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
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
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
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
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
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
• 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
• 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.
few days after the party, the Nobel Foundation decided that Hugo Wolf
would be declared the sole winner of the 1901 Nobel Prize
“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.”
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.
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
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
“Gotcha!” he said.
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?”
“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.”
minute went by.
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.”
O’Callaghan scratched her head. “That's
an odd one. Why exclude yourselves and the Horde of Unruly Musicians
“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
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
After a while, they heard a galloping sound in the distance.
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.
the moose started to bellow. But not a regular moose bellow.
Instead, he bellowed melodiously.
He was bellowing a tune.
What was that tune?
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!”
Horde of Unruly Musicians of Sweden began to chant, “Moose Verdi! Moose
Verdi! Moose Verdi! Moose Verdi! Moose Verdi! Moose Verdi!”
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
MOOSE VERDI, AS SKETCHED BY A MEMBER OF H.U.M.S., DECEMBER 10, 1901
Moose Verdi, he trotted off into the night, satisfied he’d
made his point.
that long ago night in Stockholm, every January, in a different town in Sweden, a
group of H.U.M.S. members—the H.U.M.S. Moose Nobel
Committee—gathers 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
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 .
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
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
in Prize money that has accumulated over the years,
minus a modest 15 percent administrative and research fee.