of the audience slid further and further down their seats. Those few eyes that had not grown moist earlier in the piece grew clouded by the sheer musical ability they were witnessing.

More than a few ads for used instruments graced the pages of the next Equestria Daily newspaper and many colts and fillies received cellos for no apparent reason.

Octavia finished with a flourish, allowing the final note to ring through the auditorium and die out on its own. She opened her violet eyes, nearly surprised that she had been playing for an audience.

The note died fully.

There was a beat of silence.

Thunderous applause filled the auditorium. Everypony got to their hooves, stamping at the ground. They had forgotten the polite applause that was, for the most part, the standard response.

Octavia stood for a moment, taking in the spectacle, sweating slightly from the heat of the spotlight. She bowed and walked off-stage, the slightest smile playing across her face.

***

“They loved me!”

“Yes, Octavia.”

“It was amazing, did you hear the applause? I’ve never gotten applause as loud as that! Oh, it was wonderful!”

“Yes, Octavia.”

The cellist and the composer were back in the luxurious room. The concert had finished and many different upper-class ponies had clamored for the chance to meet them. The Conservatory staff, Professor Arpeggio in particular, had politely but firmly declined these requests. Octavia and Harpo were, after all, still students.

As it was now, Harpo was relaxing on the couch, a tumbler full of iced Maker’s Mare Whiskey. Octavia, far too energetic to drink, was bouncing across the room with a large grin plastered across her face.

“It was a wonderful composition Harpo; I was as much a listener as any of the audience members. How do you do it?”

The composer took a sip of his whiskey. “I’ve tried to explain my creative process to you before; you don’t understand it.”

“Nopony understands it; it makes no sense!”

Harpo faked a dramatic sigh, placing a purple hoof on his forehead. “True genius is never understood. Which is just as well, if anypony else had the same thought process that I do we’d probably take over all of Equestria. Can you imagine it, a nation run by me? It would be perfect! And then where would we musicians be without any strife to compose music about?”

“Sitting on our bums, whiskey in hoof, being self-absorbed?” Octavia replied seriously.

“Exactly!” Harpo took another sip of his whiskey, completely unaware of the situational irony taking place.

There was a knock at the door.

Octavia and Harpo glanced at each other.

“Aren’t you going to answer that?” asked Harpo.

“You, dear friend, are the male. It is your duty to answer mysterious knocks.”

Another knock, polite but insistent.

“Yes, well…” replied the composer, “You’re already standing!”

The cellist sighed and shook her head, walking to the door. She unlocked it and opened it in one deft motion, revealing a white unicorn with blue hair.

“Fancy Pants, this is a surprise! Come in!”

Harpo’s head perked up at discovering the identity of their visitor.

“I hope that it is a welcome surprise, Miss Philharmonica. I don’t mean to impose,” said Fancy Pants, calmly walking into the musician’s room. “And may I say that was a wonderful performance you just gave.”

“Thank you Fancy Pants.” The grey mare gestured to the other pony in the room, who was currently sitting stiffly and trying to look comfortable. “This is Harpo Parish Nadermane, composer and occasional harp player. He wrote the piece you heard just now.”

“It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance Monsieur Nadermane.” Fancy Pants extended his hoof and Harpo took it, looking rather star-struck. Octavia noticed this and held in a snicker.

“Ye-es,” Harpo’s voice cracked and he swallowed nervously, “I mean, I’m Harpo. But you knew that.” His eyes grew a bit wider. “Oh, I do hope that didn’t sound pretentious! I mean, Octavia just introduced me which is why you’d know my name, not because I’m particularly famous or anything. Although, I’m trying to be. Not that I’m asking for help! I just meant-“

Octavia interrupted. “Harpo?”

The composer turned to her, begging for help with his eyes.

“You’re rambling. And I believe Fancy Pants wants his hoof back.”

Harpo quickly let go of Fancy Pants’ hoof, recoiling as though it were venomous. “I’m so sorry! That was a terrible first impression.”

