A scrap of sheet music containing a single, undecipherable note contained within a button jar and a sound recording of a radio interview with Mackintosh Quain.
Fragment de partition avec une seule note de musique indéchiffrable, inséré dans un bocal de boutons, avec enregistrement audio d’une entrevue avec Mackintosh Quain.
Interview Transcript from GB-103.5FM
(Thursday, 16 November, 1994)
HOST: Can you describe to our listeners what you’re holding?
MACKINTOSH QUAIN: Proof of divinity, man.
H: Ha, okay. It’s a piece of paper, right?
MQ: Yeah, yeah, sure, like the patriated Canadian Constitution is a piece of paper, or the Shroud of Turin is a dishcloth.
H: Sure, sure. Okay, so let me describe it. It’s a small piece of paper, burned around the edges, with a musical staff drawn on it. And in the middle is—
[sound of commotion]
MQ: Don’t touch it! Jean Sibelius wrote this. Do you know who Jean Sibelius is?
H: A composer right?
MQ: Not “A” composer, THE greatest composer of the 20th century. Of any century. Mozart was a hack.
H: Okay, so the middle of this paper is burned away. What do you think was there?
MQ: I don’t think—I know. The perfect note.
H: Right. And can you tell us what that is exactly?
MQ: Take all the best songs you can think of, like Tears Are Not Enough and Raise a Little Hell and anything by Gordon Lightfoot and the theme from the Littlest Hobo. Like imagine all of that could be distilled down into a single note.
H: Okay, so—
MQ: You know how a good tune, like a really really good tune, can make you feel—like really feel. That’s what this note does, only times a thousand.
H: And that’s what—
MQ: Times a million.
H: Sorry—and that’s what you’re claiming this is?
MQ: That’s what this is. Fact. Perfection.
H: And you found this in your attic.
MQ: Discovered it, yeah.
H: And have you had it examined by any experts?
MQ: Oh, yeah, sure. Lots. It’s legit.
H: And what has the reaction been?
MQ: Great. People are saying I’m the next big thing.
H: You are--?
MQ: The song is. Going to be.
H: Is it true you’re releasing an album?
MQ: Uh, I can neither confirm nor deny—
H: So this is going to be the first single?
MQ: Man, you don’t get it. It’s bigger than that. What if…what if music could fix the world.
H: Fix the--?
MQ: Hold on—just think about it. Like Bryan Adams and Geddy Lee and those guys were close with “Tears Are Not Enough”…but it wasn’t enough, y’know? I was there, I know. This—this—is universal. One note—a precise vibration that can reach everyone in every language. Cures for cancer, world peace—People can change. I can change people.
H: You? Or Sibelius?
MQ: Him, man. It’s his life’s work. It’s legit. But I’m the one who’s going to play it.
MQ: On this.
H: A synthesizer?
MQ: This is a Korg PS3300 and there’s only fifty of them in the entire world. Jean-Michel Jarre owns one, and Emerson from Emerson Lake and Palmer’s got one.
H: And this is what you’re going to play it on?
MQ: Yeah, sure
H: For us, right now
MQ: Well, hey, hold on
H: We’ll hear it here first
MQ: We talked about this
H: On 103.5 The Moose
MQ: Turn that shit off
H: Go on, the listeners are waiting
MQ: You think I’m bullshitting here?
H: I don’t know
MQ: You think this is some kind of publicity stunt?
H: I don’t know—is it?
MQ: You think you can, like what, expose me or something, on air?
H: No, I just think you—
MQ: You want to hear it? You want to hear monophonic perfection?
H: Ha, yeah, sure
MQ: I’ll play it
H: Sure, go on
MQ: I’ll play it right now
[sound of clicking]
[tapping of synth keys]
MQ: This just takes a minute to warm up
[sound of some notes, mashed badly]
MQ: There we go. Okay, you ready?
