MOPS Day, uh, 10. I am doing this one on a Sunday, when no-one is on the interwebs, because it’s the prime example of me using the rule ‘I will finish off all the ideas that were in my lost notebook, even if they are not strictly speaking good ideas’.
It starts from a conversation a few years ago about Tallis’ brilliant 40-part motet, Spem in Alium, combined with various discussions about the dullness of the sort of choral bass line where one only sings on one note. And I happened to wonder: if there are 40 vocal parts, is the number of different pitches that they sing at fewer than the number of people? That is to say, if one were to rearrange it so that each person were singing only on one note (assuming the requisite ability to count like robot ninjas that that would need), how many singers would you need? Yes, I realise this spectacularly misses the point of both Spem and choral music in general. The fact that it’s more or less a big troll is why I found it amusing, and wrote it down in the notebook. The answer, in case you were wondering, is somewhere around 33 depending on various editorial decisions.
I was able to partially automate doing this, so it’s slightly less wasted effort than it looks like, honest. It’s a pdf file, so I’ve put it up on fluffhouse here.
The First Feast The feast is held in a nautically-themed basement, somewhere in a distant and unedifying part of town. A reproduction of the last feast on the Titanic is served by a host of waiters in Pierre et Gilles sailor-boy costumes. As soon as the doors are closed, the noise of a tremendous rainstorm can be heard. A drip develops in the centre of the table. The first few courses are accompanied by the sounds of water trickling under the door. By the third course, the floor is covered with a thin skim of water. The guests splash their way to the toilet, then back to their seats. The outside door is locked. By the fifth course, the waiters are wading through a foot of water, their sailor costumes damp and see-through. For the eighth course, the table is winched clear of the rising waters. The guests stand to eat their asparagus vinaigrette. By the tenth course, the guests must swim to recieve their peach and chartreuse jelly, delivered through a hatch in the ceiling. The jelly is spiked with a powerful sleeping draught. The guests awake the next morning, alone, on a bare raft somewhere in the North Sea.
The Second Feast The invitation states, wear masks. To avoid confusion, you are informed beforehand in a splendidly-typeset letter as to who of the others will be wearing which mask. The room has black, glassy-smooth reflective walls. Once the meal is served, it becomes apparent that nothing is what you expected it to be. The water is vodka. Eggs are served which have the white centrally, surrounded by a layer of yolk. A cake is brought in that is made entirely from meat; a game course sewed inside the skin of chicken legs; chocolates that are made from cheese. The final course is the facsimile of a full roast dinner in cake, marzipan and fondant.
At the end of the meal, the masks are removed. No-one is who you were told they were.
When you get home, the door of your house will be curiously ajar and small items will have been moved from their usual places.
The Third Feast The third feast is held in a library. You are familiar with this library, but you were never aware of the room the feast is held in. It is behind a curiously nondescript door, which seems as though it might lead to a broom cupboard but in fact leads to a high-ceilinged gallery filled with all manner of obscure volumes. The head librarian meets you there, carrying a tray of magnetic letters. The letter you choose determines the meal that is served to you. One might choose P and be led to a purple parlour, where peacock pate, partridge with pickled pear and pomegranates would be served; or A, and be led to an alcove in which waiters dressed as angels would offer asparagus, artichokes, andouillettes and amaretto. Those who choose X are strapped to a cruciform frame and spoon-fed a limp cross of xanthan gum. The unlucky few who choose Z are fed zebra steaks laced with opium, and sleep for the majority of the meal. The next morning, the guests find a letter tattooed, discreetly, in the crook of their arm; but it is not always the letter they chose.
The Fourth Feast The fourth feast is held in the room at the top of a tower, in a circular room with chequerboard windows of red and white stained glass. When the guests have taken their places at the round table, the ladder is drawn away and they are shut in. After some time waiting, it becomes apparent that the cutlery is only a crude facsimile, and is in fact silver-painted biscuit and quite edible. The table decorations are inflatable and pressurised by soup. Shortly after this, the guests realise that the plates are fake, too; they form the second course. A valve is found whereby the windows can be drained of their central layers of red and white wine to reveal clear glass and the surrounding forest. A layer peels off the table to reveal the third course, and by deconstructing their chairs they are able to extract the fourth, which is hidden in the legs like marrow in bones. By now it is well past midnight, and still no-one comes. Inspecting the walls, the guests find that some bricks can be removed. These bricks are chocolate-framed replicas, containing splendid puddings. The holes left by their absence form a ladder, by which they can descend the tower and go home.
The Fifth Feast The first course is a food course. The second course is a sex course. They alternate in quick succession, until no-one can quite remember what they are supposed to be doing with their hands and mouths.
The Sixth Feast The sixth feast is a replica of the funeral feast of King Midas. It is held in a remote country house, lit by dim lamps and perfumed with incense; a greek orthodox choir can be heard at times throughout the proceedings, although they are never seen. The black-clad waiters are hired magicians, sleight-of-hand artists and illusionists. Throughout the meal, they stealthily replace the items in the hall by exact replicas in pure gold, beginning subtly (table decorations, door handles, strolling peacocks) and ending with the cutlery as the guests are using it to eat dessert. As a finale, the waiters line up to pull the tablecloth out from under its contents. The guests laugh drunkenly over their honey wine, expecting a golden table; but instead the house disappears, and they are left, bereft of riches, on a low hill in the dim light of early sunrise.
The Seventh Feast Jaded and tired, the guests meet on a ship in international waters. After making certain preparations, they secretly draw straws and then retire to their cabins. Later that evening, avatars of each guest meet at a virtual-reality table, where they share their thoughts on the splendid meal that is being served to each, individually, in separate parts of the ship. The guests know that one of their number is not real, but is instead an AI which has been supplied with certain knowledge about that person. The missing person forms the prime ingredient in the banquet they are eating.
Nostalgic for their first feast, they later sink the boat.