The Days we Live

A year later, the whole world was in lockdown. I thought I would be designated as a ‘key worker’, but I wasn’t. I was at home, browsing the internet like everybody else. I had Googled the name of the London borough where I live. What was I looking for? Property prices, perhaps. Who knows? I was in the semi-vegetative, trancelike state that you often see on the faces of people using computers. I followed a link that took me to YouTube, watching a shaky video shot on a mobile phone about a street party. ‘Next up,’ I read, ‘Six Notes’.

It couldn’t be a coincidence. I sat up, suddenly alert.

There he was, the same man with his long white hair, red scarf and waistcoat. The video started with a long intense silence. As he stared at me out of the screen, I remembered his soft smile. He didn’t play six notes, he played many notes. Each day’s performance was edited seamlessly together with the previous day’s six notes to form one continuous piece of music. The individual six note segments, that had seemed so sterile on their own, were transformed by the editing into articulated and expressive phrases. There were small changes in the lighting, and sometimes you could see the sheet flapping in the wind, or hear rain hitting the camera. I closed my eyes to concentrate on the sound. I lost myself in the music so completely that I barely noticed when it ended. It was beautiful, very spare and minimalistic. Finally, with the kind of shudder that you use to dispel an unsummoned daydream, I opened my eyes.

‘No Princípio Era A Palavra,’ I read on the screen. ‘For solo saxophone, 365 parts in the Key of F Major, by João Nascente.’

It was the graphic below those words that shocked me. It was labelled as the musical score, but I knew it as something else. ‘The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,’ as my former tutor used to call them—adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine—the four magic letters of the DNA alphabet, A C G and T (what pitch was ‘T’?) arranged in the triplets that make up the chemical base of all living matter. Six notes. Two triplets.

Part 1: ‘ATA/CAC’

Part 2: ‘ATA/GTG’

Part 3: ‘TGT/GTG’


I scrolled down.

Everything fell into place. What had previously seemed gratuitous, a misguided attempt to ascribe importance to an empty sequence of notes, took on an entirely different meaning. It all intersected, slotted together—for once in my life, I had the whole picture.

Art won’t cure a virus, but sometimes art reaches into you, touches you, finds that hidden place where you account for the balance of all that has happened in your lifetime, and it expresses it for you. Perfectly, succinctly. This was one of those moments.

a short story by

Noel Taylor


Rita Draper FrazaoThe image with this story is from the work of the Portuguese artist, Rita Draper Frazão. Although Rita’s work is wide-ranging, much of her art is based on her response to live music and the musicians who perform. She has a particular affinity to improvised music.

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14 thoughts on “The Days we Live”

  1. Hi Noel, well you certainly packed a lot into a short story! Really intrigued me, thanks.

  2. Very cleverly done, simplicity and complexity interwoven. Beautifully written, with a haunting meditative quality.

    Hope there will be more stories.
    Loved the Rita Draper Fracao artwork as well.

  3. tres interessant, meme fascinant…d une certaine facon un peu triste aussi ..mais cette historiette a fait vibrer en moi qqchose , je ne sais quoi..en tout cas ca fait du bien. Merci donc Noel . jhp

  4. Good story Noel….hope you’re keeping well, and presumably you’ll be seeing Yedo sometime in the not-too-distant future…and possibly his lovely extended family as well. Best wishes – Veryan

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