the composer is dead

Oct 12, 2009


We read (well, really listened) a delightful book last night that was recommended to us by our favorite librarian, Sarah. It is called The Composer is Dead and is written by Lemony Snicket. Now, you must know, I am so not a fan of Lemony Snicket and his books A Series of Unfortunate Events. I completely disagree with those books, but I decided to put aside my harsh judgments of this author, trust Sarah, and give this book a try. I am glad I did. (I did, however, skim the book quickly at the library before checking it out, so I knew what the book was about.)

It is so funny! The story is about the investigation of a dead composer’s murder. The inspector interviews everyone in the orchestra and along the way the reader learns all about the different sections of the orchestra, the types of sounds they make, and the stereotypical attitudes of the various musicians. For instance, the violas are forgotten by the inspector, to which they reply “Everyone forgets about us. We play the notes in the chords that nobody cares about. We play crucial countermelodies nobody hears.” The flutes say all they ever do is imitate birds. The cellos and basses say they were providing accompaniment, which is “boring, but steady work.” The percussionists say “We drummed. We percussed. We employed xylophoniness and cymbalism. We heard the beat and beat the herd. We struck up and got down. We conquered the concert, battered the band, agitated the audience, and rattled the roof. By then we were beat – too exhausted to commit murder.” Each instrument section has a great alibi and the inspector is stumped. Why is the composer dead?

If you are a musician, you will love it. If you are not, I think you will still love it. Richard and I were almost rolling on the floor from laughing so hard, and it would be a stretch to call us musicians…if anything we are struggling to learn to be musicians…and we found it hilarious. Blythe and Keziah loved it as well. Fisher was quite concerned about the dead composer and wanted to find out who had “done it.” He couldn’t really understand the humor in it. But at the end, he said, “Beethoven is dead? When did he die? I don’t really know a lot about Beethoven. Bach is dead too? Ohhhh, I yike (like) Bach.”

We have enough interaction with real musicians to find all the undercurrents of humor spot on. I can’t wait till my symphony friends read this book – I just know they will laugh there heads off and have to run out and buy it that very instant.

We checked it out at the library and you can probably find it at your library as well. If not, or you want to purchase it, click on my amazon link at the top of the page and buy it! I don’t know if all editions come with the audio CD, but make sure the one you get does. The music is played by the different instruments all throughout the book and so you get to experience all the different sounds of the orchestra. The reader has a great voice and the sound effects are awesome.

If you read it with your family, let me know what you think!

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