(An except from the book The Skeleton Score)
I awoke early that morning at the Mayflower Hotel, thinking of the very first time I heard my famous mother-in-law, Rose Barrington sing in her glorious lyric coloratura. Rose has that rare and beguiling gift. She is, was always a phenomenal performing animal. Her talent is amazing. In her lifetime Rose has passed on many incredible traits, but none so beguiling than the voice and composing talent my daughter Rachel, Rose's granddaughter claimed. The new young STAR of the 21st century Barrington dynasty, Rachel took the Barrington voice talent giant steps further in her yen for commercial recognition. In fact, it was Rose who had asked that I come to Washington D.C. for a few days to do some research on my famous family, the Barringtons. Initially I thought nothing of it. My husband Henry and I were on the outs. Separated. This was a good time to be apart. We needed space. Yes it was to be a big night out for the Barringtons, but being in the company of so much talent in one space always provided the possibility of a family feud that landed in the papers. As it happened the papers got wind of a family terror that I would be learning about the next morning. A public debacle was mounting that would change the course of the Barrington dynasty and possibly world history forever.
During the night, I tossed and turned. I couldn't shake free of my own child's recently composed hit song. I hated to admit it. This song revealed a part of Rachel that I had no knowledge of. I thought I knew her, but the sound of this tune was something extraordinary. The song Rachel labored over had been written in honor of Rose and Rose's retirement from the stage; an elegant theme that bespeaks of eons of family history and a centuries old penchant for writing good melodies. But in it's modern twist, there was something to the sound of this melody that spooked me. The tune ripped through me during the night; a distorted lullaby that had no ending yet as if it was still in search of its target home cadence. One might say that the tune unfolded in several bizarre endings that fell one upon another, a kind of kaleidoscopic collapse of sound that did not work well for a Hollywood STAR's knock em dead statement. I tossed and turned to the sound, half awake, half asleep, the hotel rooms echoed on all sides.
Who was I to cast doubt on the validity of a pop icon? I was only the family musicologist. I had taken a back seat to my daughter, my inventor husband, and my illustrious mother-in-law, Rose and her clan. The clan, a seemingly happy bunch all in N.Y. landed on time at their cozy after hours party that culminated in the Carnegie Hall duo of Rose and her young STAR granddaughter Rachel. Their soprano voices resounded as one voice whenever they sang together. I could hear them in my mind. Their joined sound is sealed in my memory as one family voice.
I had been out of the equation tethered to my post as the family memory and analyst. Was I jealous? A bit, I could sing too, but preferred the role that bound everyone together.
Rachel had given me the song on her CD before I left for D.C. Little did I know that her CD would be needed as proof of her identity and the identity of all the Barringtons. It was almost dawn. An unknown task I was about to encounter had me in its grip. I was sweating. The memory of the lingering tune woke me up. I felt relief and guilt at being glad that it had left me. Or had it? The tune like running water harbored above and around me, closing in on me in my hotel bed as if the sound inside my head was filtered and broadcast live from the four corners of the world to zone in on and mark off the territory, the presence named me. And that meant my ancestry and all that I was about to learn about the power of this song. My daughter Rachel was dying. Something was very wrong, but that was all I knew until Rose's call. In the wee hours of the next morning, Rose's voice rang with shrill despair.
Rachel had struggled as she always did to get the music that she wrote all "just right." But this time there something almost possessed about my daughter's need to get the song done and out to the public, her public, a public that had followed our family for ages. The adoring audience clamored with delight as Rachel made her ascent as the next Barrington STAR in line. And now as news of her death traveled a feeding frenzy was upon us. The public wanted answers and to know about the Barrington power. What roles did each one of us family members play in the STAR's life?
As musicologist, I was met with Rachel's rage over her musical independence. Her will was inscribed in the power of her message, a STAR's way of saying this is her voice in this century, not to be matched. Rachel made her Carnegie Hall performance with her grandmother by her side but never did finish the tune that came to me in the night. She was murdered shortly after her performance. I will never forgive myself for being in the dark about the shrouded Barrington family history. I could have foreseen and stopped this horror. Or could I?, I had lots of demons, and had I known what I was about to find out, Rachel would never have been born. How could I have known that I too was part of a huge scheme, set forward centuries ago, to uncover a missing map's musical meaning and that this VERY tune had found me for a reason?
A devil's bargain between public and clan had emerged the moment that Rachel's body was found. Why had she been murdered? And by whom? At the moment of Rachel's passing everyone in her family became suspect, including me.
On that cold blustery December day in Washington D.C. before I knew that Rachel had been murdered, I had found the map and a telling message about the clockwork nature of the Barrington dynasty. The reveal put me on the path to finding out how I had blindly stumbled into Rose's voice studio and fallen madly in love with her son Henry in the first place. My husband Henry is a secretive inventor who, as the newspapers have set forth took it upon himself to mechanize the Barrington secret voice network.
I was in Washington, being followed, used as a human weapon and bait to find that missing ending to Rachel's song. The cadence to the song is Henry's access code to a most timely and dangerous invention called MEND (musical encode decode platform). The grand global scheme had been thought up long before I had ever been born. I was petrified. The tune is always by my side, my accomplice and guide.
© Mardi-Ellen Hill 2008