About the Story
An Unexpected Song (AUS) is a modern interpretation of Pride and Prejudice, set in the world of music. It is a loose adaptation, not an exact, point-by-point retelling of Pride and Prejudice; however, a reader familiar with the novel will be able to track the parallels between the two stories.
The story is set in 2001-2002; for this reason, you will notice that much of the technology mentioned is not up-to-date with current practice (see below for examples). Why that time period? Because most of the story was written between 2003 and 2005, when 2001 was in the very recent past. But then life (in the form of the author’s academic career) interfered and the story lay dormant for years. Ironically, the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic finally provided an opportunity to resume writing. Posting of new chapters will begin on October 27, 2020.
Van Cliburn: the Real-life Piano Sensation
Some aspects of William’s career are loosely based on the career of Van Cliburn, a pianist who achieved an unprecedented level of popularity for a classical musician. He won the first International Tchaikovsky Competition, a prestigious piano competition in the (then) Soviet Union, in 1958 at the height of the Cold War. The judges, afraid to award the prize to an American, first checked with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev (who reportedly asked just one question: “Is he the best?”). On his return from Moscow, Cliburn became the only classical musician ever to be honored with a tickertape parade in New York City.
His recording of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 (which he performed during the competition) was the first classical recording ever to go platinum; it is still, six decades later, the top-selling concerto recording of all time. He filled concert halls and attracted a legion of admirers, with fans (mostly female) lined up outside his dressing room seeking autographs after concerts. In the late 1970s, he largely retired from the concert circuit and returned to his home state of Texas, focusing his efforts on the Cliburn Foundation.
Although Cliburn died in 2013, his foundation continues to host competitions and other activities to assist young pianists. To learn more about Van Cliburn:
- Read: Van Cliburn: Classical Music Rock Star
- Read: Remembering Van Cliburn, A Giant Among Pianists and a Cold War Idol
- View a 1962 video of Cliburn in Moscow, playing part of the piano concerto that had won him the Tchaikovsky Competition four years earlier
- View a biographical video from his award presentation at the 2001 Kennedy Center Honors
The State of Technology in 2001
As mentioned above, the story is set in 2001. It’s amazing to look back and see how much technology has changed since then. I found that rewriting the story to bring it up to current times would be too complicated, primarily because the ways in which we communicate have changed so much. Here are some things that did and didn’t exist in 2001 for the average person:
Communicating in 2001
- Only about half of US adults owned a cell phone. It could place and receive calls, manage voicemail, and very little else.
- Your cell phone wouldn’t work outside your home country.
- Texting existed but few people were using it, and they were mostly younger.
- About half of US households still used dial-up (to sites like AOL) to go online.
- Direct internet connections existed, but at speeds we would consider painfully slow today.
- Caller ID built into phones was just starting to replace separate caller ID boxes, and often you had to pay the phone company extra to get caller ID.
- Wifi was not available.
- Social media didn’t exist.
- Uber and Lyft didn’t exist. Taxis did.
- CD players were by far the most common music player, either in a stereo system or as a portable unit used with headphones.
- In their cars, people often listened to the radio. Many cars also had built-in audiotape or CD players.
- The iPod was introduced late in 2001, but it didn’t really catch on until 2003 when the iTunes Store opened.
- Home movies were either purchased or rented (remember Blockbuster?) and were played in either VHS or DVD format.
- DVD players had existed since 1997, but didn’t become affordable for many people until 2000. By 2001, most people either had one or were thinking about buying one.
- Netflix existed but was strictly a subscription-based DVD lending business.
- Streaming vIdeo was not available.
- Youtube didn’t exist until 2005
- Since phones were not very smart, people had a greater need for additional devices like alarm clocks and cameras.
- Television was the primary news source, with newspapers probably second.
- This isn’t tech-related, but I made the decision to write in an alternate universe where the events of September 11, 2001, didn’t happen.