Duet for Robot Tenor Saxophonist and Human Tenor Saxophonist in D Minor
This was billed as a high-stakes battle, the new century’s update of Pres vs. Bean, Dexter Gordon throwing brass haymakers at Wardell Gray. The robot begins strongly, an embedded link to Monk’s quote about musicians being mathematicians. The robot stores every melody of the last 4,000 years in its pinkie ring. Every jazz solo is woven into a pocket square tucked cleanly in its hologram blazer. It juliennes “All the Things You Are” into “Softly as in a Morning Sunrise” into “Beat It” into “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” a form of bebop that slips crushed velvet into a magician’s thumb and pulls out chunky flannel. Finally, it holds notes at the highest and lowest ranges of the instrument simultaneously, miraculously resisting the urge to access its external hard drive. Tipping a neon fedora, it shuts off its pilot lights in deference to the human, who quotes the warhorses “What Is This Thing Called Love?” and “Carmen” to a round of boos. He is visibly sweating as the crowd reaches for boxes of tomatoes, but of course tomatoes are no longer tomatoes. This once competent player simply ran out of ideas at the wrong time, and now he is rendered into what amounts to a paste on the stage. As the violence begins to lose its luster, the robot returns to the spotlight for even louder applause. It skims the stage like a Roomba of old, sucking in the paste, which it will restructure into the human’s finest contributions on Earth. The robot will weave these moments into a tribute of nearly unbearable empathy.
Daniel M. Shapiro has been called “gorgeous” by Burt Reynolds, asked Peter Criss about donating his blood to comics, and met Tom Savini in a bowling alley. His book of poems, How the Potato Chip Was Invented (sunnyoutside press, 2013), focuses on his obsession with celebrities. He is a special education teacher who lives in Pittsburgh, PA.
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Image by Boynton