The distinguished pony chuckled, an amused glint in his eyes. “Monsieur Nadermane, your composition was your first impression and it went quite well. Nor was your ‘rambling,’ as Miss Philharmonica put it, the worst exchange I have ever taken part in.”

Harpo nodded and visibly relaxed. However, the composer found that he could not relax fully. Perhaps if I steel my nerves a bit more. He drained his tumbler, coughing a bit from the sudden surge of whiskey.

Fancy Pants turned to the cellist. “Miss Philharmonica, I’m afraid that I did not visit purely to congratulate you, although congratulations are in order. I’m here on a bit of business as well.”

Octavia raised an eyebrow. “Did you tell Professor Arpeggio that when you came in here?” She remembered the small Conservatory teacher fiercely interrogating any ponies who intended to hire his students. Some of them had left in tears.

“I assure you, he knows full well.”

“It’s a wonder that you made it in here, Fancy Pants.”

The unicorn smiled. “I have my ways, but enough about that. Miss Philharmonica, I have recently begun my own music company. It is, at the moment, a rather modest venture but it is a rather promising one. I do, after all, have a certain amount of friends throughout Equestria. I am interested, Miss Philharmonica and Monsieur, or Maestro rather, Nadermane, in having you two becoming a part of this company.”

Octavia responded immediately, “Fancy Pants, we would be flattered t—“

Fancy Pants held up a hoof. “No, Miss Philharmonica, I will not have you making such decisions without giving it proper thought. I understand that, by tomorrow evening, you will officially have left the Conservatory.”

Octavia nodded, the graduation ceremony had taken place a week prior to the concert. There were only formalities left; final grades, words from the Professors and then the students would no longer be students.

“In that case,” continued Fancy Pants, “I will not accept any answer you may have until tomorrow at” the unicorn glanced up at a clock, “5:30. That is exactly 24 hours to think this over. I would not be offended if you decline. Miss Philharmonica, Maestro Nadermane, it was a pleasure to speak with you and I congratulate you on a wonderful performance. Although I must apologize; I arrived some minutes after the piece had begun. There was some business to attend to. But, without further ado, I will take my leave.” And with that, Fancy Pants left the room.

“Well, Harpo, not even out of Conservatory and we have already received a job off—Why are you looking at me like that?”

“You know Fancy Pants.” The composer clutched his head in disbelief. “That was Fancy Pants. I spoke to Fancy Pants.”

“Yes, Fancy Pants was here. You haven’t gone mad just yet.”

The purple stallion looked at the cellist with a new respect. “Miss Philharmonica, how do you know Fancy Pants?”

“Don’t call me Miss Philharmonica, it sounds strange coming from you. And, on the matter of my knowing Fancy Pants—actually, can we stop saying Fancy Pants, it loses its meaning if we use it too much.”

Harpo looked horrified. “You want us to give Fancy Pants a nickname?!”

“Harpo, kindly get over your colt crush for a moment.”

“C-Colt crush?” sputtered Harpo. “I don’t have a colt crush on Fancy Pants!”

“Yes, you just hold him in the highest esteem, have listened to each of his speeches, gushed like a schoolfilly when he walked in, and think he’s handsome,” Octavia smirked.

“That’s not true! …I haven’t listened to all of his speeches.”

The cellist raised an eyebrow.

“Not all of them are on HayTube!” Harpo responded indignantly.

The grey mare decided that she had teased her friend enough. “Fancy Pants is a family friend, he knew my parents before I was even born.”

“I see… Actually that makes a lot of sense, what with both your parents and Fancy Pants being on the rather liberal side of the Canterlot elite. It’s very refreshing to know that not every rich pony is a conservative snob.”

Octavia nodded, but offered no further response. Harpo poured himself another drink.

It was not yet six o’ clock, but the Sun was already setting.

“Well, Harpo, I’m going to turn in for the day. Can I trust you not to get too drunk and find your way back home on your own?”

“Why, Octavia, you act as though I’m some kind of alcoholic!”

“You are a kind of alcoholic; a strange one who can’t hold his alcohol.”

