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John Philip Sousa and the Fifth String

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In my quest for author voices I found that John Philip Sousa, great conductor and composer, had also penned an impassioned and oddly prophetic argument about phonograph music as a copyright infringement and a harbinger of the death of amateur music. Looking further, hoping to find more comments on copyright, I found that he had written fiction as well.

Can you imagine my surprise? Marching band legend, and writer of marches that permeate pomp, circumstance, cartoons and popular culture (who I recently found out is not as well known as I expected) was also a spinner of yarns! The Fifth String is a story that seems utterly familiar: a man going to impossible lengths to win the love of a lady, a quest to attain the unattainable, a deal with the devil, etc. The writing is perfectly engaging and walks at a pace that you might expect from a story published in 1902, and it is, every now and then, peppered with perfectly lovely imagery and delightful vocabulary:

“blinking-eyed cabs came up the avenue, looking at a distance like a trail of Megatheriums, gliding through the darkness”

Just in case you haven’t heard any Sousa, here is the March of the White Rose (not as ubiquitous as most, but I like the beginning):

Talk at me

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