MQ: Bigger question—is the world ready? Cuz this—this—is the Pefect Song. Conceived by Jean Sibelius, from the loins of his cousin Nemo Sibelius, midwifed by Mackintosh Quain. This is it.
Here it i—
[tape hiss-sounds of feedback-garbled sounds. End of tape.]
Nemo Nero Christopher Sibelius (1 April, 1918 – 13 December, 1984) was born in Tampere, Finland, and was the distant cousin of famed Finnish composer and nationalist Jean Sibelius. He is now believed to have completed Täydellinen Laulu (The Perfect Song), of which only a single scrap of scarcely legible sheet music still exists.
Orphaned at a young age when his parents asphyxiated in a sauna, Nemo Sibelius was taken in by his aunt Maria Charlotta, mother of Jean. Despite bearing a striking resemblance to his more famous cousin, Nemo showed little aptitude for music at a young age and was nine times denied entrance to the prestigious Helsinki Music School (later to be the Sibelius Academy). A severe case of tinnitus, caused by a childhood encounter with an errant birch switch, combined with crippling dyslexia, left him incapable of hearing or reading music. His early attempts to play piano were said to have led to the coining of sisu, a term describing the emblematic Finn stoicism in the face of cacophony. Nemo did, however, display a keen talent for organizing stamp, button, and coin collections, a trait which may have led to his later obsession with perfection.
Despite his musical impediments, Nemo would prove to be instrumental in the composition of his cousin’s unfinished 8th Symphony.
Upon the completion of his 7th Symphony in 1924, Jean Sibelius began immediately working on the next movement. However, in the final thirty years of his life, he would never produce this last major work. His wife, Aino, a fastidious memoirist, recorded on the evening of March 15th, 1945, that her husband, a notorious arsonist; a trait, it would later seem, that would run in the family; had burned thousands of sheets of music. It appeared that the entire 8th Symphony would be silenced forever.
Nemo Sibelius, a known rummager, apparently combed the ashes of his cousin’s hearth on that cold March night in Järvenpää. Now 26 years of age, Nemo had spent the past decade living in the root cellar of Ainola, his cousin’s estate, studying under Jean’s watchful eye and retaining little. Now without blood relations, and quickly running out of turnips, Nemo departed for the snowy shores of Canada, with the promise of a job in the nickel mines of North Ontario. Making the ocean voyage with him were the remains of his cousin’s magnum opus.
After thirty unremarkable years spent underground, Nemo retired to a small hobby farm he called Ainola II, just outside Tobermory, Ontario, on the shores of Georgian Bay. He unsuccessfully tried to breed exotic animals for the last nine years of his life. After an ill-timed sneeze, Nemo Sibelius was trampled by a small herd of capybaras, and died a bachelor at Ainola II in 1984.
After securing squatters’ rights on the abandoned estate, the current owner of Ainola II made a discovery while digging through the attic of the farmhouse in the early 1990s. A scrap of paper was found, marked only by a title, Täydellinen Laulu, and signed by one “N. Sibelius.” In the center of the scrap was a musical staff. The staff was headed by a clef symbol of unknown origin and following this a single note appeared to have been recorded. However, stains, smears, and burn marks have left the exact nature of this note indecipherable.
In the same trunk where this scrap was located, another startling find was made: a cardboard box of ashes on which was scrawled “Ashes of the 8th Symphony.”
The discovery of this scrap, the so-called “Perfect Song”, has since electrified the musical world. Debate has elicited no final conclusions, but it has become clear that Nemo Sibelius was, in fact, a kind of idiot savant.
Using a box of ashes and a penchant for symmetry, Nemo was able to distill the remains of Jean Sibelius’s mythical 8th Symphony into a single note. It is believed that Nemo invented his own clef to contain this one note, but exhaustive studies by cryptologists, mathematicians, psychophysicists, otologists, linguists, and professional musicians have been unable to identify the precise note. The effects of this note on humankind when played are currently unknown.
[Biographical note written by M. Quain, esq.]
Screen Capture of a Wikipedia Page (since deleted)