Thursday, January 27, 2011

Possibly the nerdiest thing I have ever done. So I was into music when I was at school. I played clarinet in the orchestra and the wind symphony, sang in three different a capella choirs, and played piano in a shit jazz band called Thingy. (I feel entitled to call it shit, seeing as I wrote most of our repertoire.)

So when I hit university and there were various clubs you could join, I innocently thought I'd join a music club. Nobody had taken me aside, you see, and told me that only the nerdiest nerds joined interest-based clubs at university. I forget what the actual club was called, but we were basically the RMIT band. Most of the students were utter nerds – computer science and electronic engineering students, etc.

Now in musical terms, a 'band' basically means a symphonic band or a brass band – ie, made up of wind, brass and percussion instruments. However, we had to make do with whatever the people who'd signed up at the start of the year played. We had some traditional orchestral instruments, some brass, some woodwind – I seem to recall we had a surfeit of flutes – and so we had to sort of assign certain parts to whichever players we happened to have.

We used to rehearse once a week in a sort of multifunction room. I remember that one lady was in charge; she would bring the sheet music and we would practise several different pieces. I don't think I lasted more than a semester in this group, and we only performed once that I remember. It was at lunchtime in the RMIT caf. I seem to recall feeling very ashamed to tell my coolsie advertising mates about this gig, but they showed up anyway and stood in front of us, smirking.

I was just thinking about this tonight because I was watching an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation and the theme song was familar. This reminded me… are you ready, this is the nerdiest thing I have ever done… that one of the pieces we played was a medley of various Star Trek theme songs!

Not being an intense nerd, not all of them were familiar to me. My favourite was Voyager, which has a great trumpet solo and I seem to recall we actually had a trumpet player. This was his/her time to shine.

I think this might be the actual medley we played. We probably sounded as hilariously bad as this poor old community choir – and they had all the instruments! (In my opinion they were better at the Star Wars medley.)

That Star Trek theme really is lovely - all those SF serials have similar music - written to that model for western movie music, first laid out by Aaron Copland, I suppose. (The exception is the Dr Who music, which was groundbreaking early electronic-music stuff.)

I was in a small choir at uni too though, thankfully, we never sung anywhere.
It's the chord progressions, more than anything else, that have come to signify 'space' for me. (The Voyager video shows them from 0:45 to 1:08.) I would have to sit down in front of a piano and experiment to get the correct ones.

My other terrible secret is that I have always been really shit at sight-reading music, but I've found it easy to pick things up by ear. When I first joined my school's junior concert band, I stumbled along by copying what the saxophones were playing behind me until I figured out my part.

By the time I got to uni I was better at sight-reading, but when I was in this band and they put some unfamiliar music in front of me, I struggled to play it on the spot and was humiliated in front of all the other band dorks.
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