Music is an important part of the plot in these stories about music. Some will show the struggles a musician faces, or the benefits they receive from their chosen pursuit.
Stories About Music
“Dead Song” by Jay Wilburn
A voice actor is in a studio, working on a documentary about Tiny ‘Mud Music’ Jones, a musician who traveled around after the zombie outbreak, collecting music where ever he could find it. He braved the zombies and was admitted into many isolated groups. He recorded many of the most notable artists from that era.
“Dead Song” can be read in the preview of Zombies: More Recent Dead.
“Nimram” by John Gardner
Benjamin Nimram is sitting in the first-class section on a plane. He’s a renowned symphony conductor, with a good life and aware of his good fortune. A sixteen-year-old girl on crutches is seated next to him. She bears a remarkable similarity to his wife, Arline. She’s nervous about the flight. Nimram can see she looks unwell.
This story can be read in the preview of The Art of Living: & Other Stories. (13% into preview)
“The Evan Price Signature Model” by Junior Burke
A former musician, Andy, opens a guitar store, The Fret Gallery. He has accumulated twenty-two guitars over the years, but he has no intention of selling them. He hangs them up, but brings in new stock to sell. One day, an old acquaintance comes in with a newly discovered Gibson guitar from the family’s motor lodge. Andy’s never seen one like it, so he looks into it.
This story can be read in the preview of the anthology Collectibles. (31% into preview)
“The Portable Phonograph” by Walter Van Tilburg Clark
The earth is battle-scarred and the buildings are gone. Four men are gathered in a cave enjoying a fire. The host managed to save a few books and a phonograph. He agrees to take it out and play a song. (Summary)
“The Hidden Violin” by M. McDonnell Bodkin
Sylvia invites Dora to a small private performance by the famed violinist Nicolo Amati, whom her father has persuaded to come to London. He has a unique violin, and the public is eager to hear the genius play. Another accomplished player, Monsieur Gallasseau, will also be in attendance.
This story can be read in the preview of The Big Book of Female Detectives. (88% in)
Stories About Music
“My Flamboyant Grandson” by George Saunders
A boy loves show-tunes, singing and dancing, which alienates him from his peers and many adults. His grandfather accepts him and brings him to New York to see a show. He obtains a Promissory Voucher and they head to the Eisner Theater. Upon arriving he finds this isn’t enough. He also needs Proof of Purchases from at least six of their sponsors and the real tickets from the Redemption Center. They’re bombarded with ads as they walk. (Summary)
“The Garden Lodge” by Willa Cather
Caroline Noble is known as an unemotional and practical woman. Her upbringing contributed to these qualities. She grew up poor, with a music teacher father whose work was unappreciated. Her mother had to scrimp and stretch what they had. Her brother, a painter, killed himself at twenty-six. One spring, Raymond d’Esquerré, an opera singer, stayed in the Nobles garden lodge for a month. Caroline accompanied him often. After he leaves, Caroline’s husband, Howard, suggests tearing the garden lodge down and building a new summer house in its place. Caroline finds herself feeling sentimental.
This story can be read in the preview of Collected Stories. (60% in)
“Nineteen Fifty-Five” by Alice Walker
Two white men in a new convertible pull up in front of Gracie Mae’s house. She wonders what they’re doing in her neighborhood. The older man wants one of Gracie Mae’s songs for the younger man, Traynor, to record. He gives her five hundred dollars for the song. He also buys all the recordings of the song for another five hundred. Traynor has a big hit with the song. They stay in contact over the years.
Most of this story can be read in the preview of You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down: Stories. (20% in)
“Mr. Botibol” by Roald Dahl
Mr. Botibol, odd-looking and self-conscious, meets Mr. Clements about a business deal. He agrees to sell his company to Mr. Clements for the offer price, which was too low. They have a meal and drink alcohol, which Botibol rarely does. He reveals that he has never had any success in life. Botibol goes home and listens to a Beethoven symphony. He gets wrapped up in the experience, imagining himself the composer of the piece and the conductor of an orchestra. It’s a lot of fun.
“A Mother” by James Joyce
Mrs. Kearney arranges for her daughter to play the piano at a series of concerts. The concerts are poorly attended, and Mrs. Kearney worries that her fee will be withheld.
Stories About Music
“Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin
The narrator, a teacher in Harlem, reads about his brother, Sonny, a jazz musician, in the paper on his way to work. He was picked up in a raid for using and selling heroin. The narrator has managed to keep away from the bad influences around him, and he and Sonny haven’t stayed close. He thinks about their history, and wants to reach out to Sonny.
“A Wagner Matinee” by Willa Cather
Clark gets a visit from his aunt, Georgiana, who’s in town on business. He thinks of how hard she has worked in her life. He takes her to a Wagner concert, and wonders if she’ll be able to appreciate it.
“The Blues I’m Playing” by Langston Hughes
Mrs. Ellsworth, a wealthy widow, serves as patron for Oceola Jones, a young black pianist. Oceola tries to maintain some distance while Mrs. Ellsworth pries into her life, trying to control whatever she can. Mrs. Ellsworth doesn’t agree with all the music Oceola plays, and she doesn’t approve of her boyfriend.
“The Wind Blows” by Katherine Mansfield
Matilda is awakened by the wind; it makes her feel unsettled. Her mother doesn’t want her to go to her music lesson because of the high wind, but Matilda wants to go anyway.
“Wunderkind” by Carson McCullers
Frances, fifteen, arrives at the home of her piano instructor, Mr. Bilderbach. She is nervous; her playing has deteriorated lately. She has her lesson, and thinks about her history with her instructor, recent events that worry her, and her hopes and concerns.
Stories About Music
“The Reunion” by Maya Angelou
The narrator, Philomena, is an African American jazz pianist. In 1958, at a Sunday matinee at the Blue Palm Café, she sees Beth, who’s seeing a black man. Philomena’s family used to work as servants for Beth’s family. They were paid very little. When the band leader introduces Philomena, they look at each other with recognition.
“Solo on the Drums” by Ann Petry
Kid Jones has gotten his name on the marquee, something he’s always wanted. He’s proud, but the moment is bittersweet—this morning, the woman he loves said she’s leaving. This disappointment intrudes on his thoughts during his performance.
“Edward the Conqueror” by Roald Dahl
A woman rescues a stray cat that seems to show appreciation for the piano music she plays. She comes to believe that the cat is the reincarnation of a famous composer.
“The Screamers” by Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones)
An audience is gathered in a nightclub, waiting for Lynn Hope, a jazz musician, to start playing. Most of the audience is African American. The narrator (and many of the other men) is trying to pick up a woman, particularly a light-skinned one.
“The Tragedy of a Comic Song” by Leonard Merrick
A poet and a composer write a song for a woman whom they both love. The song is a big success.
I’ll keep adding short stories about music and musicians as I find more.