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A small mission of harmless-looking little aliens comes to Earth to observe the place before destroying mankind. These folks have no music of their own but when they are exposed to ours, they love it. This hidden value of humans averts the harsh decree. The world is saved. As I recall the story is told in a humorous or ironic tone.

Story appeared at least 30 years ago. I wasn't a magazine reader, so it must have been in a paperback collection.

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  • The first thing I thought of was this story as mysterious as its origin and author are. I previously IDed for someone else on SE. It's circulated on many reddit/creepypasta/forums, and the link I gave is believed to be its origin. However, it's far too new to be the one you read.
    – Trish Ling
    Jan 30, 2015 at 21:52
  • Connie Willis' All Seated on the Ground almost fits, except it was published in 2007.
    – Joe L.
    Mar 12, 2015 at 15:15
  • The Star Trek: Voyager episode "Virtuoso" has a similar theme. A Suite Life on Deck episode that parodies Star Trek reverses this: the aliens have no music, but when they hear Earth music, they get even angrier and want to destroy our Earth heroes even more.
    – user1197
    Aug 16, 2015 at 3:13
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    I believe I read this in a Groff Conklin-edited short story collection in the early 1970s. It was an old book already at that time, which would mean the original story dated to the 1940s or 1950s. In this story, the alien was enchanted by laughter, which made the humans' thoughts dissolve into a jumble, but music was a near-religious experience for the alien, and the one that convinced it humans must be protected. I may own that collection now; I'll try to remember to look for it.
    – jeffB
    Apr 6 at 17:33
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    @jeffB You are thinking of "Good-Bye, Ilha!" by Laurence Manning. But in that story, humans visit another world to colonize it without caring about the original inhabitants. They treat Ilha as a pet. Sep 3 at 20:33

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Maybe it wasn't music, but art?

Isaac Asimov's "Nothing for Nothing" (1979)

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    Could you provide a brief description of the story to help the OP make a determination? Jun 29, 2015 at 5:49
  • This was my thought as well. But I'm not sure the aliens in that story were to destroy mankind. IIRC they wanted to help us evolve, and give a gift (technology?). But their laws prevented giving a gift. Luckily our ancestors in caves had already come up with visual art! Mar 3, 2017 at 19:09
  • @JyrkiLahtonen: quite the opposite - the alien researchers in Nothing for Nothing discover those cave-humans' visual art and are sad that they aren't allowed learn it because their laws forbid to take anything - even ideas - without giving something in exchange - and those humans seem far to primitive to learn anything valuable. Until one of the aliens telepathically taught a human to use a slingshot to propel his spear farther than by just throwing it. The other aliens are stunned that this primitive human could absorb and learn this idea. Definitely not the story the OP asked for. Mar 21, 2019 at 15:59

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