The Conductor

5 pagesCCXXIX

The life and times of one conductor Sifiso Zhao.

Image description: A digitally drawn comic in watercolor-like greyscale, presented in flowing images that are narrated.

Sifiso, a round-faced person with curly hair and freckles dotting their f, is shown raising their hands to play the piano.

Narration: Sifiso Zhao rose to fame with the unapologetic use of magic in their playing.

A musician on electric guitar is then shown, creating cascading waves of water with an intense strum.

Narration: Though people expressing their magic through music is very common, in the realm of classical music it was frowned upon. Some say out of tradition.

A younger Sifiso is then shown seated and sifting through music sheets. They look mildly stressed, or tense, and lines radiate around their head.

Image description: An older Sifiso is shown, frowning mildly, juxtaposed against the watery visages of composers of old.

Narration: Some say out of a desire for complete focus on the music, much in the same way clapping is frowned upon.

A more abstract image of Sifiso is shown, turned to the side and grimacing, holding a hand to their chest as nervous lines radiate out from them. Then, Sifiso is shown speaking in an interview, hands folded atop each other.

Sifiso: I was beaten by an old teacher for it.

Image description: Sifiso is shown standing among staff lines, holding out their hands wistfully as their very being seems to drift and dissolve into the air.

Sifiso: I can play without letting a single slip out, if I wanted to. But why? I am the musician. Why must my interpretation be restricted to only the sound?

Two pairs of hands are shown, both belonging to Sifiso. The first are held together flatly, and some fingers are notably missing. The second pair is still missing fingers, but is holding a conductor's baton with sureness.

Narration: After an injury to their hands, physical and metaphysical, they stopped playing the piano. Unable to play, they went on to found and conduct the Magical Philharmonic, an entire orchestra working together to create musical spells of a scale unheard of.

Image description: Sifiso is then shown at the front of an orchestra, wisps of magic blossoming out around them as they raise their baton and the musicians play.

Narration: And it is there that their magic bloomed.

Sifiso sits at a table, papers in front of them and writing hand in a brace, and they touch their forehead in contemplation and frustration. Then, their wife approaches holding a cello and pats them on the shoulder, and they immediately relax.

Narration: They turned to composition as well, to write the spell around the sound. Their first symphony, the heavenly sun. Their tone poem for cultivating windstorms. Their sonatas for a different god each. And they even wrote three cello concertos, all for their wife, Zuzanna.

Image description: Sifiso is shown staring placidly at the viewer, but this time they are intermixed within the faces of other composers of history, shapes and forms bleeding away.

Narration: Sifiso's work is oft included under the many composers that revolutionized classical music of the 20th century, though Sifiso stands alone in their contributions to musical affect.

Sifiso leans their elbow on a railing of sort, turning their head back to smile at their wife standing a few paces behind them. She smiles right back. Behind her, even farther, is the silhouette of a younger Sifiso, perched at the piano, eyes wide, and behind them is an even younger, hunched Sifiso, as if they stretch on into forever.

Sifiso: Every day I find new inspiration. In my wife's smile, in beautiful weather, spotting a gorgeous creature or fascinating spell... Every day I live provides me with something so incredibly precious.