BWV 1001

Hec Lampert-Bates

July 8, 2022



The “Snit” is a dead language I’ve forgotten. But minutes ago, when I bore a skeptic’s tongue, I knew it well.

The “Snit” was found on that taught chord between a young violinist and their teacher. Of the six years I’d been with Teacher, I can confidently say that fluency in the “Snit” had accompanied me for only three. As the recipient, my part was to wait until Teacher had “Snitted,” and allowed me a try at the passage I’d so ghastly violated before. I concluded that the “Snit” takes two voices. Voice 1: the repeat. Teacher lived in a bliss of selective forgetfulness. In him rested the keen ability to repeat a phrase of insult again and again, but acknowledge new brilliance in himself each time. Most recently, he had stumbled on the idea that he “should hire a parrot to teach [me],” allowing himself to avoid all but the hefty check I left with him every week. Voice 2: the spin. With a flourish of his fingertips, grooved from years of string-riddance, he removed his greasy spectacles and turned away as if to repeat “you have no worth but that of a mirror without subject.” Students, when speaking the “Snit,” have a wavering opinion of it. They pine to hate it, but can bring their dimpled thoughts to no conclusion. Until one sees Him, they remain unable to love or despise the “Snit,” and then they forget.

Now, I stand dumb beneath shedding pipes and too many eyes for an empty room. Have I won?

I’ve noticed an absence of Teacher since attempting Bach’s first Sonata. I’d been studying him for months, but whenever I played, my stomach retreated into seasick cartwheels. Bach’s resonance began during the Pueblo Rebellion, although unrelated. In Germany, where organ-tested melodies held friars and altar-boys in a further state of divine inspiration (thinks Teacher), Bach thought up the exact chords to decay the fingertips and ulnar collaterals of any violinist of measurable talent. Years before, I’d begun my way through the book of Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas backwards — I wanted to watch his wrinkles flatten. I started with the Gigue. Delightful. I always loved that piece. It held no malice, no reminiscence of Bach’s previous hardships with counterpoint, just the dance of an aging wig. The rest of the book blurred sound with convention. Sure, he “galvanized his own style”, but I found it lacking. Yes there were a few outliers, but I never found solace. I always failed to understand my distaste, blaming it on an aching shoulder. I’m no Hill Hun. But last month, I played, for the first time, the premiere piece in the book. Lined forehead soft and wig tight, I saw Bach’s youth. But still, Teacher didn’t mention the Him1. Every week, Teacher had distanced, clouded perhaps in childbirth, or sun, or scaling retirement. On occasion I’d seen him hunched over a book while light painted hair on his scalp and some distant violin (mine), played out of tune and begged for its tutor. Had he forgotten his verbs, which, when “Snitting”, take form as closeted inhales without relief? Did he no longer shiver at the opportunity to twist away and wipe eyes I didn’t know were beneath those greasy spectacles?

Last week, he finally insulted my crusted rendition of the Adagio. My chords resonated as the timeless wobbles of a dead metronome, my tempo didn’t remember its beginning. He stroked his forehead, coughed and adjusted himself behind the screen.

“Hector,” he said, thumbing his temple with abridged fingernails. “Do you know Him2?”

“Who?” I replied.

“Bach lived as close to a higher power as there was. I’m not religious. I’ve said. I’m not religious, but I do believe in something. Don’t be skeptical. I’m not religious as I’ve said, Hector. Hector, can you do something for me? For next week. I don’t really care for the rest of this lesson, but do something for me, Hector.”

He always enunciated my name as if to call on a betrayed brother, breathy and without his acclaimed rhythm. “I can do it,” I said.

“Go into a dark room. Semi-dark. Enough for memory. Don’t forget the notes. But stand there in it and play this. See if it brings you the same feeli— emotion it did me. I don’t quite have the words. Imagine you’re talking to God.” He chuckled and shifted. “Don’t be skeptical. I’m not religi—” And then he ended the meeting.

