Wild goose chases: musical games

Whilst classifying books for UL stock a few days ago, I came across a pile of books in French. They were originally part of the IAML library, and were all on various aspects of music librarianship. My knowledge of French is minimal non-existent, and my normal tactic would be to try and get these dealt with and off my desk as quickly as possible, without lingering to flick through them much or trying to decipher more than I needed to. This time, however, one of them seemed worth trying to decipher in a bit more detail, as this fell out of the back of it:

goose game 1

Le jeu de l’oie de l’edition musicale

A music librarianship board game! This was slipped inside the volume ‘Guide d’acquisition de la musique imprimée à l’usage des bibliothèques musicales’ (MR433.c.95.5) by Michèle Lancelin, Anne Catrice and Anna Guerrieri, which was published in 1993 by AIBM Groupe Francais.

The literal meaning of le jeu de l’oie is the ‘game of the goose’ – I had never heard of this game before, but it seems to be similar to snakes and ladders. Landing on a goose sends you forward, and  various obstacles send you back if you land on them.  In this musical version, the librarian is set off on a wild goose chase for music resources, coming across all sorts of difficulties on the way. These are some of the adventures and misadventures you get up to, described in the ‘regle de jeu’…

Square 3: Your reader is exceptionally well organised. He knows exactly what he wants and has got all the important bits of bibliographical information: go forward to the square ahead of the player in front of you.

Square 15: Your score has fallen to bits; the Bibliothèque Nationale can, with the agreement of the publisher, make a photocopy for you: go back to wait for it at square 10.

Square 26: If you get to this square by throwing a 6 or a 3, it means you’ve found the opus number of the work you were looking for: be happy!

Square 42: You are lost in the labyrinth of music publishing – look up the reference source again and go back to square 30.

Square 52: The composer, whose personal phone number you’ve eventually got hold of, is visiting China: you must wait for him to come back, to find out who his publishers are: miss 2 turns.

Square 58: You’re busy with preparing a concert in tribute to [X] … but the copyright-holders withhold permission for the work you’re interested in to be performed. Re-organise the concert programme and begin again: go back to start (!)

The aim of all this is to eventually arrive at the last square, where a bespectacled goose is happily playing from the hard-won score.

goose game 2


This is the first game I have come across to do with the complexities of music librarianship. Hopeful that there might be a whole world of music library board games out there that I had yet to discover, I did some searching. Sadly it seems that music library board games are a very rare breed, but I did stumble across one other interesting musical game.

mozart game

At classmarks M200.a.168.1 (6) and B2001.95 in the UL, there is Musikalisches Würfelspiel a dice game attributed to Mozart, which enables the player to ‘compose without the least knowledge of music’. Beginning with only two dice and 176 musical fragments, the aim of the game is to stitch these fragments together, randomly according to the numbers you roll, so that you end up with a waltz. Reading through the instructions, however, I can’t help thinking that it would probably be less complicated to write a waltz from scratch!


With thanks to DC for his help with the French!


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2 Responses to Wild goose chases: musical games

  1. mj263 says:

    Not quite the same, but the Mozart fragment waltz rather reminds me of John Cage’s use of the I Ching https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Music_of_Changes


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