Empath's personal journal, September 11.
It is that time of year for the annual three-day event in the village called Smurfstock, when any Smurf who has musical talent of any sort was invited to share it with the others. According to Papa Smurf, Smurfstock came to be when our Smurf ancestors decided to devote three days of the year to the commemoration of peace, love, and music. One of those ancestors who came up with the idea of Smurfstock was believed to be the one who came up with the "smurfsong" -- a series of signature notes that was believed to be the total musical embodiment of being a Smurf.
Smurfstock was celebrated every year since its conception, up until when this smurf's fellow Smurfs lost their parents to an unknown incurable disease and Papa Smurf had to step in and become the leader of a village. It wasn't resumed until three years before this smurf returned from Psychelia for good, when Harmony came up with an "original" symphony that was actually written by an entity known only as the Ghostwriter. A year later, the Smurflings appeared in the village and, with nothing better to do than show the adult Smurfs that they were pretty much capable of creating music themselves, developed a style of their own for Smurfstock called "smurf 'n roll". Their first song, "Smurfbop", became such an overwhelming hit at that year's Smurfstock that it literally inspired the adult Smurfs to come up with some new songs of their own using the Smurfling style.
Ever since this smurf first visited the Smurf Village, this smurf had been fascinated with the art of creating music, so this smurf took some lessons playing various instruments, eventually sticking to the piano because it was the most comfortable instrument this smurf has ever learned how to play. Now this smurf is also trying to compose some original music of my own, mostly to contribute something for Smurfstock, but partly to attract Smurfette's attention, since she is also interested in music. Harmony says that this smurf is too good to even bother playing music, but knowing that he has trouble doing the same thing himself, this smurf could only see that as a jealous reaction. This smurf does not mean to show up Harmony like that, but this smurf can be honest with myself in saying that this smurf can play any instrument better than he could. Now if only this smurf could create some music as good as this smurf could play it!
The village was so busy with activity as the Smurfs prepared for the musical event that was Smurfstock. A handful of them were busy at the Smurf outdoors theater setting up the stage with enough filtered boxes designed by Handy to amplify the sound of the musicians and their various instruments. Although a few Smurfs like Papa Smurf thought those "amplismurfers" were too loud and would most likely attract unwanted visitors to their village, Handy felt certain in the knowledge that at least Empath would be around to make sure such impromptu visits would be handled with utmost care.
Meanwhile, other kinds of preparations were underway, such as floral wreaths and streamers being made under the direction of Vanity, whose job was to make the village look just as beautiful during Smurfstock as he was. Tailor was boiling a big kettle outside his clothing shop full of a special multi-colored dye that Painter made up, twisting and tying up ordinary white hats and pants in random areas and sticking them inside the mixture to create all sorts of weird colored patterns. Clumsy along with a few other Smurfs were assembling beaded bracelets made from different-colored stones. Greedy and Tapper were both hard at work in their kitchens and breweries, making sure there would be plenty of food and drink to be enjoyed throughout the festival. Tapper in particular was designing a very unusual drink that looked like the amorphous blobs that constantly changed shape inside a lava lamp, but he had yet to find anybody else who was interested in trying it since this concoction was more for the novelty of its looks.
And, of course, there were the Smurfs who hoped to perform at the festival itself, getting together in small bands or being by themselves, practicing and rehearsing the tunes that they wanted to play. There was so much noise, so many different instruments being used during this time of day, that the very few Smurfs who cared very little for even being in Smurfstock chose to go off into the forest to find some quiet solace. Grouchy, as everyone would have guessed, was one of the few, while Lazy just simply went out into the forest to have a smoke of smurfnip and a quiet nap before the show started.
Empath had taken some time off from his duties as Papa Smurf's assistant counselor to do some rehearsing of his own, since Papa Smurf saw no immediate need for Empath watching over the village during Smurfstock. Smurfette was with Empath inside the Smurf outdoor theatre behind the closed curtains, listening to Empath playing a tune on Harmony's grand piano. Neither of them said anything, nor were they bothered by the presence of the other Smurfs still setting up the stage.
When Empath was finished playing, he asked, "How did you find this smurf's music to be, Smurfette?"
Smurfette wasn't sure how to answer that question. "Uh...it was...beautiful..." she started to say when she paused to think about something, and then she added, "but I do feel there's something missing to your music, Empath."
