A good short story about music

January 26, 2007 at 06:14 PM · "Welcome to the Monkey House" has been my favorite book of short stories for a long time. A lot of times after I get to know somebody, I'll give them my copy of it and go buy another copy to set up for the next time. For many years I thought of the stories as very entertaining, but misleading. I didn't see any truth in the points he seemed to be trying to make. In fact a couple of times I considered writing Vonnegut a letter (pre-internet days) and telling him the stories were great, but they had no truth. As the years have passed, I see that I was wrong.

Band teachers might especially like this story. To turn this into a thread, why not post links to your own favorite stories. Ghost stories too. Maybe your own personal ghost stories. Scare the hell out of us:)

Here's a link to a pdf of the story, which a professor has put online for his class.


Replies (32)

January 26, 2007 at 07:49 PM · Very nice story. Thank you.

What is a "Bronx cheer"?

January 26, 2007 at 08:17 PM · It's when you stick your tongue out and go "THPTTTHH!!!!". :)

January 26, 2007 at 08:19 PM · Well Jim? Bronx cheer? I can't wait to see your answer!

Very nice story! I once heard Frank Sinatra's daughter was rough housing with a friend when one of a pair of rare Chineese vases was knocked over and shattered. He responded to their horror by picking up the remaining vase and smashing it, saying something to the effect that "it was nothing!".

Must be a musician thing..

January 26, 2007 at 11:26 PM · Maura's right.

January 26, 2007 at 11:32 PM · Thanks for that. I'm going to download it and print it out to read later.

Readers might also be interested in a charming short story, first published in the 60's in Esquire, "Harry Belten and the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto", a sort of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington story.

January 27, 2007 at 02:12 AM · That would have been Nancy Sinatra

January 27, 2007 at 03:16 PM · Thank you Maura. Now, one more time, but with Feeeeling...

Actually, one of my bows was made in the Bronx!

February 1, 2007 at 12:00 PM · I like Vonnegut. If ever you have the chance, ie your violin is in getting fixed up, its a rainy day and you don't have anything better to do, grab a copy of "The Sirens of Titan". Its all about a little robot called Salo, who's head hangs on gimbels (whatever gimbels are), and a guy called Boaz, and his buddy called 'Unc'. And how some glowing lichens on the rocks in a cave somewhere on the moon of Titan (or some other orb in space) save Unc and Boaz's life one day.

Its a sort of sad-sack, melancholy, Gilligan's Island version of Star Trek, but brilliant. I had to read it for a school assignment and I loved it.

PS I liked the band master story. And it really is true.

February 2, 2007 at 06:18 PM · Another great short story about music and "the passions" is Tolstoy's "Kreutzer Sonata."

April 1, 2007 at 05:15 AM · Important Amelia Earhart news. This is an exciting and super well written read.

April 12, 2007 at 04:25 PM · Well, Kurt passed away today, at age 84.


June 2, 2007 at 07:04 AM · I know a great musician who's a janitor. He works for the city on a crew that cleans the munincipal buildings. This summer he's going to give a command performance for the king of some European or Mediterranean country, I forget which one, then on Monday morning, back to being a janitor.

June 2, 2007 at 03:39 PM · Jim,

Check out Greg Fisher, a semifinalist in the Van Cliburn Competition for amateur pianists. This guy was featured on NPR this morning. He was a child prodigy growing up in Wisconsin...his teacher wanted him to prepare for Juilliard but instead his parents moved to Oklahoma, where he eventually quit music and went into the family glass installation business.

After giving up music completely as an adult his life fell apart, he began using drugs and landed in jail.

He has now returned to music, recently married another semifinalist in this competition, and has his life back on track.

On NPR the interviewer asked him whether it wasn't dangerous to be both a glass installer AND a pianist...he replied that he's "a blue collar guy in a white collar world", and that indeed "any glass man who doesn't have cuts on his hands is not showing up for work!"...then went on to describe how during the competition a few of the cuts on his fingers actually re-opened and he was bleeding onto the piano keys. (A good metaphor for baring one's soul in a performance...)

He was introduced in the competition as someone for whom music had a true 'healing' power...the ability to bring someone back from personal hardship/tragedy.

See "Pianist tries Cliburn after Glass. Not that Glass", at npr.com


Also check out his videos at the Cliburn competition website. The Rachmaninoff is my favorite:


(Note, if the links don't work directly please cut and paste into a browser)

June 2, 2007 at 04:55 PM · Yes. The blue-collar world consists of ongoing injuries and threat of them, or being killed, falling or being crushed, just taken in stride. The guy I referred to though, his life didn't take a bad turn, it's just what he does. The explanation would be a long one.

One time I had the chance to talk to the only real student of probably (possibly?) the most influential musician of the 20th century. He was in his 80s at the time. To start things, I told him he looked great and asked him what the secret of a long life was, and he thought for a second and said never work in a factory :)

June 2, 2007 at 05:24 PM · Yeah, he was probably right about that...

