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A useful tool for real time travelers, or plot device for
fiction writers: For some missions, time travelers may
a way to recognize each other discreetly, without
the contemps. Passphrases might be awkward to drop
conversation. But humming or whistling a tune (as many
people are wont to do) would work well. It would be
ignored by most people, but those who were briefed to
listen for a specific melody could recognize each other
right away. It would have to be from their origin time
and not known in the time they were visiting
That's the whole idea as succinctly as I can write it.
the much longer exposition of how it occurred to me:
I was listening to a random playlist today and
Rachmaninoff's "Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini" came
up. Immediately reminded me of the film "Somewhere in
Time" where it was an important plot point. The
lead (a time traveler) is humming it not quite to himself.
His love interest (a contemp) asks what it is. He
it's by Rachmaninoff; she says she loves his work but she
isn't familiar with this piece. If she didn't realize he was
traveler when he vanished before her eyes, she probably
figured it out some years later when Rachmaninoff
did write it. In a similar vein, in "From Time to Time," a
time traveler has "gone native" and decided to stay in
past - but he sometimes sings "Raindrops Keep Falling On
Head" as a bath time song and lullaby for his infant son.
That's when his contemp wife wonders if he misses his
And finally - or firstly, as sequence and causation are
academic in a time traveler's stream of consciousness -
"To Say Nothing of the Dog," a stressed-out history
student is sent back to the 19th century for a
needed rest. But in his time-lagged, befuddled state he
mistakes a contemp for the 21st century colleague he
supposed to meet. Hilarity ensues - but that's okay
the book is *supposed* to be a comedy. Even so, as
Willis often weaves music into plot details, I'm surprised
she didn't throw in a musical anachronism there. Maybe
she did and I missed it.
Thanks for reading this far along. I'd welcome any
to where this idea may have already been used explicitly
or hinted at in other stories.
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
Composed in 1934 [kdf, Aug 05 2020]
Somehere in time (film)
Intentional anachronism in this film's 1912 setting [kdf, Aug 05 2020]
Bid Time Return
The novel was better than the movie, of course. But it's set in 1896 instead of 1912, and music trivia doesn't play into it. [kdf, Aug 05 2020]
To Say Nothing of the Dog
Connie Willis, part of her "Oxford Time Travel" series. The funniest one. [kdf, Aug 05 2020]
Surely it should be this piece.
[tatterdemalion, Aug 05 2020]
You Made Me Love You
1913, music by James V. Monaco lyrics by Joseph McCarthy ... [kdf, Aug 05 2020]
||I've linked some information about works mentioned in my
original write-up. I didn't bother to link Finney's "From Time
to Time" because it was such a disappointing sequel to "Time
and Again." I only mentioned his throw away bit about
"Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head" because it fit my theme
||Not exactly related, but an interesting time travel read, at
least the first third of it maybe, was 'The Man in the Empty
Suit.' The middle and end was a bit off, but the premise is
interesting at least.
||Thanks much, grabbing it from the library now.
||For some odd reason the theme music of Jeopardy! seems to
||As a discreet signaling device, this only works for time
outside of the time when the musical piece is known.
For the Jeopardy theme, that would be before 1964. For
Never Gonna Give You Up, before 1987.
||Fortunately, Thorne & Hawking's chronology protection
conjecture suggests that even if you DO rickroll someone
before 1987, it won't catch on.
||Other mentions in fiction:
||- I recall an episode of Quantum Leap where Sam helps a
young Buddy Holly write the lyrics to "Peggy Sue."
||- There's at least one other musical anachronism in the
movie Somewhere in Time. A background character is
singing to herself as she gets dressed - "You Made Me Love
You." The scene takes place in 1912 but the song wasn't
released until 1913.
||That was the only niggling detail about Heinlein's astonishing short story/film: the character couldn't recognize himself.
||Marty plays Johnny B. Goode in "Back to the Future" - and bandleader Marvin Berry calls his cousin Chuck to listen.
||4and20 - you mean "Predestination," based on "All
Zombies"? Amazingly good for a film adaptation - I
as far as to say it was better than the book (very
they expanded the original idea and closed a loop.
||But to your niggle - I reckon if you went back as
you look NOW
to visit yourself as a youngster - your young self
recognize you. For some people the lack of
might go both ways. I never looked like
my mug shots. And Heinlein's time traveler
through a LOT more changes in his/her very
timeline than I have in mine.
||Humming the "Dr. Who" theme is the obvious choice, shirley ?
||There could be a specific countersign, to indicate that the listener understands the implication of the humming, like tracing the outline of a police box on any convenient flat surface.
||"Dr. Who" theme ... I don't know how well that
would work without a Theremin.
||Surely you never leave home without a theremin?
||//leave home// sounds a bit scary, you might have to interact with a human.