The Ropes and Pulleys of Music


I’ve been defending myself from the charge of “not knowing what music is.” Perhaps I don’t know. But when I go to a fashionable concert, and the lady “artiste,” I believe that is the regulation-word, comes out in her best bib and tucker, with a gilt battle-axe in her back hair, and a sun-flower in her bosom, led by the tips of her white gloves, by the light of a gleaming bracelet, and stands there twiddling a sheet of music, preparatory to the initiatory scream, I feel like screaming myself. Now if she would just trot on, in her morning gown, darning a pair of stockings, and sit naturally down in her old rocking-chair, and give me “Auld Robin Gray,” instead of running her voice up and down the scales for an hour to show me how high and how low she can go without dropping down in a fit, I’d like it. One trial of her voice that way, to test its capacity, satisfies me. It is as good as a dozen, and a great deal better. I don’t want to listen to it a whole evening. I will persist, that running up and down the scales that way isn’t “music.” Then if you only knew the agony I’m in, when drawing near the end of one of her musical gymnastics, she essays to wind up with one of those swift, deafening don’t-stop-to-breathe finales, you would pity me. I get hysterical. I wish she would split her throat at once, or stop. I want to be let out. I want the roof lifted; I feel a cold perspiration breaking out on my forehead. I know that presently she will catch up that blue-gauze skirt and skim out that side-door, only to come and do it all over again, in obedience to that dead-head encore. You see all this machinery disenchants me. It takes away my appetite, like telling me at dinner how much beef is a pound. I had rather the ropes and pulleys of music would keep behind the curtain.

——Fanny Fern, Caper-Sauce.