Guess! That! Piece!

Announcer: From the Detritus Review, here in beautiful sunny Burbank, California, this is (audience shouting) Guess! That! Piece! That’s right folks! It’s once again time for everyone’s favorite musical quiz show, brought to you by Blogger and the San Jose Mercury News, it’s (audience) Guess! That! Piece!

Chuck Dribble: Thanks for joining us again. I think we have a really great show lined up for you tonight. But we have a lot to do, so let’s get going.

Last time, our contestant was unable to correctly identify Dvorak’s Eighth Symphony. Let’s see if today’s competitor can do better. Shall we?

Lets welcome our guest to (audience) Guess! That! Piece! Welcome, Empiricus. It says here on my card that you’ve had some previous musical training.

Empiricus: That’s right! In addition to being a professional counterpoint student, I've also been known to whip out the old clawhammer banjo on occasion.

CD: Well, that’s pretty impressive. But I have a feeling that you might run into some trouble with today’s selection. I hope you can put those big brains to use. Are you ready?

E: Ready!

CD: This is how to play: I will give you three phrases or sentences that describe a particular piece of music. All you have to do is (audience) Guess! That! Piece! The sooner you can identify the piece, the better the prize. Do you understand?

E: I do.

CD: Then, let’s begin to (audience) Guess! That! Piece!

Clue One:

...it's regal and reflective, but not overly so.

E: You’re right, Chuck. This one seems pretty hard. But, I have to say that, given the two adjectives, I might be able to narrow it down. “Regal and reflective,” to me, suggests something that is perhaps austere. So given my giant wealth of knowledge, I think that this phrase might describe...a minuet. A classical-period minuet, maybe. Unfortunately, I can’t guess the piece, just yet. I think I need some more information.

CD: Very good reasoning, Empiricus. Your brain indeed seems to be working. Since you couldn’t identify the piece after the first clue, let’s see if you can get closer with the next one...

...after this commercial break.


CD: We’re back! And today’s contestant, Empiricus, is about receive the second of three clues. After the first, he wasn’t able to identify the piece but thought it might be a minuet. Let’s see if he can get closer with the second clue and (audience) Guess! That! Piece!

Okay, Empiricus. The first clue was tricky, but you were able to get some information out of it. That’s encouraging. Are you ready for the second clue?

E: I sure am, Chuck.

CD: Here you go. Good luck.

Number Two:

You can imagine it being played as backdrop to libations in a Viennese beer garden.

E: Hmmm, Chuck. From what I remember of Viennese beer gardens, there wasn’t any classical music. But then again, I wasn’t listening to much of anything anyway, if you get my drift.

(audience laughs)

So, you see, it doesn’t follow that the Viennese beer gardens are regal and reflective. But then again, if the sentence is just an image, as I suspect it is, I’d guess that it revealed the location and disposition of the composer. So...well...

CD: I’m going to need an answer.

E: As I see it, the answer could be any minuet by any composer from or associated with Vienna. They all liked their beer. So, Chuck, I really don’t know.

CD: Any guesses?

E: Uh...Haydn, Symphony No. 27.

CD: Sorry, Empiricus, that is wrong. It is not Haydn’s Symphony No. 27. But you still have one more clue to go. And if you get it correct, you can still win a lovely prize...

...after these messages.


CD: Hello again. Thanks for rejoining us. Well, we’ve come to the most critical juncture on Guess! That! Piece! Today’s contestant, Empiricus, will be given one final clue. If he is able to guess the piece, he will win a nifty prize. If he is unable to guess the piece, he will go home empty-handed.

Are you ready, Empiricus?

E: I’m getting closer, so one more clue ought to do the trick. I’m definitely ready, Chuck.

CD: Good luck. You’ll have two minutes to answer after I give this clue.

Number Three:

Best was the sixth movement, in which the ensemble set up a slow, droning flutter-coo, with [the oboist], a sensational player, soaring overhead with butterfly wings.

E: Wow, Chuck. That’s a mouthful... Okay. There are some new things that are very important. And they might be of some help to me.

The piece has at least six movements, which is an ideal setting in which to find a minuet. Perhaps it’s part of a suite or a partita. So that’s good. I’ll stick with that. Now, I’ve never come across something that could be described as a “slow, droning flutter-coo” before. I mean, “droning” and “flutter” don’t work, do they? Can something drone and flutter-coo at the same time? I don’t even know what flutter-coo is. It’s probably a poetic reference, or something.

Huh. Suite or partita by a Viennese composer who liked beer... You know, Chuck, it would be really helpful to know the whole instrumentation. All I have is one oboist. And since there are few, if any, pieces that are scored for solo oboe, by a classical Viennese composer, the piece must surely have more instruments. Perhaps a wind quintet. Ooh! Maybe a serenade or a divertimento. An opera? Well...I’m thinking Mozart, Chuck.

CD: Think it over a little more, Empiricus. You’ve got less than a minute left.

E: Mozart what? That’s the question. ‘Cause, I remember that Mozart wrote about 104 pieces called “minuet,” and that doesn’t include those inserted into symphonies and sonatas and such. I’m at a loss, Chuck. This is incredibly difficult.

CD: I need an answer.

E: Mozart’s...wind ensemble...

CD: Can you be more specific?

E: Oh. Uh...winds, winds...they’re often B-flat instruments. How about B-flat, Chuck?

CD: I need a title.

E: Um..um...how about Divertimenti? Mozart’s Divertimenti for winds in B-flat.

CD: Is that your answer?

E: Sure, Chuck.

CD: You are...

...going to have to wait for the answer after this short break.


CD: And...we’re back. Moment of truth, Empiricus. You answered Mozart’s Divertimenti for winds in B-flat. Is that right?

E: Yes, I suppose.

CD: Well, Empiricus. Your answer is...


Knock, knock.

E: Who’s there?

CD: A serenade.

E: A serenade who?

CD: A serenade is the correct answer. In fact it’s Mozart’s Grand Partita, also known as the Serenade in B-flat, K.361. Although you didn’t win, Empiricus, good job Richard Scheinin! The description was apt.

Well, that’s all the time we have today at (audience) Guess! That! Piece! Please be sure to join us next time, when another contestant gets an opportunity to win some nifty prizes at (audience) Guess! That! Piece! Goodnight.


(husband turns off TV)

Husband: That wasn’t a very funny episode.

Wife: That’s because it was a compliment.

H: Oh. (pauses) Those boys over at the Detritus Review are...peculiar.


Anonymous said...

It doesn't seem like this thread will generate too many comments, but I thought I should just say that I was very amused. Well done, Empiricus. Keep up the good work.

Sator Arepo said...


Eh, that's what we get for complimenting people. However sometimes is has to be done...

Anonymous said...

I think you deserve a meta-compliment for meta-criticism for this piece. You're right that writing about music is hard, but writing about writing about music is even harder, and this entry is a gem even in spite of that. Bravo, good sir.

Empiricus said...

Thank you very much. I try.