About 10 years ago, an old guy I know told me about a story that he'd read about 20-30 years before that. Of course, the name is long gone, but I'd like to go look it up and give it a read.

The essentials that I can recall are that 3 planets are applying for membership in a galactic federation and part of the process is that a delegate from each world must compose a piece of music that's representative of their culture. One delegate composes a violin solo. Another was from a very poor world and composed a piece performed only by clicking two sticks together. The last delegate was from a world with very advanced technology and was able to create a machine to compose the most beautiful piece and also transmit to your mind beautiful imagery to match the music. The world selected was the one whose delegate clicked the sticks together (or was it both the violin and the sticks that made it in? I'm a little fuzzy on the details after 10 years). The world with the advanced technology was rebuked (or were they incinerated?) for having realized so little from so much potential while the poor planet's delegate was able to accomplish much more (relatively) with just two sticks.

Can anyone help me out with a name? This story feels very prescient and I'd like to read it.

1 Answer 1


I remember reading this story in a British edition of one of the two magazines edited by Robert Lowndes in the '50s - Future Science Fiction, and (The Original) Science Fiction Stories. I've looked in the ISFDB site to find covers I recognise, and I think the story is 'Audition' in the November '57 issue of OSFS. The author is given as 'unknown [as by Robert Arnett]. I no longer have the magazine, but it was the British edition number 2.

  • My amazon shipment arrived today and I was able to finally read this story. I'm surprised that I was able to give the details almost perfectly by memory--third hand--after a span of 40 years, but this is the story. Even knowing the outcome I still enjoyed it. Thank you!
    – Allen
    May 18, 2014 at 4:04
  • And, @PeterClose, I guess those four notes did stay with you after all this time! ;-)
    – Allen
    May 22, 2014 at 0:38
  • Actually, the story's often come to mind, usually when I listen to jazz or some modern composers... the way the music is stripped down to the bare minimum. And also some violin pieces - I remember that the human candidate plays a Guarnieri violin, and at the time I thought that was an invented name. But I did get the idea that the violin could produce music that would move you beyond belief.
    – PeterClose
    May 22, 2014 at 23:23

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