How do you do that? she asks, seated on the stairs to his loft, How do you know which notes to play without sheets?
Memory, he says, I do it by memory.
It is Boxing Day, and Anna has woken to the sound of the piano. Downstairs Seth seated before it, his fingers moving slowly across the keys.
What is it? I’ve never heard anything like it.
Seth smiles, his fingers continuing to pick out the notes in ones and twos, each separated by a gap, the space between them seeming as important as the notes themselves, the way they fade into it, leaving the memory of their resonance hanging. She shivers.
It doesn’t have a name, he says, An artificial intelligence composed it.
In front of her she can see the muscles in his back shift beneath his skin, the articulated cage of his ribs beneath them.
I have a recording of it, but I prefer to play it myself. There’s an alien quality to it, a sense of another way of being I can get closer to.
It sounds . . . sad. No, she corrects herself, listening to the strange, ghostly sound of the piano, the dying notes, not sad, something else I can’t quite describe, Like the sound of wind in grass or moving water, that quietness, that colourless feeling. She hesitates. Maybe I can’t find the words because there are no words.
It’s like trying to describe the sound of geometry, isn’t it? Can you imagine what it must be like to be conscious, aware, but without matter, without form? Without place. A ghost in a machine.
Anna shakes her head. But listening to the slow patterns of this music she can hear the loneliness of this thing of bits and light, this artificial mind shifting like the aurora through the circuits of some optical computer, like the siren call of a whale in the oceanic night, the long, clicking song that goes unanswered.
From The Deep Field.