HAPPY HONK! One of my fellow tubists reminds me I have to keep up my dancing game.
In a sense, we work backward, either consciously or unconsciously, creating work that fits the venue available to us. That holds true for the other arts as well: pictures are created that fit and look good on white walls in galleries just as music is written that sounds good either in a dance club or a symphony hall (but probably not in both). In a sense, the space, the platform, and the software "makes" the art, the music, or whatever. After something succeeds, more venues of a similar size and shape are built to accommodate more production of the same. After a while the form of the work that predominates in these spaces is taken for granted--*of course* we mainly hear symphonies in symphony halls.I've thought about this passage, or at least this book as the source of similar sentiment, often over the years, and was surprised to see I hadn't placed it in my common place blog before.
Currently I'm using it to bolster a defence of bands I'm in; I'm getting some heat from one of its members that it's not taking the music seriously enough.
But I think the idea that music is shaped by the space is mirrored by how it's also shaped by who shows up. My HONK! music tends towards the motley. Not just activist bands, but open community bands who will try to work with people at all levels and from all backgrounds - and, which might be the sticking point, doesn't necessarily demand a lot of time "woodshedding". (Maybe this reflects my own laziness about practicing. I've always coasted on tuba parts being less technical and my own constantly being in about 4 bands at once, and so I'm maybe too reluctant to tell people they need to hunker down.)
So we have a mix of people who maybe just had music-as-an-elective in high school and college and are getting back to it, or even some people who just started with ear training School of Honk, against, like, lapsed escapees from Berklee. We draw music influence and sometimes charts from lots of places (probably especially other HONK bands...) in the NOLA street tradition and trad jazz and maybe a little klezmer and African and Central/South American and Caribbean - like in a way it reflects a beautiful patchwork society. I mean not as much as we'd like at times- achieving diversity and looking like the less-gentrified parts of neighborhoods we're in is a challenge. Like if you're trying to frame most music as being of a culture, our is more loosely knit than many other traditions that come from a specific community - like, progressive liberals, often white, who live in small atomic families, often are living far from where they grew up, and who dig on bringing in lots of musical influences to their playing.
I've always thought that musical performance is usually leaning either towards connecting with crowds or impressing other musicians. The best can of course do both, but in a world of part-time musicians, I think it's ok to focus on the former more than the latter. "3 chord wonder" punk bands could rock the hell out of their venues! And while that's not who we are or what we do, I think it's a good reminder that even simpler music can be emotionally resonate.
I'm always going to worry that I'm not being harsh enough with the band, that maybe it could benefit from more tough love on demanding practice, more careful tuning, work on intonation, emphasis on dynamic, and thoughtful design of percussion. And my fundamental inability to judge critically (something that's really fundamental to my temperament, but that's a different story) is some of why I usually shy from an official role of "leader" - along my usual preference for consensus over top-down authority. (Also, I used to hold the idea that HONK bands - like my high school marching band - must always shun music stands, but have come to learn to split our repertoire into stuff we can march around with and pieces we will be stationary for, I think a decent compromise)
And we've lost a few of the "escapees from serious musical pursuit" players who get frustrated with the group, see its level as more of a ceiling than a floor. It's a bummer when that happens, because it's usually a loss acoustically and pedagogically , and of course I get filled with second-guessing. But still, I'm pretty happy with what my bands are able to do and the community they bring to my life and the chance to have musical fun for myself and others.
Based on the bottom photo here which remains one of my favorites though it's not a look I go for very often now. In retrospect i should have touched up Alien Bill's pupil to make it bigger.
I have other shots with a similar bell decoration, but usually with blue tape. (Tape-on-bell is more classic than my current use of covers, but of course hard to change between bands.)
(via Andrew Huang)
Pretty pleased with how it all came out!
Man, it looks so much better when I'm dancing a little than just standing stiff.
Photos by Stewart Ting Chong
I play the tuba. It's a rather pleasant way I have of passing time. In this world there are few instruments in which the very playing of the said instrument is in itself a physical endeavor. The tuba is one of them. "I am a tuba player," states my philosophy, "therefore I can do anything." I consider the tuba the penultimate instrument. First God created the tuba, then with the material remaining He/She created the other instruments. The ultimate instrument, of course, is the kazoo. But the the tuba is a close second.
I started playing brass in third grade. I started on a baritone, which is like a premature tuba. I look back with fond memories on the days when I could only play two notes, F and G, and those not very well. Then things became "sorta interesting," to quote myself again. Well, actually, not all that interesting. Sigh.
Most of my musical training has been at school or at the Salvation Amy. The Salvation Army is a church, besides being a public service operation. So for three whole years, I happily, badly tooted away. Then, fate stepped in.
