Archibald Noodlefish: The Top Eight Non-Musical Sounds that Emit from a Horn Section
Rogue and scoundrel, Archibald Noodlefish is the nose in spite of your face, a spider in the web, and the proverbial turd in a punch bowl. In spite of this, he claims to be a consummate professional.
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If an audience member ever got up close and personal to an orchestral musician, they would be absolutely amazed and shocked at some of the extra-curricular activity that typically goes on during a concert.
To begin with, section leaders like myself give subtle, non-verbal codes of communication that help with cohesion and precision. Most audience members will plainly see the spasmodic seizures of a concertmaster or principal clarinet, while the more subtle and more graceful arm, shoulder or breath cues may go completely unnoticed. Myself, I ignore my second horn player entirely because the man is a witless oaf, but that is another story.
Beyond gestures and cues, less appropriate sound effects also go on. They are nuisances that may not travel far beyond the stage, but for fellow musicians like myself it is a discipline, more-or-less, to pretend that nothing has happened and press forward.
In the horn section alone a number of non-musical noises can occur — whether by divine providence, random accident, or as a signal to tell that ridiculous principal clarinet player to stop moving around so damn much.
#8 – Clams
This probably goes without saying. An estimable colleague, Professor I. M. Gestopftmitscheist, has already provided a lengthy dissertation on the topic. Most audience members will hear these, but others may not.
#7 – Cranky, clunky slides
Sometimes we horn players are in a hurry and considerations for the music must be put aside. When condensation builds up it must be expelled immediately – with great force and demonstration.
Overall, my colleagues must know that I am on top of “the condensation problem.” If the result is a carillon of clanking slides, then so be it. The people that count — the ones buying the tickets — can’t really hear it anyway.
#6 – Loud slide blowing
With respect to number 7, getting the condensation out of my instrument is tantamount towards being a responsible principal horn.
So what if my cup-shaped mouthpiece whistles like a child’s toy when I am blowing out water? I think of it as a cute train whistle. It makes me happy. I am happy just thinking about it. I am a happy person.
#5 – Foot stomps, an emphatic articulation
How else I am to express my intense unhappiness with that whirling-dervish of a clarinet player? Sometimes too, I get carried away with the music and a good foot stomp shows everyone where the downbeat is.
This is all part of being a good leader.
#4 – Flatulence, an odoriferous articulation
This brings us to a long-standing feud between myself and my second horn player. In spite of the strongest recommendations for a change in diet, taking charcoal pills or investing in pair of Shreddies, the lout continues to do his nasty business during my most important and exposed solos — and quite emphatically I might add. In another circumstance it would be praised as a worthy talent to behold and put on a pedestal.
Fortunately I am good friends with the local union president, and so it is only a matter of time before our Master Contract gets updated with a Putrid Stench clause. In the meantime, I fight back by eating lots of asparagus, beans, and Brussels sprouts before rehearsals.
My colon has never felt better.
#3- Snickering and muttering
Sometimes when a mistake happens it can be pretty funny. Too, my colleagues need to know when they mess up, otherwise they may not even notice. That aside, it is funny and I like to giggle. I think I mentioned already that I am a happy person.
It is especially funny if it happens to someone I do not like, such as the conductor. He deserves all the giggles he can get.
#2 – Profanity
There is nothing more discouraging than a missed entrance, a faulty cue or a missed transposition.
I am a strong believer in residual energy and its release; sometimes a good curse word will expel negativity and bad omens. I also like to use stinky medicinal oils – Patchouli Oil being my favorite - and carry magic convergence crystals in my pockets for extra measure and spiritual balance.
If another musician is bothered by my methods, they might as well be insulting my religion. I take any complaints about this to the union to sort out, of course. It seems like the easiest thing to do.
#1 – Mute droppings
It was an accident. I swear it. Yes, I know that my mute has a wrist-strap on it but it rubs on my skin too much. Besides, if I drop my mute it is ultimately my assistant’s fault. Or management’s fault.
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See you chumps later – I have to run to a gig.