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Trey Reely | October 2019


    One evening I was preparing for a euphonium masterclass and decided to do a little online research on the history of the euphonium. I surfed the Web a little, quickly finding the familiar serpent and ophicleide that I first encountered in my pre-internet college days. After reading about them again to remove a few mental cobwebs, I realized that I might be able to hear them for the first time if they were on YouTube, and indeed they were. It was an exciting moment; years ago I was totally dependent on a written description of its sound, but now I could experience it myself.
    This got me to thinking. I had heard it said that one could find anything on YouTube, and finding someone playing a serpent or ophicleide was surely first-rate evidence of that – but can you really find anything? To see, I compiled an odd, random list.
     John Philip Sousa speaking. Yes, it’s there. I found a video of a 1930 meeting of the Gridiron Club at the White House where Sousa speaks and then conducts his Gridiron Club March. There is also a 1929 international broadcast (audio only) where Sousa introduces his Stars and Stripes Forever.
    A performance of Claude T. Smith’s A Thousand Hills Overture. I first heard this during my student teaching in 1984. For several years, it was a very popular contest selection. Good news: there are still many recordings of this.
    Someone playing a burumamaramu (a bull-roarer of the Fly River area of New Guinea). I did not find a recording of this exact instrument. However, I did find a recording of an instrument that said in its description that it made a sound similar to that of the burumamaramu.
    Someone playing a hurdy-gurdy. Since the hurdy-gurdy dates back to the Middle Ages, I was surprised to find so many recordings of it, and even more surprised to find that there are modern versions of the instrument being made. Patty Gurdy, a German musician, has some beautiful recordings that are posted; one of them has more than six million views.
    Beethoven’s 5th Symphony performed on the nose flute. No luck here, but it was close. I did find a man playing Ode to Joy from Beethoven’s 9th.
    A William Revelli rant. I have heard over the years that former University of Michigan bandmaster William Revelli (1902-1994) was known for his intensity and flashes of temper. Believe it or not, there is a recording of one of his rants. It is rather difficult to hear, but you’ll get the idea.
    Someone burning an oboe. I’m happy to report that I did not find this, but there is a video of someone burning an oboe reed to Ravel’s Bolero.
    Henry Fillmore conducting a band. I stumped YouTube on this one. There are many audio recordings of his marches, but no video of him conducting.
    Someone playing a sousaphone underwater. I could not find this, but I know it will happen at some point. I found a trombone player doing this, and if my past experience is any indication, the trend-setting trombone player will have other members of the low brass section following suit soon.
    Someone playing a song on a zucchini. I found a video of a cool-looking dude playing Toto’s Africa on both a sweet potato and a large squash using video and audio multi-tracks. Since zucchini is a type of squash, I am calling this a success.
    A guide on how to convert a timpani into a planter. A few years ago, I had to store three old timpani in our shed at home because there was not enough room at the school after purchasing new ones. My wife asked me if she could have one to plant flowers and such in. It sounded like a neat idea, but I declined and ended up donating them to a band in need. Surprisingly, if YouTube is any indication, no one else has a timpani planter. I did, however, find a guitar converted into a planter.
    A man dressed as Abraham Lincoln playing a violin. This is not as far-fetched as it sounds; Abraham Lincoln could actually play the violin. However, there are no recreations on YouTube.
    A drum major falling from a podium. There were several entries that featured drum majors making rather amazing recoveries while continuing to conduct.
    A marching halftime or contest show about moose. I found one halftime show titled Rocky vs. Bullwinkle performed by the University of Michigan Band in 1985. It was a musical melding of the Bill Conti’s Rocky from the boxing movie of the same name and the Rocky and Bullwinkle theme from the cartoon.
    Three random musicians from Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians:
    Mieczyslaw Soltys (1863-1929). A Polish composer who wrote several operas, nothing was posted for him. However, Soltys would be proud of his son Adam (1890-1968) who has a low brass ensemble recording posted.
    Teodoro Valcarcel (1900-1942). A Peruvian composer known for his studies in Peruvian folk music. There were actually several videos with his name attached, including a soprano solo titled W’ay! that had 1,288 views. His Concierto Indio (1940) had 44,652 views.
    Bogumil Zepler (1858-1918) was a German composer of operatic parodies and comic operas. Happily, his music does live on, but barely. I found a march he wrote for brass quintet. (Or as the French title on the video clip said, Quintette de Cuivres.)
    A Mozart concerto played backward. There does seem to be some fascination with how musical pieces sound backward. Although I did not find a Mozart concerto played backward, I did find Eine Kleine Nachtmusik in reverse and a pianist playing Rondo Alla Turca while he was on his back.
    Someone destroying a metronome. Surprisingly, I only found one video of a kid destroying one, and he didn’t seem to be a frustrated musician, just a destructive kid who makes boring videos. He had 31 views, so I joined 31 other people in wasting my time watching.
    A jazz version of theme from Three’s Company. I used to hate this televison theme song and the show as well. Would any jazz arranger feel differently? Yes, sort of. I found a video of the cover band and comedy act Richard Cheese & Lounge Against the Machine performing it at Webster Hall in New York City in 2008. It had more than 18,000 views. Lounge singer Richard Cheese is a character created and portrayed by Los Angeles-based comedian and singer Mark Jonathan Davis.
    As you can see, YouTube doesn’t have everything, but it has nothing to be ashamed of. The good news is that if you have an inkling to post something you think is unusual, there’s still room for more. One tip though: if you are thinking of making and posting a 3D-printed serpent, forget it; that’s been done.