Orchestrella

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A fictional egg-shaped electronic instrument from the novelette "The Girl With a Symphony in Her Fingers" by Michael G. Coney, from Galaxy magazine, volume 34, #4 (January 1974). The instrument is played by Joanne, a slave of aging 3-V movie star Carioca Jones, and plays it for her as background music. Carioca Jones used to play one also, but the orchestrella requires young fingers. Jones finds an unpleasant way to solve this issue at the by the end of the story.

She held the orchestrella before me. Her voice had become quiet, very quiet. “It’s quite easy to play, Joe, and very interesting. I used to be able to play it myself, one time, but you need young hands for that. Soft, like dear Joanna’s. You see — ” she plunged her fingers into the holes in the egg-shaped instrument — “the depth of the fingers — how far you push them in — controls the pitch. The position of the fingers, which dies of the holes you press, controls both tone and volume. Each finger can produce a sound like a violin, a piano, a guitar, a drum, even. Ten fingers — a ten-piece orchestra in the hands of an expert.”

Her hands were hooked into the instrument like talons.

“I’m afraid my hands aren’t what they were. The sensitivity has left them, you see.”

Joanne’s face appeared from the blackness of the semidome, stricken.

“No, nowadays I’m just a little bit ham-fisted.”

The orchestrella screamed in discord as she squeezed and kneaded.

Then it was silent.

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