A trumpet player in my sixth grade band decided to switch from high pressure, high competition, world of trumpeteering to laid back, no competition land of Baritoneering. This upset me. I've always liked being the only player of an instrument in at least one of the bands I'm in. It's an ego kick to see your name as the only name listed under the heading "baritones." So when this trumpet player switched, a thought popped into my head. 'Right now, no one is playing TUBA! I can switch and voila, I'm a one man section again!'
So the powers-that-be of the Glens Falls Middle School music program (Mr. Antolini) locked me in a practice room with the scales of both instruments and told me to "learn 'em". So I did. My tooting continued, just as bad (if not worse) but in a lower octave.
Then I moved from Glens Falls (as immortalized in 'The Last of the Mohicans' and home of Glens Falls Middle School), New York to Cleveland Heights, Ohio. There I went to Monticello Middle School. Mrs. Beale, the music director there, was a major influence on my Tubaing. She taught me quite a lot about style and technique. I also continued playing in the Salvation Army corps band.
Around Christmas time of my second and last year at Monticello, I was informed about an event called Tuba Christmas by Mrs. Beale. I decided to try it out. 250+ tubas, euphoniums, and baritones gathered together in a large music hall and played, appropriately enough, Christmas carols. It was such a pure, mellow sound. It was enough to drive a man insane, so consider what it did to me!
Euclid, Ohio became my next home. I then joined the NEOSA (North Eastern Ohio Salvation Army) Divisional Youth Band. A trip to Mexico with the Youth Band highlighted my freshman year. Mexico was an experience that completely blew my mind. The people there had nothing like we have in the States, yet their spirit and appreciation was completely overwhelming. I also managed not to get Montezuma's Revenge.
One experience that I have neglected to mention is playing for the Salvation Army Christmas Kettle effort. This involves playing eighteen Christmas carols over and over for hours on end as your lips begin to stick to your metal mouthpiece and you pray that your valves will remain moving throughout the day. I returned to the lighter weight baritone for this chilly thrill. It is not easy to perfect your vibrato as your teeth chatter uncontrollably.
Of course there is always the wonder of Euclid High Marching Band. Marching across the field, playing as loudly as you can against eighty of everything else is not a favorable environment to hear the bass line, trying to remember where to march next, all while carrying a BIG white fiberglass tuba (sousaphone really) is not my idea of a Good Thing. Eventually football season ends, though, and symphonic band begins. Real music at last! Music that you can sit down for! Yippeeee!
Somewhere in this I became a fairly decent Tubaist. I'm not sure where, I'm not sure when, but it happened. So I'll continue making up bass lines (which is fun) and marching in marching band (which is not fun) and Life shall Trudge on.
Some thoughts, 30 years later:
- "and those not very well" construction is a bit of a lift from Douglas Adams' Restaurant at the End of the Universe
- The bit on Mexico is probably a little racist and a lot condescending
- Interesting that I'm so down on marching band... in retrospect I liked the music I played in it much more than the symphonic stuff, though marching band was pretty grueling...
Near-work photo from a more relaxed time, by Lloyd Park
(It's funny, at first I captioned this as 'from a simpler time', but the beauty of then was that it was more complex, but in enjoyable ways.)
Not sure who took the second, but they say it's #nofilter - lovely foliage and vibrant band outfits...
Today I am marching in solidarity with the spooky skeletons that are inside us all, waiting to get out. #justwait
Open Photo GalleryI liked the more serious look as I model my outfit...
There was a brigade of massive aliens that danced with School of Honk, including this terrific giant ape...
After our set JP Honk met its twin band, Unity Street Band from Syracuse NY - same color scheme and some overlap in music! We joined forces for the parade.
Plezi Rara at the PRONK ampitheater where JP Ponk played in the afternoon... they got some nice light!
Fun with the new iPhone's night stuff (I'm also really digging its wideangle lens...)
photo from Now+There's twitter feed that has some good photos. Also, see Donna Dodson's video of the band.
Oh and earlier that day I posted this, with my usual selfie joke "feeling cute, might delete later" which is two half-lies.
--Grinchy, wealthy universities have a change of heart and start making PILOT payments in City Hall Christmas fable
"Al Cass FAST" was my favorite valve oil even back in Cleveland - the rocketship and the way it proudly displayed its hometown really appealed to me, along with the"ODORLESS / WEATHER CONSCIOUS / DOES NOT SEPARATE" copy on the bottle, from an era when products sold themselves as much as facts as feelings. According to Wikipedia
[Al Cass] was the manufacturer and creator of the "FAST" valve/slide/key oil combination for brass instruments, which has been considered the industry standard since inception. It was developed after 18 months of R&D at the request and final approval of Dizzy Gillespie.which is super hip.
