Monday, 11 January 2016

Forgetting Tuba - Part One

Rarely do I reflect on the joy that playing the tuba well brought me. The flutter of the pistons under my fingers. The faint humming sensation of damp numb lips as postlude to prolonged practice. But those days are long since gone, along with all of the skill I once had. Before my tuba memories fade further its seems logical to record as much as I can.

As an eight-year-old I had the opportunity to join the school band. As a teenager I considered these musical institutions as one step up from the medieval torture of a thousand recorders being piped by primary pupils in the Sydney Opera House.

The primary school was lucky enough to have a full time music teacher. Each class would visit the music room once a week. A room containing an assortment of instruments; mostly the variety played by beating them. Xylophones, glockenspiel, triangles, bongos and various little drums were trotted out for our enrichment. It was in one such trip to the music room that the tuba first came into my life.

Sat cross-legged on well worn blue-grey carpet the class listened with varying levels of interest as the school's music teacher Mrs Borrow-Jones acted as our musical maitre d'. Flash cards with child-friendly cartoon pictures served as instrumental menu for second graders.

I can't recall much of what went through my mind as the options were laid out. Did I have a short list going? Was I tempted by another instrument? All I do remember is the moment when I saw the tuba. Words had yet to form in Mrs Borrow-Jones' mouth, but I knew that whatever this instrument was, whatever it was called, however big or small, high or low, it was the one for me.

Within days of this encounter my Mother asked, "So, which instrument do you want to play?"

I was stumped by this simple question. I knew the answer. I could see it in my minds eye, but what was it's name? After a moments pause I replied, "It's the big brass one."

"Which one David?" Again asked my Mother as she turned her head to see me on the back seat. Mum was driving, she was always driving us kids somewhere. Four of us, all under the age of ten.

"The biggest brass one," I replied again a little louder, searching for the word. "It starts with T." I said struggling to recall more information.

"Most of them do." I was reminded with a smirk and a raised eyebrow as the blind spot was checked. The clicking of the indicator tutting my poor memory.

I'd walked into that one. "Um... it's sort of round..." I said attempting to describe what was in my empty little head, "...and has a big bell."

"Round with a big bell. Are you thinking of the french horn?" Mum queried as we paused at some lights.

"No, it's bigger and starts with a T!" I emphasized, as only a child could.

"Alright," Mum said in a problem-solving tone, "Was it the trombone?"

"No." I uttered glumly as nothing more came to mind.

"The trumpet." Mum suggested earnestly as the lights changed.

"That's the smallest one." I said an octave higher, exacerbated by the loss of such crucial information.

"Okay David," Mum replied, accelerating across the intersection. "Just have a think about it," now shifting into second, "And tell me if you remember."

To be continued...


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