August 1996

A Tale of Two Countries

by Paul D. Lehrman

Sometimes it's a new song on the radio, sometimes it's a new piece of gear, sometimes it's the death of someone you know or admire. Once in a while, something crosses your awareness that makes you stop, really stop, and think. Last month, for me, it was two things: a letter and a phone call.

The letter was from a research associate in anthropology at a large Russian university. Written in excellent (although unmistakably Russian-accented) idiomatic English, laser printed, and addressed to my school office with 9-digit ZIP code, it contained a remarkable plea.

"As I do ethnomusicological research and often use a synthesizer for making demos and presentations," the gentleman wrote, "I have somehow been drawn into MIDI stuff. There is absolutely nothing published on MIDI in this country, so I learn it by myself, relying on what I can order through the West through interlibrary loan...I came across your book 'MIDI For The Professional', which I found most comprehensive and most helpful in all respects. I ordered it three times for the past year and wrote down for myself as much as I could. But, alas, I cannot do that any more, for they let you order any single book no more than three times. I could not copy it either, because the xeroxing of the loaned books is not allowed for copyright purposes, and they also would not let me take it out of the library.

"For this reason, I decided to ask you, dear Dr. Lehrman [I'm not a "Dr.", but all of Eastern Europe doesn't have to know that], to send me, if possible, a copy of this outstanding book (of course, if you happen to have a spare copy).

"Please excuse me for such an impertinent request, but there is, frankly, no other way I could obtain the book. Unfortunately, I am not able to buy it from the publisher, since the price comes up to nearly half of my monthly salary (oh yes, Russian academy is surviving the worst days now).

"I hope you understand the complexity of my situation. I just cannot tell you how much I would like to have this book at hand....On the other hand, if you cannot send me a copy for any reason, I will understand, and I appreciate the knowledge I have managed to get from the book anyway. Thank you. With best regards, sincerely,"

I sent him a copy of my book. I figured, even if he's a scam artist and he wants to sell it and make some money, I've got to admire his chutzpah. But I don't think he is.

The rest of this column, along with 56 more, is now available in The Insider Audio Bathroom Reader, published by Thomson Course Technology PTR.

Copyright ©2006 by Paul D. Lehrman