Monday, November 9, 2009

Good Night Ladies

This is my flutish collection. I don't have an actual flute, but I have several things somewhat like a flute. The biggest thing is the tenor recorder I have played for you before. The smaller thing just like it is a soprano recorder. Then there is the Navajo tourist flute I bought at a shop in Colorado, and there is a tin whistle, and there is a fife from a gift shop in Williamsburg, Virginia. I have misplaced my antique tin whistle and the little horn pipe made from the ash shot out of Mount St. Helens.

The black thing is a tonette, a little doodad Daughter No. 2 picked up from Restoration Hardware. It's a replica of the preband instruments we all learned to play in elementary school. Elver Joseph Fitchhorn, a band director in a small town in Ohio, developed the song flute in the 1930s as a way to teach young kids the basics of playing music. The patent on his invention read "Design for a Musical Instrument of a Flute-Like Nature." Fitchhorn played the French horn in the John Phillips Sousa Band, which makes him notable even if he hadn't come up with the song flute. Our little tonette here is a slight variation made by another company.

I vaguely remember having to play the song flute in elementary school. My school was in a very old building, and the music and art rooms were in the basement (symbolic, I would say). The walls were dark brown, the windows were small and above our heads, and the lighting was yellowish. I don't specifically remember the teacher—just a patient, adult presence in the room. After listening to my song played on the tonette, you may wonder why, when having to lead an entire room of fourth-graders on these things, music teachers of the mid-20th century weren't all alcoholics. Come to think of it, maybe my early music teacher wasn't patient. She was just drunk.

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