Also stay away from 3rd world construction sites...or US ones for that matter! One thing I remember from my trip to India a couple of years ago was people barefoot on scaffolds 50+ feet up in the air, working on construction sites...the scaffolds had no floors and looked like sticks tied together at the ends...no hard hats, no shoes, no gloves, no safety net, no nothing...and no lawyers to help you win a million dollar settlement if you fall...

But I digress.

But hey, don't tease us...names....??? most influential musician of the 20th century...? which one?...that could start a whole new thread...

June 2, 2007 at 08:57 PM · Good job on the Bronx Cheer Maura. While I was trying to figure out how to spell it you did it. LOL.

June 3, 2007 at 12:40 AM ·

Even a baby can do it.

June 20, 2007 at 09:22 AM · I was going to put this in the youtube thread, but it's almost used up.

What do you think about this? I think it's such a bizarre song for a kid.

First the original for reference.


Then the performing kid.


July 9, 2007 at 02:39 AM · Help me choose a tattoo. Don't pick one out; I don't know you that well. Just get me thinking. Probably upper arm, can't be visible in polo shirt. "Mom", anchor, and "Born to Win" already ruled out.

July 9, 2007 at 03:06 AM · Regarding your earlier post with the 4 yo singing "Strange Fruit," I agree with you, it's a strange thing for a kid to be singing. If my kid were singing it I wouldn't post it on youtube. It sort of reminds me of those kid beauty pageants - a little unnatural. She certainly doesn't fully understand the subject matter.

Regarding ideas for tattoos I really have no idea what you want. How about a treble clef, a violin, a picture of Jascha Heifitz on your ankle, a scroll. A yin/yang symbol? Just a few ideas - hope they spark others for you.

July 9, 2007 at 02:29 PM · Jim, for tattoo, how about "Holy smoke!" -- one of my favorite comments of yours (right after ASM’s post) :D

July 9, 2007 at 06:40 AM · "BOW2ME"

Oh wait, that's a vanity plate I saw passing me yesterday.

July 9, 2007 at 02:27 PM · ... on a second thought.

July 9, 2007 at 07:00 PM · I might get ASM tattooed on my tongue.

August 23, 2007 at 06:10 AM · My horoscope said take care of your pet. I usually buy the next bag of food before the old one runs out, but I hadn't that day. You only have to catch a fish one out of ten fishing trips to make you believe in fishing.

September 12, 2007 at 01:13 AM · I'm going to try to make it all up to you now by pointing you to some good live video from a couple weeks ago, Red Square Moscow, Bell, Hahn, Zukerman. After you enter the automation-fooling code, click on the long greyish filename near the middle. If there's copyright weirdness, ain't none of mine. Spasibo.






In the 2nd movement of the Bach, the camera work and production is outstanding. A beautiful venue and architecture lighted in twilight. I think Russia has a unique sense of decorative style.

And if you don't care to see that, here's one of my personal faves.


September 19, 2007 at 07:25 AM · There's a guy who gave me a little bit of trouble. He'll glare at me and stuff. It's a long story. Tonight I noticed him at a park. I got bored and left, taking a different way than I'd come in, through a more secluded area, to see if anything was happening down there. Nope. So to get out I had to walk between two cars parked lengthwise to me. By the craziest coincidence that guy had come the other direction and was now going to walk between those same two cars toward me. When he saw me, just as we were both turning to go between the cars, he took off running. It was funny as hell. I swear it's true. He must have thought I trailed him down there or something. I'm a dangerous man.

June 9, 2008 at 03:55 AM · Like any self-respecting guitarist, I finally went to see the gypsy woman. It's a rite of passage... She did a tarot reading. She was like hmm, ummm, hmmm, ohhh... then she said, "You can have anything you want." On second thought, I shoulda stuck around. She was cute...

August 25, 2008 at 03:19 AM · Still no tattoo. Was talking today to a guy with lots of them. Lots and lots. Said I wanted one but couldn't decide what. He presented this airtight argument against them:

"Are you smarter than you were fifteen years ago?"


"Then don't you think you'll be smarter in fifteen years than you are today?"

August 25, 2008 at 03:16 AM · Jim, I tried to follow your links to good live video performances on Russian websites. I couldn't find the music. However, I had fun following links and letting Google translate. My favorite ( http://translate.google.com/translate?u=http%3A%2F%2Ftestsbox.ru%2F&sl=ru&tl=en&hl=en&ie=UTF-8 ) was a series of psychological tests on various topics, including sex for women and sex for men.

August 25, 2008 at 03:34 AM · Lol. Well, they were good links when I put them up, way back when. I didn't look back now to refresh my memory, but it seems like one of them might have been the Hilary Hahn Red Square vid I was mentioning to somebody.

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