Friday, August 22, 2008

Seventy-Six Trombones

I have entered the seventh layer of Hell and there's only one explanation: I must've been a marching band director in a past life.

I have always been a person whose entire day is set to music. From the minute I wake up in the morning and get in the shower to the moment I go to bed I am surrounded by music of one kind or another. About the only time I choose not to listen to it is on my walks with Duncan, when I keep the iPod at home and listen instead to the sound of the park or the neighborhoods and trails we wander, but even then there is a natural music which plays: the breeze sifting through the Aspens along the lake shore, the laughter of the children chasing soccer balls across the grass, the thump of the basketballs on the courts, the heavy suck of air as the baseballs fly in the batting cages, swish and metal-on-cement skid of the kids at the skate park. And even on those rare occasions when silence has found me I always have my whistle.

But lately the unspeakable has happened and even though it's only been a week, I am going out of my friggin' mind. The local high school marching band has started practicing again. Sometimes I wonder if these kids attend class at all or if their merciless director just keeps them on the football field out back all day, parading up and down, back and forth, playing the same wretched chords of songs that sounded bad even before they added a litany of brass to them. They are there in the mornings on our 6:30 walks, the sound of the drums keeping time to our steps as the trumpets drift across the park, through the trees, battling the sound of the early morning traffic and construction on Bowles. And they are there again at night, louder and more strangled than they were at the crack of dawn when no one should be allowed to brandish an oboe or a tuba. Especially a tuba! And to make matters worse, they are no good. Downright awful in fact, and whichever sicko is doing whatever it is they're doing to that poor euphonium needs have their fingers removed! There should be laws! I'm just sayin'!

With apologies to John Philip Sousa and Professor Harold Hill, we need to face the facts and be honest: the only people who enjoy the sound of a marching band are its members and then only because they're actually participating. I'm sure even their parents would be hard-pressed to admit they actually enjoy it. After all, how many of these folks attend concerts after their children have gone on to bigger and more important adventures, like working at Starbucks or piercing their eyebrows? Simply put, the music is a form of torture and even on those occasions that call for it (parades, high school football games and the like) it's almost unendurable. When I was young, halftime at football games was not when we hunkered down and listened intently to the band geeks stumble through "Tequila," it was when we excused ourselves to pee or slipped outside to dance in the parking lot to Erasure or Frankie Goes to Hollywood, or hell, even Def Leppard while we drank beer. Even then, engulfed by the ignorance and arrogance of youth I knew better than to stick around for the damn band.

And so now, twenty years later the soundtrack of my walks has been replaced with yet another bad high school version of Fleetwood Mac's "Tusk," along with countless other tunes I have yet to decipher and I just know that if I don't keep myself in check, one of these mornings I'm going to march myself right over there, Duncan trotting loyally along behind me, to rip that damn whip out of someone's hands and do something with it that will ensure the bass trombone player won't be marching any longer.

*Image taken entirely without permission from Laughing Squid


Greg said...

Oh, pooh! The Chortling Whistler announces himself cooler than the Band Geeks.

It's just the start of their rehearsals. Maybe as penance you should have to listen to them every morning and night, as they grow more accustomed to the steps they must learn and the notes to be played and the way the instrument feels in their hand, all whilst side-stepping gooseshit and accidentally swallowing bugs.

One day soon you may be chagrined to discover they've actually grown quite good with practice. And until then, may the entire score of The Music Man make a giant earworm in your brain.

; )

(Yep, band geek here. Alto clarinet.)

dad said...

At least we've got TUSK.

Curt Rogers said...

I KNEW it! I knew I'd call out the band geeks! So tell me sir, when was the last time you attended a band concert? How many albums do you own? I'm curious to know.

Actually, I listened to the band practice last year as well, and sadly, they never improved. I was hopeful for the poor souls who had all the walking and blowing and banging to learn but by November it was quite obvious they just weren't very good. I'm all for the arts, but why do I have to listen to it from my bedroom window at 6:30 in the morning. If I wanted to be tortured that early I'd turn on FOX News! (Oh, great, now I've called out the Fox Fans!)

And, I'll have you know THE MUSIC MAN is one of my favorite musicals. In fact I whistled "Lida Rose" while typing last night.

So there!
The Chortling Whistler

traci - marching band survivor said...


As a recovering former marching band member I often find myself pontificating at how much I HATED marching band. The music sucked, the uniforms sucked (we were the patriots so we had "cute" little knickers and three-corner hats), the band director really sucked, the list goes on.

I had to turn of the music feed because I found it too damn distracting. The only place for marches is during the Fourth of July fireworks, and only Stars and Stripes Forever. All the rest should be banished.

As a professional musician, I find myself often defending all kind of music, but not the marches. Never the marches.

traci - marching band survivor said...

By the way, love the illustration.

Marty said...

Empathy here!!!! A middle school marching band practices on theur soccer field right behind our house.

It's the worst excuse for music I've ever heard. They never get better. It's constant through the entire school year. Those people do not attend classes and they don't sleep.

Fortunately, every now and then I go to a maximum security prison and relax in the quiet.


Anonymous said...

I used to wake up to this horrible saxophone playing outside my apartment. I was working at a Garden Center with an older gentlemen and I soon discovered my apartment was behind his townhouse. I almost asked if he heard the horrible saxophone player but then he told me how much he loved to practice his saxophone and I realized it was him! I must admit he did get better over time but at first it was like some sort of horrible torture for the ears!

The Hunky Gardener said...

I love how you state that the image was taken without!

This post is by The Hunky Gardener, aka- jason t. I have this weird sort of multiple personality thing going on.

dad said...

Let me tell you what's driving me out my freakin' mind, (kidding.) It's "76 Trombones" blaring on this charming blog. Where's the volume control? Whatever happened to "Somewhere Over the Rainbow?"
Love yer' blog, son.

Greg said...

Ha ha...okay, if these poor schlubs are so dreadful and hopeless, you have my sympathies.

If we count The Music Man, as well as assorted Drum and Bugle Corp CDs...and some CDs of the Sousa marches and old cassette tapes of our long-ago marching band (our field show combined the then-current hits of both A Chorus Line and The Muppet Show, to properly fix things in time, as if cassettes hadn't already suggested that...but the tapes were then a "new" technology, too...), I have probably fifteen to twenty or so recordings. True, a small portion of the overall CD population, but a good sample nonetheless.

They seem to have concerts in the park in our town on Monday evenings. I've not remembered to go check it out in person, but have regularly been distantly serenaded with band music. Admittedly, their Stars and Stripes Forever could use a little work.

(It IS a great illustration.)

Kevi said...

As a flag team girl, I loved marching in front of the band. The drum section kept me moving...seriously, and I always crank up the stereo when Tusk comes on.

Just walk in time, and maybe they'll get better.

A Friend said...

How about college bands? They can rock. I confess that I love drum and bugle corp competitions. Drums Along the Rockies!

Such a geek.....

Curt Rogers said...

A little more than three years later I reread this post and these comments and I must say, my loathing for marching bands and marches in general has only increased. Send these people to Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya where their "music" may be of actual use, although not in the way they may think. BANISH THE BAND! HERE HERE!