The Mystery of Faerie’s Aire

“Faerie’s Aire and Death Waltz” is perhaps one of the most widely distributed pieces of music notation on the Internet. It is a wonderfully unplayable modern score with comic directions including “like a dirigible,” “oil bow here,” and “remove cattle from the stage.” Here’s a glimpse of one image of the piece currently circulating the web:

While some might debate whether or not Faerie’s Aire is a parody, it is so well-executed that it’s an impressive accomplishment either way. The composer is credited as John Stump, but my attempts to verify this via a web search seem to produce more speculation than confirmation. If you believe you know the facts I’d love to hear from you.

Back in November I traveled to Indianapolis to attend the Percussive Arts Society International Conference. Having demonstrated on behalf of Finale for so long, I’m fortunate to frequently run into familiar faces, and this show was no exception. Stephen Primatic, an associate professor of music at Armstrong Atlantic State University, walked up and handed me a copy of Faerie’s Aire.

“Have you ever seen this?” asked Stephen.

“Yes, we had this hanging in the lunch room at MakeMusic for years,” I replied.

“OK, then, look at this…” Stephen said as he handed me a very, very clean copy of Faerie’s Aire. At first glance it was the same piece, but soon I began to notice tiny differences, particularly in the text fonts used. Here’s an excerpt of my scan of Stephen’s work:

“What IS this?” I asked. Proudly, Stephen looks directly at me and exclaimed, “I did this in Finale!”

I was stunned as I contemplated the daunting task. “How?, Why?, When does one find the TIME?” all ran through my mind. Then Stephen offered, “Any student in my composition class who does this on Finale gets an immediate “A” and doesn’t have to come to class.”

While we could argue that being able to notate anything in Finale doesn’t make you a composer, it does suggest mastery of one of the tools composers use. In any event, I got a huge kick out of Stephen and his herculean effort – I hope you do too.

Stephen’s accomplishment reminds me of the awesome power that Finale offers – the flexibility to create anything the mind can imagine on the printed page. At the same time, Faerie’s Aire reminds me of the value of maintaining our sense humor in everything we do.

Finally, Spider-Man reminds me that “with great power comes great responsibility.” I feel fortunate to have this great tool at my disposal, some responsibility to use it to create something wonderful, and a desire to not take myself too seriously as I do it. I’d better get to work.

Best wishes to you all!

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