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  The Story of the Moose Nobel Prize
  in Music



Today, you only ever hear about five of the six original Nobel Prizes: Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Literature, and Peace. (The so-called “Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences” was added in 1968 and first awarded in 1969. However, it is not one of the six original Nobel Prizes. In fact, the Bank of Sweden funds the Economics Prize, not the Nobel Foundation.)

    Whatever happened to the sixth original Nobel Prize, the Nobel Prize in Music? 

    Alfred Nobel died on December 10, 1896. In his one-page hand-written will, he left a certain amount of money to the important people in his life. However, he directed that the interest from the bulk of his large fortune be used to fund what we now call the Nobel Prizes.

    According to Nobel’s will, the Prizes were to be awarded annually in the following six fields: Physics, Chemistry, Medicine or Physiology (usually shortened to “Medicine”), Music, Literature, and Peace. He directed that the following Swedish and Norwegian institutions were to determine the Prize winners:


    1.  The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences would determine the Nobel Prize winner in Physics;


    2.  The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences would also select the winner in Chemistry;


    3.  The Karolinska Institute would choose the recipient of the Prize in Medicine;


    4.  The Horde of Unruly Musicians of Sweden (H.U.M.S.) would determine the winner in Music;


    5.  The Swedish Academy would select the winner in Literature;


    6.  The Norwegian Nobel Committee would decide the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

    In 1900, the Nobel Foundation was established to manage the money and enforce the rules, some of which were as follows:


      Each of the above-named Prize-awarding institutions could accept nominations up to January 31st of the year of the award.


      Each institution would then pass on the list of nominees to a committee to select the winner or winners, usually by September or October.


      In Music, a maximum of four persons or groups could share the year’s Nobel Prize. In other categories, the maximum was three.


      If a nominee died before January 31st, the nominee would be disqualified. The Foundation would permit no posthumous awards.


      If a nominee died after January 31st, he or she could still be considered for the Nobel Prize.


      The final selections had to be determined no later than November 15th, with the Prizes awarded at ceremonies in Oslo (Peace Prize) and Stockholm (all the other Nobel Prizes) on December 10th (the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death, called Nobel Day in Sweden and Norway).



In late January, 1901, the Horde of Unruly Musicians of Sweden (H.U.M.S.) gathered for a house party in Koskullskule, northern Sweden, to drink beer, play music, and decide whom to nominate for the Nobel Prize in Music.

    The party lasted a week. Disorganized and unruly, the members of H.U.M.S. could only decide on two nominees (instead of the allowed four), namely, Giuseppe Verdi and Hugo Wolf. H.U.M.S. submitted the two names to the Nobel Foundation and went back to playing music and partying.

    A few days after the party, the Nobel Foundation decided that Hugo Wolf would be declared the sole winner of the 1901 Nobel Prize in Music.

    “What about Verdi?” cried the members of H.U.M.S. in unison.

    “We had to disqualify Verdi,” said the Foundation. “While you were up there in Koskullskule, partying from January 21st to 28th, Verdi died. He died on January 27th. No posthumous Prizes allowed. It's in the rules. Sorry.”

    The members of H.U.M.S. flew into a collective rage. They petitioned King Oscar II. “King Oscar II, you must do something! They’ve disqualified Verdi! You can't let that happen!”

    King Oscar II would have none of it. “Of course I can let it happen. Verdi died while you partied. You fiddled while Rome burned. You should have sent a doctor to save Verdi. You know the rules. You can’t nominate a corpse. Ha ha ha ha!”

    Yes, the king actually laughed in the faces of the distraught members of the Horde of Unruly Musicians of Sweden.

    H.U.M.S. responded by announcing that they would disrupt the Nobel Prize awards ceremony in December, and embarrass the whole nation of Sweden.
    The king didn’t like what he was hearing. H.U.M.S. had a certain reputation. They could do great damage to the prestige of Sweden, not only at the first Nobel Prize ceremony of 1901, but at every Nobel ceremony every year.

    King Oscar II decided something drastic had to be done to save Sweden from H.U.M.S. He called a meeting of his trusted advisors for a brainstorming session. At the end of it, they had a plan.



Early in the summer of 1901, three of the king’s advisors set sail for Ireland. Upon arrival in Dublin, the Swedes downed a few pints, then, posing as tourists, headed for the interior.

    What were they doing in the Irish countryside?

    They were looking for leprechauns.

    Usually, it’s hard to find and catch a leprechaun. But the wily, talented Swedes knew what they were doing. One afternoon in a shady glade, the Swedes spotted a curious leprechaun spying on them from behind a large leaf. One of the Swedes slowly removed his heavy top hat and deftly tossed it over the surprised leprechaun.

    “Gotcha!” he said.

    “Okay,” said the leprechaun. “You’ve captured me fair and square. But you have to let me go if I grant you three wishes.”

    The Swedes got down on their knees and gathered round the top hat. One of them pulled out a pocket knife and carved a small hole in the top of the hat so they could see the leprechaun.

    “What’s your name?”

    “Niamh O’Callaghan.”

    “A girl leprechaun?”

    “Yeah, yeah, a woman leprechaun. Now get on with it. What are your three wishes? It’s gettin’ hot in here.”

    “Fine, fine, okay. We have with us the last will and testament of a guy named Alfred Nobel. Our first wish is that you expunge all references to the Nobel Prize in Music. The will is hand written in Swedish. Does that matter?”

