The Role of Music

Review of a quirky storytelling tool

When first entering this Role of Music experience, I thought perhaps I’d be taking a survey for which my results would tell me the story of my life; a kind of musical personality test, if you will. The storytelling tool itself is an offshoot of Five Dials, a literary magazine. The “story” starts out as a basic questionnaire with questions like the following:

When asked how I commemorated Bowie’s death, the Ziggy Stardust symbol flashes briefly on screen. And then, frankly, it starts getting weird really quickly. And down the rabbit hole you go…

It slowly begins to dawn on you that you are now in the story. You are a music teacher, plucked from Craigslist to interview with a slightly manic helicopter parent who just wants her son, Carl, to come out of his room and be human, for crying out loud. What’s wrong with that? DON’T JUDGE ME!

The module continues on with the parent telling me “You have kind eyes” and “It’s not that he’s a bad kid…do you believe that?” and “I played music for him in the womb, but he’s still capable of such scorn.” With each response, the interviewer oscillates between frantic and tearful and the interviewee becomes more and more uncomfortable until…

Oh good! Carl’s home from school! [Parent scurries out of the room]

I won’t give away the ending because I think if you’ve gotten this far you might actually enjoy the experience, but let’s just say this is a creepy, very funny, sad little story that sucks you right in.

Thoughts on this tool:


At first, I had no idea what to make of the questions, and how they were at all linked to storytelling. They almost seemed commercial in nature, like I was about to be sold a product. But the twist is that the participant is almost seamlessly transitioned into the story without realizing it. And by then, it’s too late. You’re hooked. What will happen next? Is this mother okay? Is Carl even real? Why is this so damn creepy? I can’t stop laughing. I should leave immediately. Like, right now. But, I can’t!

In many ways, this reads like a 1980s Choose Your Own Adventure, but it’s simplified by the use of black and white backgrounds and different typeface to indicate the character speaking and his/her age. These elements make it extremely effective in knowing who is talking, and their emotional level, even without sound or graphics.

Weekly Theme: As far as connecting with our weekly copyright theme, I think we could talk a little bit about how story lines generated by user input might be impacted by copyright. This story in particular is most likely linear (I went through it a few times, selecting different answers, without seeing variation in storyline), however, if my answers truly did impact the outcome of the story, I could see this as being a really interesting case of Crowd Creating — with fascinating implications for intellectual property issues.

“Crowdsourced designs protected by copyright involve additional challenges because crowdsourced works might not qualify as works made for hire.”

While I think it’s a stretch to say that this is a direct issue with this storytelling tool (or any issue at all), were the tool upgraded to record a person’s data, use it to shape the story and perhaps make a profit, that might be a whole different…well…story.


Lieberstein, M., & Tucker, A. (2012, August 29). Crowdsourcing and Intellectual Property Issues. Retrieved June 20, 2017, from