Friday, 8 January 2010

Frozen Tune

I can see myself frozen forever in her laughter-lines; my arse-flier morphs into the arse emerging from her cheek on the album cover: my backside's her sunny-side. Very Bosse-de-Nage (Dr Faustroll’s buttock-faced baboon). But what’s the connection between cockpit and trumpet?
I’ll post my flier in the Bye Bye Blues album-cover and take it to Oxfam, leave it (the buttock-face connection) for someone else to discover.
I used to play in a brass band - played tenor horn. When it was this cold (minus 14 last night!) you’re spit – the spit that invariably collects in the instrument’s labyrinth of pipes - would make a terrible rattling noise when you played. You’d have a horrible job, would have to unscrew the valves and drain your horn of spit. I must have secreted gallons of spit on war memorials; we played around the war memorial on Armistice Day, at Christmas and for Lent. Led a double-life as a teenager; spent most of my spare time in the bandstand in the park; half the time in a blue uniform, blowing down a tube; the other half (when the band had gone), inhaling glue from a plastic bag, with a different band of friends. In the brass band I played the tenor horn, but in the school orchestra, I played the French horn. The strangest thing about the French horn, you play it with your fist thrust in the opening of the instrument: you become (feel) ‘part horn’. But my French horn also became ‘part me’.
When I wasn’t in the bandstand, blowing octaves or inhaling adhesives, I was out climbing on the rocks - jamming my fists in cracks; or, as you can see from the ICA flier, jamming my whole body into cracks.  One of the effects of hand-jamming is a build-up of calluses.
When playing the horn I got into the habit (a nervous habit - exams, exams!) of picking the calluses off the palm of my hand - my hidden-hand stuffed inside the horn; eventually the calluses would become detached and get eaten by the horn. If I inhaled, as occasionally happens, I'd swallow my own calluses: and eating yourself is wrong! Worse still, the horn was the property of the school, and horns live a long time; some poor child (generations of children since) could well have eaten my dead skin. Imagine the headlines: “Child horn prodigy chokes on hand-callus – school closed – horn operated on - genetic fingerprints taken – DNA tests ongoing – the police will find their man”.
Frozen tune: Baron Munchausen has a good horn story. He’s traveling by coach and horses (the post coach) through Russia, it's a freezing winter’s night: I travelled post, and finding myself in a narrow lane, bid the postillion give a signal with his horn, that other travelers might not meet us in the narrow passage. He blew with all his might; but his endeavors were in vain, he could not make the horn sound, which was unaccountable, and rather unfortunate, for soon after we found ourselves in the presence of another coach coming the other way… After we arrived at the inn my postillion and I refreshed ourselves: he hung his horn on a peg near the kitchen fire; I sat on the other side. Suddenly we heard a tereng! tereng! teng! teng! We looked round, and now found the reason why the postillion had not been able to sound his horn; his tunes were frozen up in the horn, and came out now by thawing, plain enough, and much to the credit of the driver; so that the honest fellow entertained us for some time with a variety of tunes, without putting his mouth to the horn-"The King of Prussia's March," "Over the Hill and over the Dale," with many other favorite tunes; at length the thawing entertainment concluded, as I shall this short account of my Russian travels.

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