Letters From the Editor

Short Note on Trombones

Today’s story is a great conversation between our frequent contributor Robert Birnbaum and writer Julie Orringer. Robert’s shared a number of his interviews with us so far, and there’s plenty planned for the future, including a conversation with Charles Baxter coming soonish that I want to excerpt here since it includes my new favorite quote:
Baxter: The Brahms reference is from a letter he wrote to Vincenz Lachner. Lachner was a musician and he had the score to Brahms’s Second Symphony, the first movement. Which goes on in a standard sonata development style until this very odd cadence with trombones and Lachner didn’t understand it at all. Didn’t know what it was doing there. Quite a few of Brahms’s friends were puzzled by the passage. He wrote to Brahms and Brahms wrote back and said that indeed it was a strange passage and that he had tried to manage the entire movement without trombones but he said, ‘Black birds fly around our heads. I am a profoundly melancholy man. And I must I have my trombones.’ Which is for me a wonderful passage but also a warning to the reader. That I am going to have my trombones too.
You can read plenty more of Robert’s interviews with writers over at Identity Theory. Also, and I think remarkably, did you know there is actually an entire genre of trombone jokes?



Rosecrans Baldwin co-founded TMN with publisher Andrew Womack in 1999. His latest book is Everything Now: Lessons From the City-State of Los Angeles. More information can be found at rosecransbaldwin.com. More by Rosecrans Baldwin

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