Chapter 12

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“Soulville is the best place to make music,” Jake explained as he guided Maude through Soulville Tower. Jake, one of Soulville’s most loyal receptionists, had taken an instant liking to James’s most recent protégée. “Soulville Records has three mastering rooms, five studios, and four production rooms,” he continued. “The acoustics here are amazing! James made sure of that. That’s because the echo chambers here are unique: the sound isolation allow the sound engineers to sweeten the music tracks with a rich reverberation. You’ll learn more about all that when you start recording. You’ll be recording in studio A, the best studio this house has to offer. For now, you’ll be working in MCR.”

“MCR?” Maude asked.

“Matt’s Creation Room,” Jake explained as they crossed the entry lobby.

Maude’s eyes instantly fell on the Steinway Concert Grand Piano.

“She’s a beauty, isn’t she?” Jake said, following Maude’s gaze.

Maude could only nod.

“She’s Soulville’s ‘mascot,’” he explained. “She’s also cursed.”

“Really?” Maude scoffed.

“Don’t take this lightly,” Jake warned.  “This piano is a custom-made Steinway 9.6' made in 1863 by Steinway & Sons. It was acquired in the 1920s by Carnegie Hall, where it was played by prominent pianists like Vladimir Horowitz. This historical piano was restored in 2006 and was given original Steinway parts including the soundboard, pin block, action parts, and its original ivory keys. However, ever since this restoration, no one has been able to play correctly on it.”

“What do you mean?” Maude asked, her curiosity piqued.

“I mean that nothing but the most horrific sounds come from this instrument, even when played by the best pianist.”

“When was the last time you tuned this instrument?” Maude asked warily.

“It is regularly tuned by the best piano technicians,” Jake insisted. “It’s cursed. Everyone agrees with this theory.”

An involuntary shiver ran down Maude’s spine as she looked at the rosewood Steinway.

“I’ll show you the kitchen and the Creation Room, and the tour will be over,” Jake said, ushering her along. 

Matt’s Creation Room was a wide, colorful space dedicated to music. The walls were splashed with bright orange walls, green sofas, and cushions, which contrasted with the serious, dark upright Yamaha piano in the center of the room. There were other instruments in the room: several guitars, a violin, several drums, a bass guitar. The walls were like a private Hall of Fame covered with posters and even relics of famous singers. One wall was covered with pictures of Matt and his three platinum albums Matt, Superstar, and Moving On. The room was bathed in light entering through the wide windows. It was Matt’s Creation Room and he had obviously decorated the room according to his own tastes.

After finishing her scales while waiting for Matt, she posted herself next to the windows to practice her audition song for La Cenerentola that Saturday evening. It was a beautiful, sorrowful song that Cinderella sang in the first scene about a king who looked for true love not in splendor and beauty, but in innocence and goodness.

Maude had difficulty getting into the spirit of the song at the moment as she surveyed Times Square from the top of Soulville Tower. Nevertheless, she tried to sing mournfully in Italian.

Matt silently entered the room, propped himself on his favorite sofa, and listened to Maude sing.

Her face was in an ocean of light that shimmered on her brown skin, while she sang, a faint smile on her lips.  Her hair was tied in a lazy bun over her head, which enhanced her natural beauty. She had heard Matt enter and was satisfied to think that she hadn’t betrayed any emotion when he arrived, unlike their previous encounters.

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