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"Human beings hardly ever learn from the experience of others. They learn; when they do, which isn't often, on their own, the hard way."
- Robert Heinlein

Stimic  
  A musical instrument consisting of three flutelike tubes equipped with plungers; thumb and forefinger squeeze a bag to force air across the mouthpieces.  

The stimic is one of the wonderful musical instruments found in The Moon Moth, a brilliant short story by Jack Vance. On the world of Sirene, every person sings his words to others, accompanied by different musical instruments. There is no money on Sirene; each person is evaluated according to his personal strakh, his prestige, repute or glory. Mastery of languge and music is essential in this culture.

Ser Thissell, the main character in the story, has only recently immigrated to Sirene and is practicing diligently. Vance describes the stimic as "an instrument well adapted to the sentiments of cool withdrawal, or even disapproval."

In this excerpt, Ser Thissell (wearing the inconsequential Moon Moth mask) approaches a hostler hoping to secure a mount. Alas, he chooses the wrong instrument and inadvertently insults his host.

"Ser Hostler, I have immediate need of a swift mount..."

The hostler ... inspected Thissell a long moment, then, rather ostentatiously selecting his stimic, executed a brilliant progression of trills and rounds, of an import Thissell failed to grasp. The hostler sang, "Ser Moon Moth, I fear that my steeds are unsuitable to a person of your distinction."

From The Moon Moth, by Jack Vance.
Published by Pocket Books in 1976
Additional resources -

The inventiveness of Vance is inexhaustable; the zachinko, the krodatch, the hymerkin - the list of instruments goes on. Yes, I could give quotes for all of these instruments here - but read the story, it's worth it.

If you are interested in unusual instruments, take a look at Experimental Musical Instruments Links Page.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Moon Moth
  More Ideas and Technology by Jack Vance
  Tech news articles related to The Moon Moth
  Tech news articles related to works by Jack Vance

Stimic-related news articles:
  - Skeletar And Dragon Lyre ExoticGuitars - Science Fiction Instruments
  - Logic Gates Built Inside Living Cells
  - Reactogon Synthesizer - Chain Reactive Performance Arpeggiator

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