Emma to Eddie

by Jennifer Bryce


This week on the front cover of the Saturday newspaper’s magazine was a picture of Eddie Ayers. Not someone I’ve heard of, I thought.  Then I read the article.

I read Emma Ayers book, Cadence, two years ago, and loved it. I had enjoyed her friendly yet unassuming presence on the radio and I was particularly interested because she was a professional viola player.

Cadence is a book that can’t be classified easily – and indeed, why classify it? Readings Book Shop had it under ‘Music’. Yet it is a memoir, essentially about Emma’s remarkable trip from England to Hong Kong on Vita, her trusty bicycle. Along the way we learn about Emma – her childhood, her experiences with music. I marvelled at her daring – doing the trip solo. I felt that she accomplished this because of her warm personality and although I’ve never subscribed to the idea of music being a ‘language’, Emma used her violin (the viola was too big to take on such a trip) as a way of communicating with people from many different cultures. Cadence is cleverly structured.  Western music is based on a system of scales grounded on different tonalities – A, B, C etc. And this structure is founded on a cycle of fifths, whereby the fifth note of each scale is the starting-point for a scale with related tonality. The book is based on this structure. So, for example we start off in C major/ minor and, after ‘cycling’ through all the other scales, that’s where we finish. And of course we are ‘cycling’ through the book in two different ways. Brilliant!

Apparently the young Emma wanted to learn ‘cello, but her mother said it was a boy’s instrument. It seems that maybe the ‘cello represented more than a wish to play a deep resonant instrument. Emma is now Eddie – and he has taken up the ‘cello. I do hope that Eddie writes more and I look forward to hearing him play ‘cello.