Allegro – a brisk and light tempo
“Am I boring you?” Taeyeon asked.
“No, it has been really interesting. I want to hear more if you’re not tired of telling me all these stuff,” Jessica said, her eyes were filled with interest.
It was the third time they met up within a week. Each time, they would go to the same coffeehouse near the arts centre and sat at the same corner seat where it was quieter. Each time after dinner, they would head to the practice room inside the arts centre where Taeyeon would randomly pick a few classical pieces to play for Jessica. Taeyeon would bring along an old and thick music book entitled ‘The Basic Guide to the Orchestra’ and explained to Jessica on how the orchestra worked. She even brought her to the music room within the arts centre and showed her some of the instruments that were store in the cupboard. For Taeyeon, having one sincere audience was much better than having a concert hall filled with people who were just there to see the star and may not appreciate the true art of classical music.
Jessica was appreciative of Taeyeon’s efforts and both of them enjoyed each other’s company as they spent their nights learning about music together. Taeyeon was happy to share her passion for music with a like-minded person. She discovered that Jessica had learnt how to read musical notes by herself and could understand some of the simple music terms used in the scores. She was very impressed by Jessica’s interest in music. Time flew by very quickly each time they were together.
On their fourth meeting, Taeyeon managed to borrow a clarinet from the store. She planned to teach Jessica some simple tunes since she was able to read musical notes. Jessica was delighted at the thought of learning a musical instrument under a star clarinetist’s guidance. It felt surreal.
Taeyeon chose a soft reed so that it would be easier for Jessica to produce a sound on the clarinet.
“Suck the reed in your mouth first while you assemble the clarinet. Let’s see how much you can remember,” Taeyeon instructed as she handed Jessica a reed case containing a brand new reed.
Jessica carefully took the reed out the case and placed it in her mouth while she figured out how to assemble the clarinet. She picked up each part of the clarinet and slotted the joints together with a gentle twist. Taking the reed out of her mouth, she placed it between the silver ligature and mouthpiece and fastened it securely.
Taeyeon smiled like a proud teacher as she watched Jessica assemble the instrument. She beckoned for Jessica to sit down on a chair so that she was able to correct Jessica’s posture when holding onto the clarinet later on.
“Your right hand should rest on the lower joint while your left hand takes the upper joint. For now, you don’t have to worry about tuning the instrument via the barrel. The correct embouchure is important in order to produce a good sound. Fold your bottom lip inwards like this so that your lower teeth wouldn’t be touching the reed. Place the mouthpiece between your lower lip and your upper teeth. Don’t put it too deep into your mouth.” Taeyeon then demonstrated by using her own clarinet so that it would be easier for Jessica to follow.
Jessica looked at Taeyeon’s posture and adjusted her mouthpiece accordingly.
“You’ll need to sit upright, towards the edge of the chair. Hold the clarinet at an angle of forty five degrees from your body.” Taeyeon reached forward and adjusted the position of Jessica’s clarinet. Her hands brushed across Jessica’s fingers and she felt tingles travelling from the tip of her fingers to her arm. She was distracted for a few seconds before Jessica’s voice brought her back to the present.
“Okay?” Jessica mumbled through the mouthpiece.
Taeyeon nodded, her fingers still tingling from the earlier touch. “Good. Now try to blow into the mouthpiece.”
Jessica took a quick breath and blew. There was no sound.
“Ah, you need to take a deeper breath and use a bit of effort to blow into the mouthpiece. It isn’t as easy as it seems eh?” Taeyeon said patiently, trying to guide the newbie.
Jessica tried again and this time she managed to produce a faint sound. Her cheeks had turned red by now from blowing too hard. Taeyeon tried her best not to giggle when she saw the red-face blonde.
“In order to produce a proper sound, you need to breath in deeply, fill your diaphragm before you blow into the mouthpiece. Here’s your diaphragm,” Taeyeon said as she rested her right palm flat against the area just above Jessica’s stomach.
“Okay, breathe in now slowly and hold it for a while. You need to feel your diaphragm expanding when it is filled with air. My palm should be moving up and down as you inhale and exhale slowly. Repeat it a few times and you’ll get the hang of it.”
Jessica followed Taeyeon’s instructions closely and repeated the breathing technique a few times. Once Taeyeon was certain Jessica got it, she smiled and praised her for doing a good job.