We did "Space Cadet", "Mercy Mercy Mercy", and then a "Little Light of Mine" singalong:
Here friends made up a photocake:
Open Photo GalleryI think the cake photo is a crop of this one:
But her "Anna Nicole Smith" costume photo was in the running:
Open Photo GalleryMarching with City Life / Vida Urbana to protest ghoulish landlord shenanigans--
Soldiers in reanimated skeleton armies would probably have to use sign language.
A few weeks ago at the Maker's Fair at the Boston Children's Museum:
--Shot at yesterday's rally for Transgender rights - If you live in MA Vote Yes on 3, please. If you know + like or love a TG person, or you don't but you're willing to believe the world is more complex than you mighta guessed, it's the humane thing to do.
HONK portrait by Steve Jewett
PRONK portrait by Daniela G
photo by Jason Victor Rosenman, on PARKing Day
Marie and my mom's old trombone!
Very flattering lens. Also last night we were reminded my car can fit TWO tubas...
On my devblog, the crushing equalizing of modern social mediums.
The Best TV Episodes of the past century. I liked the UI of this, with nicely sized clips starting as they scroll into view.
I always love lists of hard to translate words - this one has some especially important-to-that-culture ones.
from a playlist of six videos from new member Sam
Photo by Jonathan Richmond
More photos here (on FB, but works even in an incognito window)
Had I know I'd'a worn a better T-shirt than Rick and Morty.
--An old shot, but not sure it ever got on the site. A relatively rare tuba shot from the last few years in that I'm not playing Scheiny - trying out one of the School of Honk's polka dot horns.
Open Photo Gallery
never let the sousaphone player alone with his horn and the rest of the champagne, tho (photo by Candace)
I can't say enough that the folks playing in the protest band today were HEROES, going (nearly) nonstop for a good 4 hours, elevating and uplifting the entire event, sounding like a million bucks. Anyone who knows any of these Honkers, feel free to pass along my heartfelt thanks.Posted by Sarah Darling on Saturday, August 19, 2017
These people are doing it right.
Violence allows Nazis to pretend to be victims.
Tubas just make them look like the dumbfucks they are.
photo by Jason Victor Rosenman
A tuba player holds a weighty object and breathes deeply.
@School of Honk's performance, photo by Tom H
Imma tryin' to help Ezequiel use his tuba powers only for good... but also thanks to Robert for locating a good size sousaphone for him!
I LOVE the Boston Pride Parade
I LOVE the Boston Pride Parade. It shows our Commonwealth and our country at its best.Posted by U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren on Sunday, June 11, 2017
(The Ride 'Em Cowboy is my favorite from this batch - usually the tuba is riding me, nice to turn that around, though the "hero shot" might be even better than Franklin Marvel's Take at Figment.
that's my horn Scheiny on the right
(Click for a larger version - that's me and my tuba on the right, nice visual balance to the french horn, and showing the name of our metaband BABAM!)
Here's the photo from the web article
--photos by Andrew Huang
I love the sky in the first one.
Photo by Candace Esslinger - this was the clear Saturday before the Drenched Sunday
here I am front and center, both as we calmly played along with "Hall of the Mountain King" and then when we went into full on honkin' mode
After JP Honk played Figment, I got myself framed by artist Franklin Marval
By Nobuko Ichikawa. I'm not soloing (I think Carlos on the metal clarinet is), just dancing, but still, I love how expressive my posture and hands are... it's more cluttered than my previous profile-able tuba shot but has more energy, and I like that it's my own horn ("Beauty") not a School of Honk one I was borrowing for kicks.
Open Photo Gallery
It started raining but we still punctuated the event with "Thrift Shop"
Boogyin' down, nice to see Arlington making its own Porchfest:
And backing our head honcho Kevin:
Open Photo GalleryPhotos of School of Honk May Day Dance Party by Chelsea Ruscio
Heh, Liz Ryan who throws together a marching group for Boston Pride asked me to record a little bassline I made up last year, to supplement the cadence the percussionists were doing.
It's meant to be easy on my jaw, 'cause it's kind of a long parade!
From "The Book of Honk", the School of Honk bass section:
(I was having a water bottle crisis where it somehow flooded by hip pack... I gotta stop carrying stuff during gigs :-) (local copy of video)
Good for anyone who has a fetish for badly lit vintage shots of the Henry Ford Museum.
The 1991 Homecoming Game, by the looks of it.
(that yellow strip is a cheat sheet to "Seven Nation Army" I put on a long time ago....)
This year my tuba gets a costume too:
I swear I should consider moving to JP one of these years.
Also, later, I grabbed Leigh's percussion wearable, and my cousin Bill took a shot:
Honk! Parade went well.
(Someone else's photo, but my horn!)
--via xoBruce. I guess that's a good warning for any hobos who might be asleep on the tracks!
I would like to add that is about the first realisticly drawn sousaphone I've seen in this kind of thing.
--via xoxoxobruce... (who found it here) you know you don't see many sousaphones with the bell pointing up, though I'm not sure why not.