Assembly Line

The film was grainy. Anton Webern and Billie Holiday were chatting at the bar. Tristan Murail passed by, looking a bit bored. Pierre Boulez was the somewhat disgruntled bouncer, unable to prevent undesirables getting past him at the door. At one point I saw Judy Garland with a menu in hand, seating Kaija Saariaho, Count Basie, and Arnold Schoenberg at a corner table.I had no idea what I was doing there.

Suddenly, Micky Rooney was at my elbow in a panic.

“Rita Hayworth has the flu! Quick, Sarah! Someone’s got to fill in! The show must go on!”

I hesitated.

I tried to tell him Judy would be a better choice of understudy. I tried to tell him that an unglamorous, nerdy, Catholic, millennial girl had no business performing in the prestigious Second Viennese School Jazz Nightclub, that hippest of hip joints, lately infiltrated by a quiet contingent of spectralists. But Micky pushed me toward the stage.

“You’re the reason we’re all here in one place,” he said. “In your mind, these musics blend. Otherwise, they belong to separate aesthetic worlds that never meet. You brought us together. You have something important to say. NOW LET’S PUT ON A SHOW!!!!”

So I pulled on Rita’s silk gloves.

With trembling hands, I picked up a microphone.

And I did.

– Sarah Perske