54 | LAPHAM’S QUARTERLY
up the bell. I do not know where I found the
courage to make an energetic sign to him not
to ring it, but it was too late: the bell rang
without mercy. The five-peso prize, along with
several gifts from advertisers, went to a very
beautiful blonde who had massacred a selec-
tion from Madame Butterfly. I returned home
crushed by defeat, and I never could console
my mother for her disappointment. Many
years passed before she confessed to me that
the reason for her chagrin was that she had
told her relatives and friends to listen to me
sing and did not know how to avoid them.
From Living to Tell the Tale. “The only thing where
I’m allembracing is in musical matters,” García
Márquez claimed in 1977, describing the influence
Colombian vallenato songs had on his sense of story
telling. “It’s not that I can’t talk about music. But
I get caught up in a tangle that doesn’t end. It’s…
something very intimate, even more of a secret when
the people whom you’re talking to know about music.”
García Márquez published this memoir in 2002. He
died in Mexico City a decade later.
Venue Sonic space Concert testimonial
The enormous fifth-century-bc arena, which could
hold the whole theatergoing population of the city
at once, hosted performances of plays by Sophocles,
Euripides, and Aeschylus.
A story is told of Plato giving up on being a poet
after listening to Socrates in front of the theater.
“Come hither, O fire-god,” he said, burning his
works. “Plato now has need of thee.’”
By the twelfth century the northern Song dynasty’s
capital was known for its entertainment districts like
Wazi, where musical performances and dramatic plays
flourished amid brothels and gambling dens.
These districts were described in the early fourteenth century as “the gate through which young
wastrels passed to fritter away their time and
come to total ruin.”
Île de la Cité,
Completed by the fourteenth century, the cathedral
inspired a group of musicians that included Pérotin,
inventor of four-voice polyphony, who modeled his
works to suit the acoustic qualities of the cathedral.
“The heavy toll from the belfry of Notre-Dame,”
wrote Victor Hugo in The Hunchback of Notre
Dame, made the royal chimes of the palace
“sparkle like the anvil under the hammer.”
Built in 1708, the Kärntnertortheater was the first
specifically public theater in Vienna. The building
was razed in 1870; the site now hosts the Hotel
When Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony premiered
here in 1824, the composer was nearly deaf and
did not recognize the applause until a singer
turned him to face the audience.
The theater opened in 1778 on the former location
of a church and hosted premieres of multiple Verdi
operas. Damaged by bombs in 1943, it reopened in
1946 with a concert conducted by Arturo Toscanini.
Mary Shelley complained that La Scala was the
“universal drawing-room for all the society of
Milan”—such a society hot spot that “brief and far
between are the snatches of melody one can catch.”
New York City
In the mid-twentieth century two blocks of West
52nd Street—where W. H. Auden sat “Uncertain and
afraid / As the clever hopes expire”—was a center of
American jazz; Three Deuces, one of its hottest spots.
“To have experienced 52nd Street between 1945
and 1949,” said Miles Davis, “was like reading a
textbook to the future of music.”
Originally the Carousel Ballroom when it opened
in 1967, the venue was briefly operated by a collec-
tive of San Francisco rock groups before impresario
Bill Graham took over in 1968.
After the venue closed in 1971, Graham lamented that musicians of the time had become
“capitalists”: “The community-mindedness of the
rock community doesn’t exist.”
After thirty years of performances at Ryman Audi-
torium, country-music radio show Grand Ole Opry
finally got its own Opry House—along with an
amusement park, Opryland—in 1974.
On opening night President Richard Nixon played
“My Wild Irish Rose” on piano in honor of his
wife’s birthday. Said country singer Roy Acuff,
“That’s what it takes to be a real president.”
Built in 1964 as a venue for martial arts, the Budokan
hosted the Beatles in 1966; 35,000 police guarded
the band from nationalist protesters who thought the
performance desecrated the hall.
Many best-selling live albums have been recorded
there, including one by Cheap Trick in 1978. “The
Budokan made us famous,” said guitarist Rick
Nielsen, “and we made the Budokan famous.”
New York City
In 1973 Hilly Kristal opened his bar for “Country,
Bluegrass, Blues and Other Music for Uplifting Gor-
mandizers.” A longtime center of the punk scene, it
closed in 2006; the location is now a clothing store.
“It didn’t seem as glamorous as Max’s or the
Mercer Art Center,” remembered Dee Dee Ra-mone later. “We had to watch out for rats, mice,
and dog shit on the floor. It was the pits.”
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