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“Why do I have to learn how to sing?” Titilayo said collapsing on the piano keys in exasperation.

Ewatomi stroked the neat cornrows on her daughter’s head. The young girl’s body falling onto the keys had caused a cacophony, but that was, after all, the purpose of the music room. The purpose of the place was to be filled with sound, all manner of sound, from the horrendous to the sublime. After Titilayo’s outburst, the room was quiet, but there was an energy to the space. It was as if the sounds from days and months past were still present, as if no sound ever truly dissipated. Decades in music rooms and concert halls had taught Ewatomi so much about the nature and secrets of music. Now she was trying to instil them in her daughter,

”You don’t have to learn how to sing, you get to learn how to sing,” Ewatomi replied with enthusiasm.

Titilayo sat up and scowled at her smiling mother. It was a hard sell to convince a child of this generation of the merits of manual vocal training. Now, anybody on earth could go to a facility or order an at-home kit and instantly become a musical virtuoso. Neural performance augmentation could enable anybody to master any skill instantly. It was just a matter of deciding what you wanted to excel at.

“Come on Titi,” Ewatomi said firmly. “Let’s go over the scales you learnt yesterday.”

It was perhaps even more of a stretch for Ewatomi in particular to be tasking her daughter in this way. Ewatomi had been amongst the first group of children to test the prototypes. In a sense, they were the prototypes. Neural performance augmentation had been in the early stages of development. Previously early versions of the technology had been used for military purposes, to give soldiers superior combat skills. During the course of ongoing research, scientists discovered that younger brains were more receptive and resulted in more successful interfaces. Music seemed like a safe subject matter for testing. Thus began the first teen trials. They were a resounding success. Almost overnight, Ewatomi became one of the most talented musicians on the planet. She could sing anything, play anything. The success of the trials shook the world. There was a huge backlash at first. Musicians, singers and anti-augmentation campaigners would protest outside venues where the trial participants were performing. Nevertheless, the young people performed to packed rooms and arenas. People were intrigued by the technology, but it was truly the music that drew them.

In the old world, musical talent was the preserve of a select few, prodigies who simply did what came naturally or talented individuals who cultivated their innate gifts. These people saw augmentation as a threat to their livelihoods and their identities. They worried that the proliferation of musical ability would diminish the status of music in society. Yet, when the augmentation became publicly available, it arguably elevated the status of music in society. Everyone acquiring the ability to sing was an incredibly powerful uniting force. People formed clubs and societies to sing together and music became an integral part of the social fabric.

Titilayo began to sing her scales. As she had done with so many people in the years gone by, Ewatomi directed the young girl with the rise and fall of her hand, as well as guiding notes on the piano. The music room was filling with beautiful sounds and early morning sunlight, as well as a mother’s pride at the progress her daughter was making.
Ewatomi had spent years touring. At first, she mainly performed, but as the years progressed she was being booked for more and more speaking engagements. Millions of people were experiencing complex emotions about having new abilities thrust on them. Ewatomi, as one of the pioneers, was able to give people the language and mental models to understand how these abilities were changing them and how to navigate all that the abilities enabled them to do. Amongst the tools in her toolkit were musical theory and vocal instruction. The augmentation gave people the superpowers of perfect pitch and full vocal range, but it was easy for a person to get lost in it all. Ironically, learning from first principles in music was where many found their true power.

As Titilayo’s music lesson came to an end, Ewatomi kissed her daughter on the forehead. Later in the day, Titilayo would have music practice at school. She was the only child not to have taken the music augmentation yet. Nevertheless, through practice and training, she was able to hold her own. Ewatomi was grateful for the young girl’s patience. The temptation for instant gratification was not easy to resist, but Titilayo had proved herself diligent and persistent. She had the kind of self-discipline that would enable her to succeed at anything, whether she decided to follow in the footstep of her mother or pursue a different path. The world enabled anyone to have the skills to succeed, but the character need to flourish and become successful was not as easy to come by.

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