Harpo rolled his eyes. “Fine then, mother. I won’t drink too much before getting home.

The cellist eyed the half empty bottle of whiskey that still stood on the floor in front of the composer. “Do you promise?”

Harpo drew two circles in the air with a hoof and placed it over his heart, a peculiar movement that he said was supposed to represent the Sun and Moon. “Upon my honor as a composer.”

Octavia remained skeptical but left the room anyway, nodding her good-bye.

The stallion waved at the retreating grey figure, then grinned to himself and took up his whiskey bottle.

“Honestly Octavia, what kind of good composer has honor?”

Nopony would ever learn how exactly Harpo got back home that night.

***

“So Mister Pants-man, are those two ponies you talked to gonna join?”

Fancy Pants had just walked out of his brief meeting with Maestro Nadermane and Miss Philharmonica. This other mare, a white unicorn by the name of Vinyl Scratch, had accompanied him. They walked towards the Conservatory’s exit.

“I’ve told them that I won’t accept an answer until tomorrow. The same thing I told you when you first joined the music company, Vinyl. Are you quite sure that you don’t want to speak to them?”

Vinyl scrunched up her nose. “And deal with those uptight rich-type ponies? No thanks. But, uh, no offense, Mister Pants, you’re cool.”

“Thank you Vinyl,” chuckled Fancy Pants. “I’m hardly ever described as ‘cool.’”

“You definitely are, though! Easily the coolest rich pony… Except for maybe DeadMare5. That pony’s awesome, I mean Dat Mask, am I right?”

As per usual, Fancy Pants was rather lost in this conversation. He settled on a polite nod and a change of topics. “Did you enjoy the concerts this evening?”

Vinyl shrugged. “Classical’s not really my style. Nopony really caught my ear. This music block is getting really bucking annoying. I am kinda bummed that I missed Tavi’s concert though. She had some really weird music with her that I wanted to hear.”

“Tavi?”

“Yeah, a mare that I met this morning. Grey color, plays cello, gives this icy stare to ponies she doesn’t know. Calls me ‘Miss Scratch,’ which is kind of annoying, but she seems like a good pony.”

Fancy Pants smiled serenely, drawing the link immediately. “Oh, really? Hmmmm.”

“What ‘Hmmmm?’ I don’t like when you ‘Hmmmm.’”

“It’s nothing Vinyl, just a notion that crossed my mind.”

“Notion my hoof,” pouted the DJ.

“Indeed. Now Vinyl, I’m afraid that I am forced to leave you here. Fleur is waiting in the carriage, but I encourage you to stay here and see if nothing else can inspire you. That is, after all, the reason I asked you here.”

“Got it, boss man. I’ll be seeing you!” The white mare walked off, making a bee line for a stand selling apple cider. Her head bobbed to a beat that only she could hear.

The gears in Fancy Pants’ head had begun to turn as he walked to his carriage, politely nodding to the ponies he passed.
He stopped to have a brief chat with the driver before climbing into his carriage.

His wife greeted him with a kiss. “How did the meeting go?” asked Fleur-de-Lis.

“They seem interested, although I gave them the same condition that I give every other musician.”

“Fancy, give ponies too much time and nopony will join your company,” she said jokingly.

“I sincerely hope not, Fleur. If all goes well and those two join, then things will become quite,” Fancy Pants flashed a quick, devilish grin, “interesting for a time.”

Fleur giggled and nestled herself against her husband. The white unicorn gave her a peck on the forehead and then turned towards the window. The lampposts dotting the Canterlot streets were just beginning to light.

More and more of the plan began to form in Fancy Pants’ mind.

You haven’t lost your touch just yet you old Diamond Dog, he thought to himself. Things will be interesting indeed.

Author's Note:

Well, it seems pretty obvious to me that Fancy Pants and Harpo will be recurring characters, hence the change in the character section.
I have to thank AppleDashFan132 for being my pre-reader (you still aren't allowed any spoilers, though) and you reader-readers for reader-readering!
I hope that you're all enjoying the fic so far and, as always, feedback and comments are appreciated.

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