Taeyeon knew that encouragement was important in motivating a person to learn. That was how she was taught when she was much younger. Just then, Taeyeon realised that her palm was still on Jessica’s stomach and quickly removed it. She felt her cheeks warming up when she recalled the earlier body contact they had and quickly looked away for a while. Jessica on the other hand, became aware of Taeyeon’s sudden movement and blushed.
“Okay, now try using that technique and blow into the mouthpiece this time.” Taeyeon took a step back and watched Jessica closely as she tried to repeat the motion she did earlier on.
With some effort, Jessica managed to produce a midrange note from the clarinet. She broke into a wide smile while Taeyeon cheered for her. It was an encouraging start for Jessica. By her ninth attempt, Jessica was completely exhausted.
“Your stamina must be really good. I’m getting a headache from exerting so much force,” Jessica groaned, rubbing her temples.
“Such things usually happen to first timers. I had the same problems too when I first started. Once you get the hang of it, it’s very easy actually. You’re considered a fast learner. Not many people can produce a proper sound on the clarinet after a few attempts,” Taeyeon praised. She uncapped a bottle of water and handed it to Jessica. The latter drank thirstily from it.
“Let’s try to play some notes. You’ll need to cover the holes completely like this.” Taeyeon knelt in front of Jessica so that she would be at eye-level to the body of the clarinet and it would be easier for her to see if Jessica’s fingers were in the right position.
“Your left index finger should be resting on this silver key but be careful not to press it. Your right…” Taeyeon continued as she gently corrected the position of Jessica’s fingers on the instrument.
Jessica wasn’t paying attention to a single thing which Taeyeon was saying. She was just staring at Taeyeon’s face, studying her features up close. Her small pointed nose, her eyelashes, her soft brown hair…and her dry lips…
Jessica released her right hand from the clarinet and ran her thumb along Taeyeon’s lower lip. Taeyeon was caught unaware by Jessica’s sudden touch. She stopped talking and slowly raised her head to look at the blonde.
“Your lips are dry,” Jessica said softly, meeting Taeyeon’s gaze.
Taeyeon’s heartbeat went from Adagio to Allegro within minutes. Tinkles of delight rippled through her body as she slowly stood up, her eyes never leaving Jessica’s gaze. Taeyeon swallowed hard and ended up choking on her saliva, causing her face to turn red.
“Cough, I … I need water. Cough, I’ll go get a bottle from the cupboard outside, be right back,” Taeyeon said hastily as she headed outside the room.
Jessica was left alone in the room. She felt her heartbeat echoing in the sound-proof practice room as she looked at her right hand.
Her lips are dry yet soft. It must be due to the long hours of practice.
Taeyeon re-entered the room a few minutes later, holding a half-full bottle of water.
“Hey, it’s getting late and I think you’re exhausted from the breathing exercises. We should leave soon.” Taeyeon started to pack her clarinet into the case, her back was facing Jessica.
If I stay any longer in the room with her, I will….want to…kiss her. Maybe she thinks I’m a pervert who is trying to lure her with all these music lessons? Maybe she …
“Ah yes?” Taeyeon turned around and saw Jessica standing in front of her.
“I’m ready to leave. Here’s the clarinet. Thank you for tonight’s lesson,” Jessica said, handing the clarinet case to Taeyeon.
After packing up and locking the room, both of them stood outside the arts centre.
“Jessica, I think we should go outdoors for a change,” Taeyeon suggested. She was worried about the lack of control on her part should they spend time alone in the practice room.
Jessica nodded in agreement. Tonight’s close encounter with Taeyeon created several somersaults in her stomach.
Has my love for classical music has developed into love for the clarinetist as well?
“I’ll be pretty busy for the next few days coz practice is starting soon, so I’ll text you again when I’m available, okay?” Taeyeon asked. She was a little upset at not being to meet Jessica as often as she liked.
“Sure. I’m thankful you took time to teach me all these stuff which I would have never learnt in my lifetime. I’m sorry to bother you for so long,” Jessica said gratefully.
Taeyeon smiled warmly. “Nah, it’s not a bother. I’m glad to have made a change and helped to develop your interest for classical music. Nowadays, it’s difficult to find someone who truly appreciates the art of classical music.”
“Thank you,” was all Jessica could say. She meant those two words with sincerity.
“I better get going. Goodnight and goodbye, Jessica!”
This time, Jessica watched Taeyeon turn around to leave. She saw the young musician skipping down the steps of the arts centre and swinging her instrument case.
She definitely looks much better in person than in photographs. She’s just like the girl-next-door when she’s offstage unlike her serious demeanor on stage. I don’t think a star like her would take any interest in a plain person like me.