Sunday, 20 November 2011

Its a blast

I finally tracked him down. This is the man who had made my life so difficult when I joined the brass band in Bielefeld.  He insisted that I should relearn the way I read music.

If you can’t read music perhaps you can imagine this in terms of numbers. Think of your telephone number then dial it into your phone.  Now dial it again, but this time one digit up whilst saying the original number out loud: 0(1), 4-(5), 9-(er), oh well. Maybe you get the idea.

So with each note, I imagine it one higher than it really is in my head and change the fingering accordingly. What a bother! I must admit, I felt quite miffed at first.

After while, I discovered that my fellow band members had always read music like that as they had learned to play their instruments in the band. Very weird, I thought. This was the only place in the world to read music like that. So I decided to look into it.

Ute, one of the band members let it slip one day over a beer. She said the founder of this particular type of brass band, exclusive to this area of Germany, was a pastor. The reason for this unusual way of reading music was, she believed, to stop the devout brass band members from being led into temptation by joining military bands known for their drinking exploits and less than holy repertoire.

Another theory is that he wanted the brass bands to play directly out of choir books, which meant playing in that key.

Joannes Kuhlo, there I’ve said it, even developed his own instrument called, naturally, the Kuhlohorn (see picture above).  He deplored trumpets, which he found too bright and brash.  He thought that the perfect brass band should imitate a vocal church choir. Maybe he was right. At our last concert, we played in a church where the acoustics were so dire, there was a reverb of 7 seconds. A friend of mine said at one point it sounded like an electrical current was swirling around over her head.  Not bad, for unplugged brass.

Sometimes I sit in 2nd trumpet, sometimes down in 3rd and I am playing “King of the Road” just like I did in my school jazz band. Hey, how comes they let me in here, anyway? Hold on a minute, wasn’t that notation supposed to keep people like me out? Sorry, Johannes.

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