Help! Stories about composers and/or musicians?

General discussions of interest to readers and fans of Harlan Ellison.

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David Loftus
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Help! Stories about composers and/or musicians?

Postby David Loftus » Sat Nov 24, 2012 12:22 am

Guys:

I'm calling on your collective brains and memories to come up with material for a special performance I committed to do early next year.

A guy is organizing a music festival here in Portland for early March, called Music Moderne III / Global Village PDX -- with an accent on classical, accent also on experimental 20th and 21st century works. Most of the events will be live musical performances, of course; people playing works by Stravinsky, Xenakis, Shostakovich, Hindemith, Britten, Part . . . and even composers I've never heard of, like Salonen, Golijov, Donatoni, Gwyneth Walker.

Since I've done an event or two before with the guy organizing this shebang, he asked me whether I'd be interested in doing a reading in connection with the festival, and I said sure. Now I've got to find some material! A nice, brief, but complete tale about a crazy composer would be the ultimate; but any good story about a classical creator or performer, a novel I could excerpt, even some true stories about real musical artists, might work. I immediately thought of "The Song the Zombie Sang," of course, but that's a bit long and not really quite what I want. The author doesn't have to be well known or respectable; I'm just looking for gripping stories.

The organizer suggested I look up H.P. Lovecraft's "The Music of Eric Zann," J.G. Ballard's "The Sound Sweep," and Edgar Allan Poe's "The Devil in the Belfry" (because Debussy apparently once planned an opera based on that story). I'll definitely look into those since I'm not familiar with them, but right now I'm looking for anything anyone can recall that might make for an interesting reading. (Have to admit I reread most of Poe a couple years ago and didn't really like all that much of it; certainly not for reading-aloud purposes.)
War is, at first, the hope that one will be better off; next, the expectation that the other fellow will be worse off; then, the satisfaction that he isn't any better off; and, finally, the surprise at everyone's being worse off. - Karl Kraus

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Re: Help! Stories about composers and/or musicians?

Postby Moderator » Sat Nov 24, 2012 1:55 pm

David -

Would love to help with this but my only real experience/anecdotes come from the world of jazz music and the standards.

There is one interesting classical news story from a couple of years ago that may provide some fodder for you, Joshua Bell played, for free, in a Washington Metro station for 45 minutes. The crowd response was predictably sad:

http://urbanlegends.about.com/od/music/a/violinist_metro.htm
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Re: Help! Stories about composers and/or musicians?

Postby Lori Koonce » Sat Nov 24, 2012 7:00 pm

David

My computer is acting all wonky, so I went to the library while it is being looked at and came up with the following. You can see if a library near you has the titles or access to them.

Extraordinary Renditions: The author Andrew Emms has a short story about a Budapest classical composer.

The O henry Prize Winners 200:8 Has a story called A composer and his parakeet.

Philosophy Thinly Clothed: The author (last name) Folsom, The old composer.

And last but not least the collection And we sold the rain has a story called "Mistro who spent his life composing a song for the marimba.

Tomorrow I'll be talking to the head libriarian of the music department, and if he cannot come up with more for you, I've been told there are no more to be found.

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Re: Help! Stories about composers and/or musicians?

Postby Lori Koonce » Sat Nov 24, 2012 7:30 pm

Lori Koonce wrote:David

My computer is acting all wonky, so I went to the library while it is being looked at and came up with the following. You can see if a library near you has the titles or access to them.

Extraordinary Renditions: The author Andrew Emms has a short story about a Budapest classical composer.

The O henry Prize Winners 200:8 Has a story called A composer and his parakeet.

Philosophy Thinly Clothed: The author (last name) Folsom, The old composer.

And last but not least the collection And we sold the rain has a story called "Mistro who spent his life composing a song for the marimba.

Tomorrow I'll be talking to the head libriarian of the music department, and if he cannot come up with more for you, I've been told there are no more to be found.



slight correction, it should read The O Henery Prize Winners 2008.

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Re: Help! Stories about composers and/or musicians?

Postby Gwyneth M905 » Sat Nov 24, 2012 9:25 pm

David, I remember an anecdote told to my Chopin master class at Haverford College, but I can't find a source for it.

Anyway, the story goes like this.

Chopin and Liszt attended an opera concert which was so awful they spent their time laughing about it. The next day, the newspaper published a florid review of the concert with the following sentence, "The tenor's solo continued until he triumphantly kissed the soprano on the high D flat."

Chopin and Liszt were in hysterics at this. Of course, they started hypothesizing just *where* the "high D flat" was, and how it tasted, and whether or not it was as delicious as the tenor made it out to be.

Chopin made D flat a special euphemism for oral sex, and in correspondence with Polish countess Delfina Potocka, made frequent reference to it.

He even composed a piece for her in that key, and on that theme, which is known to us today as "The Minute Waltz".
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Re: Help! Stories about composers and/or musicians?

Postby Gwyneth M905 » Sat Nov 24, 2012 9:30 pm

I just looked up the professor. He is Ruth Marshall Magill Professor Curt Cacioppo, Chair of the Music Department of Haverford College. The course I took with him was in 1988.
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Re: Help! Stories about composers and/or musicians?

Postby David Loftus » Fri Nov 30, 2012 6:03 pm

Thanks for the tips, friends. I'll look into these.
War is, at first, the hope that one will be better off; next, the expectation that the other fellow will be worse off; then, the satisfaction that he isn't any better off; and, finally, the surprise at everyone's being worse off. - Karl Kraus


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