Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A Claycophony of Instruments

Whan that Aprille, with hise shoures soote,
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote
And bathed every veyne in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open eye--
So priketh hem Nature in hir corages--
Thanne longen bloggers their blogges to update.

I'm thinking of Chaucer because yesterday, I was on a jog with my friend C, and something she said made me think of The Squire's Tale, in which the narrator claims he will not speak of something and then goes on for a while speaking of it. C said there's a name for that rhetorical flourish, and I've tracked it down on Wikipedia: Apophasis (more specifically, Paralipsis and Proslepsis).

Says the Squire:

This Cambinskan, of whom I have you told,
High in the palace, mounted on his throne
With crown and royal vestments sat alone,
And held his feast, so splendid and so rich
That in this world its like was not, of which,
If I should tell you all of the array,
Then would it occupy a summer's day.
Besides, it needs not here that I apprise
Of every course the order of service.
I will not tell you of their each strange sauce,
Nor of their swans, nor of their heronshaws.
Moreover, in that land, as tell knights old,
There are some foods which they for dainties hold.
Of which in this land the esteem is small;
There is no man that can report them all.
I will not so delay you, for it's prime,
And all the fruit of this were loss of time...

At the point in my education when I read The Canterbury Tales, it seemed that the narrator went on for pages and pages like this. As an adult, I see he didn't (maybe there are longer examples elsewhere in the text), but my memory of him inspires my blog today.

Thus, I will not tell you of the past year of running with C, training first for a 10K and now for a 10 mile race; of the weekly interwebs running assignments she signed up for and from which I mooched; nor will I tell you of our increasing endurance, nor how 5K, once strenuous, now feels brief.

Moreover, I will not so delay you by reporting on my renewed love affair with Robert Schumann, of my exploration of his Six Canonical Etudes (with which I was previously acquainted through Debussy's arrangement for two pianos), nor of their beauty on the organ, nor of my continued good but largely unrealized intentions to record and here upload my organ demos at Duke Chapel, so that I might learn from the listening thereof. Moreover, I will not mention the comment left by a YouTube listener regarding someone else's too-fast but otherwise accomplished performance of Bach's "Kyrie, Gott heiliger Geist," BWV 671 (a piece about which I erstwhile wrote)--no, I will not mention the five words that cut to the quick, dissuading me from ever being so bold as to post anything but cute cat videos on YouTube; nay, I will not here type the patronizing punch: "This is a laudable start."

Instead, I will get to my primary point of the day (about which I will actually say little; there's probably a rhetorical term for that too): musical instruments made out of clay. I've blogged before about making clay flutes and, of course, chickarinas. Thanks to a request by a student at Claymakers, this past session I taught a class entirely devoted to making clay instruments ("Bells and Whistles: A Claycophony of Instruments"). We made ocarinas, flutes, penny whistles, rain sticks, drums, horns, vuvuzelas, and tooters, with some bells and bowls on the side (not surprisingly, pretty much anything you whap will produce a tone).

Barry Hall's fabulous book From Mud to Music served as our inspiration. Barry Hall's even more fabulous CD Terra Cotta made me and E drop everything one evening after dinner and rush out to Home Depot to buy PVC parts for a didgeridoo. The student who requested the instruments class ended up building an impressive didgeridoo-horn hybrid that is way cooler than PVC tubing can ever be.

This was a great class to teach, since it involved problem solving and engineering, music theory and physics, and rawhide (sorry cows) and roofing nails and holes and a willingness to make noise on the way to making music. (Did you notice all the conjunctions in that last sentence? The rhetorical term for that is Polysyndeton.)

Naturally, we ended the class with a potluck and jam session. Alas, I did not have time to bake jam bars, but one student did bring caramel Bugles.

Note: video has been edited to protect the embarrassed; you know who you are. Also, S insists the flute lick is "House of the Rising Sun," but that would mean I actually absorbed something other than classical music during my early youth, which is unlikely.

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