Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Horn Diary

Yesterday the community band performed at the Memorial Day service in the little park on Main Street in Orange named for Zachary Taylor. The names of those from the county who gave their lives from World War One onward were read out and wreaths laid. The band played well and the event was a success, and a reminder of the interconnectedness of small rural towns. 

There was a heat advisory and some of us in the band were sitting directly in the noonday sun. My shirt was soaking wet in just a few moments and I kept telling myself to watch for signs of heat stroke. By the end of the service some clouds came over and a slight breeze stirred. 

I was the only horn, so had spent the past couple of weeks re-inhabiting first horn territory and played my parts acceptably well, but the hot sun on my face made my lips and cheeks feel as though I were in the midst of a hot bath. Muscles I never think about went slack and trying to maintain embouchure became a moment to moment chore. I'd never experienced that before, and will be perfectly content not to experience it again. There were no horribly bad notes, just ones that never really quite formed and sounded, and came out as sort of an barely audible mush.

People who've played in bands often mention the issues with playing in cold weather, but it had never occurred to me that extreme heat could have such an effect on my embouchure.

On a different note entirely, have been meaning to mention that besides disagreement in the horn community about any number of issues, they can't even get together on how to oil the instrument. Over the years I've seen various authorities say different things. Way back when I started I read Barry Tuckwell's book and he suggested just buying kerosene at the hardware store and using that, which is what I've done. I pour it through a coffee filter lined funnel from the gallon jug into a small needle nose applicator bottle.

It's thin and in the summer needs to be applied every day. But it works well, and very rarely do I have to pull tuning slides and put it down them. Most of the time under the rotor caps and on the shafts on the other side keeps things nicely lubricated and the action quick and responsive.

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