Posts Tagged ‘veteran’
There’s a whole breed of music I hate. Officially, it’s called modern, or 20th century. I call it artsy fartsy. As far as I care, this genre sounds as if the scores from all three Eastwood-Leone films were played at the same time. Not my cup of tea.
Although my veteran’s band I’m in plays mostly marches and Americana and insulates us from most twelve-tone atrocities, we still put up with our share of the avant garde. The next concert’s masochistic selection is Aaron Copland’s Lincoln Portrait. Ugh.
Lincoln Portrait features Aaron Copland at his Aaron Copland-est. Published at the outset of American involvement in the Second World War, it’s pretty much what you’d expect from Copland and his period — cheesily uplifting narration; triumphant brass; a main motif that sounds almost cribbed from Gone With the Wind.
It’s all well and good to listen to, I suppose, if melodramatic repetition is your thing, but it’s hell to play. From the bandsman’s perspective, it’s full of key changes, unfriendly time signatures and hatred of all mankind. I’d rather play the Faerie’s Aire and Death Waltz.
It doesn’t help that this piece’s director doesn’t have the firmest grasp of the material. Although there are reference numbers at every 10 bars, without fail, he’ll inevitably tell us that we should start seven measures before 150, or three after 210.
We don’t play this piece very well, even in the parts with the courtesy to stay in the same key for more than a few measures. Before we get far, he’ll stop us, and we’ll start over again.
In frustration, and forced good humor, he called us out on our unintended dissonance.
Seriously, now — Lincoln is the good guy.
With all this bad and ugly, we’d never have noticed.
I know a man-child. I had never met one before I joined the veteran’s band, but I did as soon as I started showing up to practice. He stood out. He stands out a lot.
He stands up a lot, too, up in front of the whole band. Though he couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket if it were welded inside, he’s our lead vocalist.
He isn’t that bad of a singer, I suppose, though his voice warbles out of tune with alarming frequency. He’s American Idol material, if with only this caveat — he’d only be popular in the first half of the season.
At our concerts, he’s introduced as a featured vocal soloist for the Chicago Symphony for “many, many years.” That’s his story he tells. We know that he was in a ridiculously large chorus performing beside the Chicago Symphony for a few performances, and hasn’t been back since. Maybe the director over there got as sick of his one-upmanship and unjustified self-centered diva personality as we should be.
We daren’t kick him out. He has a place here.
At the very least, he qualifies for our veteran’s band, as a former Navy SEAL. We ignore that he was kicked out of the Navy SEALs for getting his Navy SEALs tattoo before he finished training. He tries so hard to do some good, but just when you think he has something between the ears, he goes off and does some fool thing.
Especially on pieces when he’s in the back of the band playing percussion instead of the front singing or narrating, he’ll purposefully say something inane — “I can’t play the cymbal. My music says ‘suspended.’” We”ll look in his general direction to soothe his ego, and we’ll roll our eyes afterward. Our director is the picture of patience. He’s also the picture of subtly wry humor our soloist never picks up on.
He plays every instrument in the band better than the musicians who played professionally, if you believe what he says. You won’t: He can’t quite get a grip even on his bass drum and cymbal.
He is famous for his generosity, and is even more famous for how his generosity is a misguided attempt to purchase our friendship to him. He thinks it’s working because, in spite of it all, we consider him a friend.
He’s a loud, boorish cad, and the band just wouldn’t be the same without him. He’s our loud, boorish cad. That makes all the difference.
Old and young aren’t as different as I had thought, as recent personal observation attests.
Some members of a local veteran band cool down with some late-night eating after each weekly practice. Because I just joined the band this week, they didn’t know me well enough to not invite me — ha, ha — but invited me they did.
At least a full quarter of this band voted against Wendell Wilkie in 1944, another third has seen more than three times my 21 years and most of the rest hit puberty before my parents met. In other words, the band skews between relatively old and hellaold. Yet had their conversations been transcribed and rearranged, tonight’s dinner could have been credibly performed by a representative mix of teenagers.
The subject of the evening: We were kicked out of our rehearsal hall when the President of some association with control over it walked calmly in during practice and told our director that we had been reminded several times that we were not allowed to park in the alley because of the potential fire hazard.
As with teenagers, there was unrealistic whining bolstered by insight into the band that only a band member would have.
Why did Mr. President approach our director? He isn’t the head of our organization.
As with teenagers, there was fallacy.
This doesn’t make any sense. We aren’t the only ones who park in that alley.
As with teenagers, there was cattiness.
Well, actually, he didn’t yell at us. He kept his voice down, and I could tell by the way he announced that he was in AUSA, also, that it was all he could do not to cry.
As with teenagers, there was gossip.
I heard that in the letter they gave us, it says that someone asked one of our members had been asked to move his car, and that person said back, “Tow me.”
As with teenagers, there was implausible denial.
“Tow me?” That doesn’t sound like any of our people.
By my count, and from one practice, I could tell that “Tow me,” is the exactly the statement that at least four band members — one first trumpet, two clarinet, one tenor sax — in that band room would have said.
More over, getting kicked out of the veteran’s hall was a convoluted situation, and nobody really understood it, but they would only admit to it in their dramatic and accusatory tones of voice. Just like teenagers.
However much perspective changes over time, and whatever it is that experience adds to the human equation, just about everyone past adolescence has a teenage personality.