MAESTRO ORPHEUS AND THE WORLD CLOCK is an audio-story intended mainly, but not exclusively, for children. Its first and foremost intention is to delight. But there is also an educational aspect to the project; that is, the introduction of a wide variety of works of classical music by 15 major composers from Bach to Janacek, all thematically linked around the subject of Time. It is our hope that the story offers a reason, if reason is required, for loving music.
The story, set in the present, concerns a boy named Fred, who reluctantly finds himself staying at his grandfather’s house for the weekend. His grandfather is a retired clockmaker, and the apparent reason for Fred’s reluctance to visit is that everything at his grandfather’s house is old, even Grandfather himself. But, the real target of resistance is the clocks – “What good are they,” Fred asks. “All they do is tell time. And who needs time?”
That night, alone in bed, Fred is unable to sleep. The clock in the hall begins to chime midnight, but unexpectedly stops at the count of six. Time literally stands still – and, thus begins Fred’s unlikely adventure.
Unable to find his grandfather, he decides to look for him in the shed behind the house, where his grandfather keeps his workshop. However, when Fred enters his shop, he doesn’t find his grandfather, but Maestro Orpheus, a wise and magical old man, whose job it is to wind The World Clock. When Maestro Orpheus discovers that it is midnight and all the clocks have stopped, he tells Fred that he can’t stay and talk but must hurry to his task. Taking up his great key, Orpheus then disappears down a long tunnel which opens at the back of the shed. “Are you coming, Fred?” Maestro Orpheus calls back, and a timid but curious Fred slowly enters “the corridor of time”.
Here he meets Maestro Orpheus’ Lyre – a Tinkerbell-like character, who sounds delightful but doesn’t speak - and together the three journey along the seemingly endless corridor which is lined on both sides with countless doors. Now these are not just any doors. No, above each is the birthdate of a different composer and behind each, as Fred soon learns, is a different clock. As he winds each clock, Fred is told a fanciful story of the respective composer, each story accompanied by that composer’s music. Through the course of MAESTRO ORPHEUS AND THE WORLD CLOCK, four different doors are opened – being introductions to the music and stories of Bach, Haydn, Chopin and Janacek. However, these are not your everyday, run-of-the-mill composer stories. Rather, each of the stories is about when the composer was a little boy and the special relationship each had with his grandfather, clocks and time. (As well as the four story-telling clocks, there are several “musical adventures” along the corridor: at the Door to a Timeless World, Fred hears how the lyre once lost her voice and how Maestro Orpheus became responsible for winding the World Clock; and, at The Door to the End of Time, Fred has a near run-in with The Bringer of Old Age.)
Despite Maestro Orpheus’s delight in introducing Fred to the various clocks, he must hurry to wind the World Clock – or else time will stand still forever. As Orpheus tells Fred, “without Time, there will be no music”.
But instead of hurrying along, Fred continues to dawdle, as if he doesn’t want Time to start again. Orpheus doesn’t understand why, until Fred slowly reveals the real reason he doesn’t like clocks and Time. He’s afraid that his grandfather is going to die.
How this fear is disclosed involves music as well. Earlier in the story, when Fred was first in bed at his grandfather’s house, he kept humming a piece of music, the theme from Haydn’s Clock Symphony. This, it turns out, is the music his grandfather always whistles whenever he’s Fred has come to associate the piece with his grandfather. Here, now, in the depths of the corridor of time, Fred begins to hum it again. When Orpheus hears it and discovers the reason for Fred’s anxiety, he takes him to one side and wisely explains the complicated connections between Time and Memory, Feelings and Music:
“Every composer is in love with time, and they all try to catch it. They try to catch it in their hands and hold it down. But it’s like trying to hold on to sunlight or moonlight…. But, in music, you can take hold of time. Music is a time-machine. Whenever you play or listen to music, you start time going all over again. All the memories, and all the feelings that have taken place in the past, return and come to life again… We can’t stop Time, but we can keep it in our hearts, and we can cherish it in our music.”
Thus assured, Fred is now prepared to continue on to the end of the corridor, and to enter the vast room where the immense and elaborate World Clock is kept. With Fred’s valuable assistance, Maestro Orpheus winds the clock. Coughing and wheezing and with the whirr of a thousand gears, Time starts again. Then Orpheus and the Lyre say goodbye to Fred, who suddenly finds himself back in his own bed, waking to the same chiming clock that began his dream.
He rushes to tell his grandfather the night’s adventure. But, there is one more surprise in store for him. His grandfather presents him with a lyre-clock of his own, and, as Fred admires it, the story closes as it began – to the tune of Haydn’s Clock Symphony, that piece of music which contains the time and memory of his visit to his grandfather’s house.