Flatiron Books: The Guest Book by Sarah Blake

Sounds Like Titanic

When college student Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman is hired as a violinist for "an award-winning ensemble," her intuition tells her something isn't quite right. "Professional ensembles do not place advertisements on college listservs," she writes in her hilarious memoir. Moreover, by Hindman's own description, she isn't even very good at playing the violin, despite 13 years of childhood lessons.

Hindman writes in an accessible, forthcoming and incredibly humorous style, contrasting her years growing up in Appalachia with her time spent touring the U.S. with the ensemble. Her lack of talent as a violinist doesn't matter to the Composer, the eccentric musician orchestrating what Hindman quickly discovers is an elaborate ruse. With the Composer at the helm, the ensemble's live performances--and their nationally televised PBS specials--consist of the group standing in front of dead microphones, lightly playing over loudly amplified instrumental recordings of the exact same songs. Most of their selections resemble those on the Titanic movie soundtrack, intended to appeal to the tastes of an unsuspecting yet adoring public.

Hindman's intent with Sounds Like Titanic isn't to expose the musical chicanery. Rather, she uses this experience as the stage for an insightful and reflective commentary on work, culture and women's issues. When she joins the Composer's national tour, she reconciles the grueling travel and performance schedule with her instilled work ethic and the unease of earning a considerable amount of money through false means. In an era when truth is incessantly questioned, Sounds Like Titanic resonates as a story ideal for this particular moment in time. --Melissa Firman