Write a Mozart Waltz With a Game He May Have Invented

John Macdougall/AFP/Getty Images
John Macdougall/AFP/Getty Images

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is known for his musical genius, but for the rest of us, writing the kind of music he could dash off with his eyes closed isn’t exactly easy. But what if you could write a Mozart waltz without knowing a single note? It’s possible—thanks to an 18th-century dice game the maestro himself may have invented.

It’s called a Musikalisches Würfelspiel, a more German way of saying “musical dice game.” The concept is simple: Toss a few dice and use the corresponding numbers to select a short snippet of music. String together the music and voila—a waltz!

The game’s easy to play even if you don’t know any music—or have any dice. The concept, which is used by [PDF] computer science professors to teach their students about two-dimensional arrays and random number generation, has inspired student websites for years. These days, there’s even an app, Mozart Dice Game, to help you do it at home.

Although Mozart’s name is frequently attached to the game, it’s not really clear whether he invented it. Dice were popular in Mozart’s day, and similar games have been attributed to other masters like Joseph Haydn and C.P.E. Bach (son of the more famous Bach). Since Mozart was so popular, it’s possible that his name was simply added onto the game to earn more money. (And Mozart’s love of potty humor, games, and low culture—which would have included playing dice—is well known.)

But we do know that Mozart invented another musical game. When he died, a mysterious paper was apparently discovered in his archives. It includes 39 minuet fragments of two measures each, labeled by Mozart with the letters of the alphabet. Historians now think it’s a game—this one designed to use words and names to create a minuet, although there were no specific instructions included.

Mozart apparently saw music as child’s play, but it’s not clear if he actually used games to compose. That said, he seems to have liked composing while playing other games, like lawn bowling. Of course, having fun always makes music sound sweeter—and many of us might never compose a line without a game to begin with.

10 Reusable Gifts for Your Eco-Friendliest Friend

Disposable tea bags can't compete with this pla-tea-pus and his friends.
Disposable tea bags can't compete with this pla-tea-pus and his friends.
DecorChic/Amazon

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By this point, your eco-friendly pal probably has a reusable water bottle that accompanies them everywhere and some sturdy grocery totes that keep their plastic-bag count below par. Here are 10 other sustainable gift ideas that’ll help them in their conservation efforts.

1. Reusable Produce Bags; $13

No more staticky plastic bags.Naturally Sensible/Amazon

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3. Rocketbook Smart Notebook; $25

Typing your notes on a tablet or laptop might save trees, but it doesn’t quite capture the feeling of writing on paper with a regular pen. The Rocketbook, on the other hand, does. After you’re finished filling a page with sketches, musings, or whatever else, you scan it into the Rocketbook app with your smartphone, wipe it clean with the microfiber cloth, and start again. This one also comes with a compatible pen, but any PILOT FriXion pens will do.

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4. Food Huggers; $13

"I'm a hugger!"Food Huggers/Amazon

It’s hard to compete with the convenience of plastic wrap or tin foil when it comes to covering the exposed end of a piece of produce or an open tin can—and keeping those leftovers in food storage containers can take up valuable space in the fridge. This set of five silicone Food Huggers stretch to fit over a wide range of circular goods, from a lidless jar to half a lemon.

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For floors that'll shine like the top of the Chrysler Building.Turbo Microfiber/Amazon

Swiffers may be much less unwieldy than regular mops, but the disposable pads present a problem to anyone who likes to keep their trash output to a minimum. These machine-washable pads fasten to the bottom of any Swiffer WetJet, and the thick microfiber will trap dirt and dust instead of pushing it into corners. Each pad lasts for at least 100 uses, so you’d be saving your eco-friendly friend quite a bit of money, too.

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6. SodaStream for Sparkling Water; $69

A fondness for fizzy over flat water doesn’t have to mean buying it bottled. Not only does the SodaStream let you make seltzer at home, but it’s also small enough that it won’t take up too much precious counter space. SodaStream also sells flavor drops to give your home-brewed beverage even more flair—this pack from Amazon ($25) includes mango, orange, raspberry, lemon, and lime.

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7. Washable Lint Roller; $13

Roller dirty.iLifeTech/Amazon

There’s a good chance that anyone with a pet (or just an intense dislike for lint) has lint-rolled their way through countless sticky sheets. iLifeTech’s reusable roller boasts “the power of glue,” which doesn’t wear off even after you’ve washed it. Each one also comes with a 3-inch travel-sized version, so you can stay fuzz-free on the go.

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8. Countertop Compost Bin; $23

Like a tiny Tin Man for your table.Epica/Amazon

Even if you keep a compost pile in your own backyard, it doesn’t make sense to dash outside every time you need to dump a food scrap. A countertop compost bin can come in handy, especially if it kills odors and blends in with your decor. This 1.3-gallon pail does both. It’s made of stainless steel—which matches just about everything—and contains an activated-charcoal filter that prevents rancid peels and juices from stinking up your kitchen.

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9. Fabric-Softening Dryer Balls; $17

Also great for learning how to juggle without breaking anything.Smart Sheep

Nobody likes starchy, scratchy clothes, but some people might like blowing through bottles of fabric softener and boxes of dryer sheets even less. Smart Sheep is here to offer a solution: wool dryer balls. Not only do they last for more than 1000 loads, they also dry your laundry faster. And since they don’t contain any chemicals, fragrances, or synthetic materials, they’re a doubly great option for people with allergies and/or sensitive skin.

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10. Rechargeable Batteries; $40

Say goodbye to loose batteries in your junk drawer.eneloop/Amazon

While plenty of devices are rechargeable themselves, others still require batteries to buzz, whir, and change the TV channel—so it’s good to have some rechargeable batteries on hand. In addition to AA batteries, AAA batteries, and a charger, this case from Panasonic comes with tiny canisters that function as C and D batteries when you slip the smaller batteries into them.

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