    “Of course not,” said Niamh O’Callaghan. “I’m a genuine Irish leprechaun, for cryin’ out loud." A moment later, she said, "Okay, it's done. Have a look at the will.”

    The Swedes read over the will and, sure enough, there was no longer any mention of a Nobel Prize in Music.

    “Next!” said the leprechaun.

    “Our second wish is that you expunge all printed and written references to the Nobel Prize in Music everywhere in the world.”

     A minute went by.

    “Done. Next!” said the impatient leprechaun.

    “Our third and final wish is that you make everyone in the world except ourselves, King Oscar II, the rest of his advisors, and the members of the Horde of Unruly Musicians of Sweden forget there ever was supposed to be a Nobel Prize in Music.”

    Niamh O’Callaghan scratched her head. That's an odd one. Why exclude yourselves and the Horde of Unruly Musicians of Sweden?”

    “Because H.U.M.S. is a band of troublemakers. We want people to consider them crackpots and idiots for insisting that there's such a thing as a Nobel Prize in Music. That’ll be their punishment for causing us so much tribulation. As for ourselves, we want to enjoy their confusion.”

    “Okay, fine. It’s done. Now you have to let me go.”

    And so the Swedes freed Ms O’Callaghan. They even prepared a feast of tiny little Swedish meatballs for her as a token of thanks.





In Stockholm, on the evening of December 10th, 1901 the members of H.U.M.S. showed up in force outside the Royal Academy of Music, where the Nobel Prize ceremony would take place. They chanted “Verdi! Verdi! Verdi!” And, sure enough, people thought they’d gone crazy.

    “Verdi? What are you talking about? There’s no such thing as a Nobel Prize in Music! Get a job!” they said in Swedish. “Nobel Prize in Music? You're nuts! Read Alfred Nobel’s will!

    As the ceremony got underway, the musicians of H.U.M.S. milled around outside, muttering to each other, thoroughly bewildered that they were unable to convince anyone that there was supposed to be a Nobel Prize in Music.

    After a while, they heard a galloping sound in the distance.
    A runaway horse, was it?
    No—a galloping bull moose! In the middle of Stockholm!
    It was true! A magnificent bull moose with a serious rack of antlers any hunter would be proud to nail over his cabin door came to a sudden stop in front of the astonished members of H.U.M.S. The moose reared up on his hind legs like Silver, the Lone Ranger's horse.

    Then the moose started to bellow. But not a regular moose bellow. Instead, he bellowed melodiously. He was bellowing a tune.

    What was that tune?

    The members of H.U.M.S. looked at each other in delight. They all recognized the tune at once. It was the “Triumphal March” from Aida.

    “It’s Verdi!” they cried in unison, as they were wont to do. “The moose! He’s the ghost of Verdi! He’s come to claim his Nobel Prize in Music!”

    Then the Horde of Unruly Musicians of Sweden began to chant, “Moose Verdi! Moose Verdi! Moose Verdi! Moose Verdi! Moose Verdi! Moose Verdi!”

    One member of H.U.M.S. with a talent for sketching pulled a scrap of paper from his pocket and quickly made a drawing of Moose Verdi. Here’s that sketch:



    As for Moose Verdi, he trotted off into the night, satisfied he’d made his point.

    Ever since that long ago night in Stockholm, every January, in a different town in Sweden, a group of H.U.M.S. membersthe H.U.M.S. Moose Nobel Committeegathers to drink beer, play music, party for a week, and decide who gets what is now called the Moose Nobel Prize in Music. And every year, sometime during the party, a bull moose shows up, bellows melodiously at the revelers, then trots off into the night.

    Officially, there’s no such thing as a "Nobel Prize in Music." And the winners of the Moose Nobel Prize in Music, as selected by the Horde of Unruly Musicians of Sweden, never get a million-dollar Prize, like the rest of the Nobel Prize winners .

    Still, the Moose Nobel is now recognized as the world's most prestigious music prize.


A few years ago, Roedy Black Publishing dispatched a crack team of 16 researchers to the wilds of Sweden to find out everything they could about the H.U.M.S. Moose Nobel Committee and the Moose Nobel Prize in Music. The members of H.U.M.S. were never much good at record-keeping, so a complete and accurate list of Moose Nobel Music Prize winners had never been compiled.

    With enormous effort and dogged determination, the Roedy Black research team eventually succeeded in tracking down all the surviving H.U.M.S. members in all the towns that had hosted all the house parties at which all the Moose Nobel Music Prize winners had been selected since 1901.

    Eventually, the Roedy Black team was able to persuade the H.U.M.S. Committee to permit the establishment of a website dedicated to the Moose Nobel Prize in Music (the world’s most prestigious music prize).

    The formal title of the prize is the Moose Nobel Prize in Music because the Nobel Foundation still does not officially recognize the Nobel Prize in Music, and barely tolerates the Horde of Unruly Musicians of Sweden—even though H.U.M.S. has been around 1100 years longer than the Nobel Foundation.

    Roedy Black Publishing would like to take this opportunity to advise the Nobel Foundation that, should they decide to reinstate the “official” Nobel Prize in Music, Roedy Black Publishing would be pleased to distribute, to the winners or their survivors and descendants, the $120 million in Prize money that has accumulated over the years, minus a modest 15 percent administrative and research fee.

    Thank you.



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