5. The viola joke

Is this the World’s oldest viola joke?

“There is a joke, if you can call it that, which says the viola (or the sound of the viola, or maybe the people who play the viola – who knows?) is very cold.

Well, it’s not really a joke as such because it has no actual punch line, nor any rational, or even irrational explanation as to why this state should exist. It is presupposing that that is what violas are and thus the effect, notwithstanding the absence of cause, is that somehow being synonymous with very low temperature makes them hilariously funny – over and over. Call me dull, but I really don’t get it. Help me out, someone?

I have never discovered the origin of the joke or, indeed, an explanation. However, I have found that it is quite ubiquitous; wherever you may travel in the universe, apparently, that is what you seem to find. So it has become a sort of folkloreFolklore, schmokelore!

There are many viola jokes (mostly awful, where you simply replace any alleged underdog with the word ‘viola’) but I suspect that this is one of the oldest. So if Absolute Zero is the ultimate cold then it’s an ironic name for a viola quartet, don’t you think? I quite like it, I think I shall write them some music.” From the memoirs of Sancho EngaƱo, composer. Translated by Alison Thomas – Manager, Absolute Zero Viola Quartet

Can you spot the odd one out? It may not be that obvious
The Royal College of Conducting exam paper
You can meet some odd characters in the BBC
Interpretation: seeing the message in the music; what the music says to you, is so important, don’t you think?

Should you wish to pursue this sordid topic further, there are a number of websites devoted to just this subject. Try:







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