The Music-Monsters

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Strange race of alien creatures on a strange planet whose speech bizarrely resembles Western chromatic scale-based music. From the short story "The Music-Monsters" by Neil R. Jones, published in the April 1938 issue of Amazing Stories.

Their musical speech is appreciated by earthling Prof. Charles W. Jameson, who arranged for his body to be shot into space when he died. It was found by the alien Zorome some forty million years later, and they resurrected his brain and put in a robot body. So now he hangs out with them, exploring strange planets and stuff.

The machine-men were struck with the novelty of musical discourse among the barbaric creatures. Always were their musical utterances, even the most commonplace, harmonious. It surprised the professor how many types of earthly instruments the sounds resembled. The commonest resemblance was to the notes of a flute; then there were many whose utterances sounded as if drawn from quick manipulaticms of a violin bow. Deeper voiced specimens among the music-monsters imitated unwittingly the tones of an oboe or bass viol. Rarer specimens of sound duplicated the harp, guitar, trombone and piccolo. Clarinet voices were common, though nowhere could the professor find any voice resembling a piano, organ or cornet. Strange to say, the music-monsters placed no value on their various abilities nor sought to cultivate or exercise them in any manner. Familiarity had bred contempt.

Instead, a ludicrous paradox existed in the fact that the only sounds the music-monsters made, which might be approximated to musical enjoyment, were dull, rhythmic sounds on hollow trees accompanied by a maddening, monotonous drone, all in one key.

Strange memories often leaped into the professor’s mind across the gap of forty million years, as various couplets of musical conversation accidentally struck a passage of music familiar to him in the long, long ago. Once there had come a fleeting bar of “Lohengrin,” then again an incongruous portion of “Turkey in the Straw.” Often he was reminded of some old air the title of which he had long forgotten. In discoursing on how the pelts of the fire-dwellers were cured after a raid and cut up into medium of exchange, a music-monster had hit accidentally upon a bar of “God Save the King.” 119M-6, not so far removed from the prime of an organic existence, recognized passages of music similar to those which had been heard or sung on the planet Zor. The passages, of course, were incomprehensible and unconnected with the rest, as far as the professor was concerned, even as to 119M-6 were the earthly similarities detected by the professor.


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