Empath was puzzled. "What do you mean, Smurfette?" he asked.
"Well, let's try something," Smurfette suggested. "Whistle to me the smurfsong just as you smurf it in your head."
Empath did as Smurfette asked. La, la, la la la la, sing a song of Smurf,... She listened very carefully to how he did it.
"Uh, that's just what I thought it would sound like from you," Smurfette sighed, seemingly not pleased after Empath finished. "You see, Empath, while you do smurf musical instruments very well -- even better than Harmony can -- the music you play smurfs to have a bit of sadness to it. Nothing in your music seems to say you enjoy being a Smurf. Even listening to you whistling the smurfsong seems to say that."
"This smurf has recognized that as a continuous shortcoming, Smurfette," Empath started to explain. "This smurf was brought up as a Psyche, where the only harmonious sound that existed among those people was that of many minds linked together, sharing thoughts with others in the collective. The smurfsong was never really a part of me, and for years this smurf tried to make it as much a part of me as what this smurf was born as, but this smurf still doesn't feel connected to its sound."
"It's a wonder you can still play music at all, Empath," Smurfette remarked. "I was thinking, maybe I can challenge you to smurf up with a piece of music that would make me feel all warm and...smurfy inside instead of all teary-eyed before the end of the Smurfstock festival."
Empath's eyes lit up at the prospect of a challenge. He wasn't sure what the outcome of his efforts would be, but he would do anything to prove himself to Smurfette.
"It sounds like something feasible for this smurf to take on," he mused. "Only this smurf wonders what the prize would be for this smurf succeeding in that challenge."
Smurfette looked skyward, making Empath think she was trying to come up with an answer. "Oh, just whatever it is you wish from me to smurf you, Empath…just as long as I approve of it," she suggested, looking at him again.
"And what would this smurf do for you if this smurf fails this challenge, Smurfette?"
Smurfette gave Empath that thinking look again. "How about breakfast in bed for the next three hundred mornings of your life…plus a fresh rose from the garden…and you not smurfing a shirt in front of me when you're serving?"
Empath had to admit…Smurfette certainly had a way with rewarding Smurfs, even when they lose. She wants this smurf to serve her breakfast in bed for three hundred mornings with this smurf not wearing a shirt? he thought. Hmmmm…
"This smurf would be honored to accept the challenge," he answered eagerly.
"Good!" Smurfette chirped, smiling again. "I can't wait to smurf what you can come up with, whatever it happens to be. And if you don't smurf up with anything, I can always smurf the next best thing from you. Well, I've got to resmurf for my performance tonight and find that dress I smurfed at the last Smurfstock festival."
"Just be careful around that musical group that calls itself Azrael Rocks, Smurfette" Empath warned. "They're still practicing their songs for the event."
"Oh, great," Smurfette groaned, as if she just heard a bad joke. "Like some Smurfs just had to pick the name of Gargamel's cat to drive the rest of us crazy along with their bad music. I just wish Sloppy could've stuck to smurfing a regular guitar or even a mandolin instead of that caterwauling guitar of his."
"Honestly, Smurfette, it's not that terrible of a musical instrument once you know how to play it correctly," Empath told her as she headed off the stage. "Maybe Sloppy can teach you how to play it sometime."
Smurfette gave Empath a look over her shoulder that said yeah, right, like that would be the day. And then she crossed through the curtains and was gone.
Empath sighed as he resumed his playing the piano. He remembered the story he heard from his fellow Smurfs about how Sloppy came up with this invention in the first place. One day out in the woods, Sloppy was practicing some chords on a regular guitar, trying to come up with some unique sounds that no Smurf had ever heard from a guitar. It was in the middle of this practicing that he heard a flurry of high-pitched squeals that sounded like Azrael getting on the business end of his master Gargamel's bad temper again. He noticed that the cat squeals had a very unusual musical sound that appealed to him, and so he quickly headed back to the village to try coming up with something that would emulate that sound.
Eventually, Sloppy used Handy's workshop to build himself a different kind of guitar that created not only high-pitched notes that squealed like a cat, but also low-pitched notes that growled like a fierce animal. The first time Sloppy played this guitar, every Smurf found themselves running for their lives out into the forest, thinking that Azrael or something even more dangerous found its way to the village. But eventually they found out what it really was, and even Jokey, who would normally be the one to fool his fellow Smurfs with such convincing trickery, was impressed. Since then, Sloppy had been busy at work trying to create more melodic sounds with the caterwauling guitar, though most of the time he simply preferred a good jam session to let loose the musical animal.
