Author: McNeal, Brian

The Box…a Fable

A long long time ago in a world where no two people ever shared the same opinion about anything, there lived a fellow by the name of Überlieferung. But he was known far and wide as just Übe.

There also lived in this disagreeable land another fellow by the name of Zeitgenosse and he was very well known by his nickname of Zeiter.

Now it was inevitable that the two should meet one day, and, lo, it came to pass that each of them, Übe and Zeiter, were in the same village at the same time and both were announced by the King to be guests of honor and platform speakers at his annual gala music celebration.

There were people from this side of the world and from that side of the world, from the top of the world and from down under – all converging together and all having disagreeable discourse about something and if not about something, then about something else. But the biggest disagreement in the land always was about music and on this particular occasion it was no different.

Finally the time came for the King to present his guests of honor and for each to take his turn speaking to the assembly.

First it was Übe's turn, and he graciously bowed to the King and then to the Queen and then to the crowd. He took his place up on the platform and in his best and loudest voice so that all could hear he began to explain about the need for staying with the status quo. The dangers and pitfalls of venturing out beyond the known boundaries of anything were exhausting to list but he named several, like sailing too far and reaching the edge of the world and like trying to glue feathers to a frame fastened to one's arms in an attempt to reach the sun like a bird.

Finally after several long explanations, he settled down to the main topic of his speech and that was to conform to the prescribed standards of music as laid down by the father of their music. And he provided examples of what he thought was good and workable music by enlisting the help of the court string pickers.

The crowd was mostly thrilled but there were some hecklers who thought Übe's comments were too old-fashioned and they boo'd and hiss'd and before the end of his speech they actually boo'd and hiss'd him right off the platform and poor ol' Übe never got to say the rest.

Next it was Zeiter's turn and the King made him feel just a welcome as warm sun on a rainy day. Zeiter paid his respects and then took his exalted spot next to the King and began to gratingly expound upon the benefits of reaching beyond, of trying newness and letting adventurous spirits become free to roam around and explore. “Especially in music,” he said, “it is imperative that we push outside of our limitations and find new sounds.” And he provided some examples of what he meant by bringing in the wheelwright and the blacksmith and then the feller of tall trees and such others like them who could make tremendous sounds with their tools and he called it Nouvelle Musique.

Now many in the crowd were in awe of the new sounds and had never heard them all put together the way Zeiter had done, but still, they were not quite sure it was what they would want at their daughter's wedding or their son's manhood feast or at their 50-year-togetherness celebration. It was just too different and to far away from what they knew and liked.

And there were those who thought that Übe's time was preempted with disrespect and they began a planned payback to the ones who'd boo'd and hiss'd Übe off prematurely.

Led by a known troublemaker in the village, Kaco Foni, they took the blacksmith's hammer and the wheelwright's bender and the forester’s big saw and they began to make a noise that, musically, was the representation of all of their vocal bickering. None of the individual sounds blended or meshed with the others and so it was that Zeiter, too, was removed from the podium before he was finished.

Now way in the back of the crowd stood a little man with no distinguishing characteristics to note and who mostly just stayed by himself – never mixing in with the others during debates over wrong or right or what should be and what shouldn't be. His name was Marc, the son of the village tinkerer, Tinker Ony.

After most of the evening had gone by with loud and rude banter and heckles and shouts from one side to the other and person-to-person conversations that nearly led to blows with clubs in several instances, the King called for his advisers and told them to find someone who could equalize this terrible feud between the Überlieferung fans and the Zeitgenossers. He told them to search the crowd and send runners to the farthest corners of the land to find someone. Someone who could find a balance or something that could make everyone happy. The King was tired of the same old argument about the music of the land.

And so the Kings men did what they were told and they posted notices and they queried anyone and everyone about their beliefs and about the need for peace. But it was hopeless. Everyone had an opinion. Some even wore the Zeiter family crest in show of support and others tattooed a big Ü on their foreheads or painted the Ü on their housetops to designate their side. Everywhere one looked could be seen the Z crest or the Ü brand.

Now the King's men knew they couldn't give up or they'd face the wrath of the King and it was not good to disappoint the King and so they marched on and on until one day they came upon Marc Ony's house and like Marc it was very much nondescript. It was plain and had no character. But most importantly it had no Z or Ü anywhere to be found. Likewise, Marc and his wife were also bare of any symbols.

And so the Kings men questioned and queried and prodded and pried but they could not get Marc or his wife to say one word either in favor or against Übe or Zeiter. So off they went, the Kings men and Marc to see the King. They had found their man.

Now once the King heard the story of how the advisers could not get Marc to budge, he asked him if he were King, what would he do. Since Marc was by nature a very quiet man, very few with the exception of his wife knew of his incredible genius. He was smarter than any man alive and he was also smart enough to know to keep quiet about it so as not to make enemies.

He told the king he'd been following in his father's footsteps as a tinkerer and he thought that he might have a gadget that could help the King with his problem. And so he produced a big box. Something the King and all of the King's advisers and servants and everyone had never seen or seen anything like it.

The shock, the gasp, the awe! It was deafening! Puzzlement, bewilderment, disbelief! What was it? How did it work and what could it do to fix the King's problem?

And so Marc Ony agreed to give the King and his entourage a demonstration.

First he hooked the box to a long metal string and asked the King's footman to stretch the string out the window and up to the top of the castle roof. Then he connected the box to another big box filled with water and acid … and WOW!!! the first box began to glow and the King and all in the court could see a lighted wheel on the face of the box that Marc would turn and turn. And, as he turned the wheel, sounds began to come from the box. Good sounds, people sounds, street sounds, and, yes, music sounds. The King was fascinated but still in disbelief. How could all those people making those sounds get into that box and how could they all be inside at once? But Marc didn't answer. He just kept turning the wheel.

Now at one point the King heard the music Übe was talking about and he asked Marc to stop turning the wheel. And the crowd from outside was invited into the hall to listen and they too were amazed and they all wanted a box of their own and Marc began taking orders. So many orders that he would have to hire most of those who wanted one to help build them.

Then the King took a hold of the wheel and began turning for himself and he found new sounds coming from the box. Strangely enough, sounds that resembled the same thing Zeiter had been talking about and so the King stopped at that spot on the wheel and he sent for Zeiter, who had been in the crowd the entire time.

Zeiter came forward and proclaimed to the King that Marc Ony's box was exactly what he and all of his followers needed. They too placed orders and began working to help build their own boxes.

And so the King was satisfied that Marc Ony's box was the answer to his biggest problem of how to satisfy all of his kingdom. Everyone in the kingdom could have his own box and each could wheel in the sound that suited them best and there would be no more arguing.

It was a radical notion – an idea that only Marc Ony conceived and so the King knighted Marc Ony and proclaimed that the box should be named for this radical idea and for it's inventor.

And from that day on and forever more the box that Marc Ony brought to the King was known as . . .

~ The End ~
Posted:  9/9/2013

Copyright © 2002 California Bluegrass Association. All rights reserved.
Comments? Questions? Please email