Saturday, August 27, 2005

Reinventing Introductions to Musical Instruments, Part I

The Violin and the Viola
Interesting facts: Four strings, originally made out of catgut (intestine linings of a cow). That’s right, horsehair (don’t ask where they get the hair from, I sure as heck haven’t) on intestine lining. Despite its seemingly exotic culinary connections sound is generated not directly from the strings, but the vibrations in the airspace inside the instrument, coming out, get this, from F-holes. And if you get a laugh from that, we have G-strings too.

Pros: Just look at them. Damn romantic looking-lah. Gold E-stings. Some over three hundred years old summore. Cool.
Cons: If you play the violin badly, you scare little children and old people who are probably their grandparents whack you with their walking sticks. Conclusion: you’ll never get a date, but your playing might be useful in the line of exotic bird calls.
Extra pro: If you play the violin badly – squawk squawk! – and then turn to the viola and also play it badly – baa baa! – you can apply for work as a sheep herder. Think New Zealand, baby, yeah, there’s a reason why they call it Squawkland, or the commonly misspelled “Auckland”.

Though violists generally have IQs below that required for genetic engineering, a career in Dolly tending is not out of their reach.

The Trombone and Trumpet
Interesting facts: Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture was intended for outdoor performance, with actual cannons intended to picture the Russian victory over Napoleon. In one performance a trumpeter put in a lit firecracker into his trumpet, but didn’t have enough time to aim it upwards, and the firecracker headed straight for the audience.

Pros: Brass, sometimes gold plated. Not so romantic-lah, but still cool. And all those lip and tongue exercises have to have some use in the real world, eh.
Cons: One word: spit. They have to empty it from their instruments every now and then, (claiming it’s “condensation”) and well, there’s a reason why in a hall used to musicians, the part of the floor with the brass instruments is rather discoloured (it’s partially digested!).

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