That night, I relayed the story to my parents: odd skeptics, trench deep Hegelians. I told them how I could approach transcendence without being religious, how I could surpass the “Snit,” enter a realm and talk to a higher power. They told me I was brilliant already as they waded further into puddles of dissolution. I wasn’t brilliant. I scratched metal on tree-things and called it art. No, I needed a change. If (except his dark room theory) Teacher withheld the techniques necessary to play without burning tongues licking my ear drums, I had to try. Purely for research. My parents never liked research, well, except that of thought. Experimentalism, wrought with time spent manipulating and twisting? That’s already half the “Snit.” Variables? Confound? Control? No, my parents wouldn’t have any of that. They’d rather introspect and so would I, usually. But now I want to try it.

I recalled a novel I had read months before — I Found God, Satan, and the Rest in Belgium in 1926 — the one written by no one in particular. It contained an awareness I hadn’t pondered until Teacher’s suggestion. The book spoke mostly of an ill-defined quest — Tomful of Brecksen looking for the lordies, who occasionally described letters beneath piles of clothes and drapes, confounding the searcher, but the letters, like “higher-powers,” were there. Truly there. What a load of nonsense. Clearly agnostic propagandism, but I gave props for the metaphor. I don’t believe there’s something hiding in the drapes. If anything, it’s right there. If anything, it’s a hallucination, an LSD trip, a schizophrenic interpretation of fear, delight, Pandora’s confusion and music. I’ve decided that those lordies Tomful was looking for aren’t lordies at all. They’re Him3. Tomful did nothing but imagine Him4.

I looked for reviews for the novel and found only scathe. “Agnostic propagandism,” said one. “Props for the metaphor, but a putrid interpretation of modern narrative,” said another. “I’d rather participate in an earnest game of ‘Who Spilled Tchaikovsky on the Floor?’ than attempt to analyze this nonsense,” said a third. They were right and so wasn't Teacher. He’s a superb violinist, but no logician. I don’t believe there is a Him5. At least not some deity capable of change. He’s an immoral imagination. No, I don't believe in Him6.

I haven’t met with Teacher in weeks. He’s recluded behind plans and palms, lazing on the beach somewhere without time or want for my scratching. I understand. I’ve been performing the Adagio recklessly. For grandparents and cousins and the street. It’s tiresome. Even when a crowd forms around my stand and open case. Even when it chants for an encore — Fugue or Chaconne — I’m without satisfaction. For days I didn’t touch my violin. That straight grain through shapen wood made me nauseous. Seasick cartwheels would have lulled me over those lines. One day I tried to draw my bow, but the paper crinked under my pen. Drawings aren’t supposed to delve beyond two dimensions. So I locked it away. Just until I was ready to try. I think I’ve been ready all along, but you know fear, or… confound, or… any variable.

So, I’m ready now. I stand beneath an off light in the basement at 5:00 in the morning. There are three windows with etched glass, so only distorted light can ripple through; a mirror’s on the far wall to provide a second proof read. I tossed my music stand along with Ptruschia’s Edition of Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas. I have the Adagio memorized. Somehow, my violin stayed in tune through all those days crushed between my grandfather's collection of Juana Bergos, and a very large armoire. I tap each string to make sure. The sick withdraws as I put pen to paper, bow to wood, hair to string, flesh to bone and pull. It’s far too light in here, so I shut my lids. Flames streak my insides, but I can’t stop to dampen them. It’s only two pages, but I’m bored. Teacher was wrong. This is just me, a stout high-school senior with lengthy fingernails, playing in the dark. I’ll admit, it was one of the better times I’d played it. Most chords were held for a reasonable length and quite close to tuned. But no lordies, religious or not, graced me except our creeping water heater next door. Teacher with his “Snitting” and the novel are wrong. All I see beneath my lids are the marble walls of my trip to “Looter’s Bank” earlier that day, and the infinite door, which I always admired. And now it’s over. The last beginning chord is played and all that’s left is time for it to ricochet off the turquoise walls, three windows, and the mirror in my basement. I open my eyes and see Him7, truly there. I fear Him8. His face inches from mine, skin glossed with fresh dew, he weeps and fades as the chord ends. I’ve forgotten how to speak to Him9. Quickly, before he dissipates. I cannot find repetition nor spin. He falls beneath cloth and floor. He’s gone and so is sound.



Hec is a writer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is interested in surrealism and literary fiction. His stories can be found in Alternate Route, CafeLit, and one to be published in Fleas on the Dog. He won the 2022 Bill Avner Creative Writing Award.