Empath could only hope that Smurfette would get over her disdain for Sloppy's instrumental creation, particularly since he wrote a good deal of songs about her that played very well on his caterwauling guitar, no matter how loud they sounded.
"Good morning, Empath," another familiar voice greeted him. "I see you're smurfing some time off to do some practicing of your own for the performances."
Empath stopped playing and turned to see Papa Smurf on the stage carrying Baby Smurf with him. Instead of his usual red hat and pants, Papa Smurf now wore one of the tie-dye colored suits that Tailor and Painter were producing, and Baby Smurf himself was wearing a hat, shirt, and pants combination with the same type of design.
"Salutations, Papa Smurf," Empath commented. "This smurf was making sure Harmony's grand piano was finely tuned to suit anyone's ear for music. It seems that you both must have been Tailor's first customers, for this smurf has rarely seen you wearing anything other your standard colored clothing."
"Yes, well, I figured I could smurf without the usual style for the time smurfing, Empath," Papa Smurf responded. "I have to agree that these suits certainly look…as Painter would say…smurfedelic, whatever he means by that! But please…don't stop smurfing the piano on my account. It isn't as if I needed you for anything smurfly urgent today."
"This smurf acknowledges, Papa Smurf," Empath said, feeling relieved. He turned his attention toward the piano and resumed his playing. As he played, Baby Smurf put in his mouth a kazoo that he was carrying and made some musical noises of his own.
Papa Smurf chuckled as he heard Baby Smurf's kazoo-playing in concert with Empath's piano-playing. "Smurfs like we've got a little performance going on right now between the two of you!" he mused.
Empath smiled at that thought. "Baby Smurf must have the makings of a true musician inside him, Papa Smurf. This smurf wouldn't mind having him teach this smurf a thing or two about creating melodies. By the way, are you having Brainy conduct the Village Smurphony Orchestra this year again?"
"Not really as many Smurfs left in that orchestra as there were a few years ago when the Smurflings played that 'Smurfbop' tune of theirs, Empath," Papa Smurf answered. "I do feel rather jealous of them, though, since their style of music has smurfed such a change in how the Smurfs wished to play music, with all these different bands like Smurfs Without Hats, Azrael Rocks, and such. But I guess even an old Smurf like myself can smurf a few things from this new style." He then sang a bit of a song that he was working on for a solo performance: "I was born in a smurf town, and I live in a smurf town; oh, I could die in a smurf town, oh, this Smurf community,…!"
"Brainy still thinks that the Smurfling style of music is not befitting of a true Smurf, Papa Smurf, which this smurf believes is why he would rather be conducting the orchestra," Empath said, unsure of what to say about Papa Smurf's work on a Smurfling-styled song. "It would be a disappointment for him to see even fewer of his fellow Smurfs playing for him in the old style."
Papa Smurf sighed at that thought. "Brainy's love for the classics may be the hardest thing for him to let go of, but to each Smurf his own. Come to think of it, I might even play for Brainy if he needs another Smurf to conduct in the orchestra."
"That would be a surprise for Brainy to be conducting you for a change, Papa Smurf," Empath commented, finding himself surprised just from hearing Papa Smurf saying that.
"Anyway, I'm sure that Brainy will make a smurfy performance no matter how many Smurfs are left smurfing in the orchestra," Papa Smurf said, finishing up his business with meeting Empath. "I might as well go smurf up my mandolin and try smurfing a duet with Baby Smurf before the concert."
"Good luck, Papa Smurf," Empath remarked. "This smurf would love to hear the end result of your possible collaborative work."
Papa Smurf snickered at that comment, and Baby Smurf went back to playing the kazoo as he and Papa Smurf left the stage area. "I've smurfed it all in a smurf town, had mysmurf a ball in a smurf town,…!" the elder Smurf sang.
Empath went back to playing his music again. He couldn't help thinking now how his music had sounded -- professional, yet it lacked the personality and the spirit of a true Smurf. Maybe the challenge of trying to impress Smurfette with an original composition might inspire him to create something that showed the true Smurf within himself.