Music and Violins

This is by Bruce E. Golightly, aka Anam, on alt.callahans.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, the courts of Europe were wont to maintain and support musical ensembles of various sizes and qualities. During those days, much wonderful music for strings was being written and played. As a result, players of stringed instruments were in demand and commanded higher compensation than many others.

As is often the case, some musicians used their extra prestige and money to buy things that would help to enhance their reputations, which brings me to the hero of this tale.

Harold O’Day was a wood carver of some skill and renown. In particular, he was known far and wide for the elaborate carved scrollwork used in violins. They were of great beauty, truly marvels to behold.

Upon seeing the quality of O’Day’s work, violinists clamored for instrument ornamented in this fashion. Alas, while his work was truly wondrous, he was not a musician, nor was he as skilled at violin making as he was at carving. It seemed that the scrollwork he carved had an unpleasant side effect, causing middle C to lack the resonance and timbre of the rest of the scale.

Unfortunately, this characteristic was not noticed soon enough. Several violinists accepted delivery of new instruments just before a concert for the King of Mundavia. Pressed for time, but being unwilling to let their marvelous new violins stand idle, the instruments were used in the concert.

Things began well enough. The chamber orchestra soaring through a piece written especially for the occasion by P.D.Q. Bach (Johann’s least illustrious son), bringing smiles from the assembled nobility. Just as things looked best, though, the score called for a passage centered around middle C, with horrible results.

The King sprang to his feet, and demanded an end to the violins.

(Bet you saw that one coming. Read on)

Because of this unfortunate incident, O’Day is known in some musical circles to this very day as the man who wrought the dead C scrolls.

Copyright © 2001 by Bruce E. Golightly. All rights reserved, and displayed with permission.

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