Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The sounds of music

Leave it to the littlest Huffman to bring some music into our lives by signing up for recorder lessons.
I tried not to wince when she announced this news. You may recall that the recorder has a very particular sound — usually described as shrill, sharp or downright irritating.
The lessons are at the school, she said. You don’t have to take me anywhere. And it’s free.
She had me there. How could I say no to free music?
Have pity on the humble recorder. The recorder is like the Rodney Dangerfield of musical instruments — it don’t get no respect. The recorder is the “Jersey Shore” of TV shows. It’s the Cheez Whiz of fromage. It’s the cubic zirconia of diamond rings. Even the cowbell is cooler than the recorder.
Why do they call it a recorder anyway? The flute gets a pretty name. Even “piccolo” sounds cute and peppy. But “recorder” sounds like some Soviet-era device with spy-like undertones: “I vill play zee recorder now, and you vill hand over zee hidden documents.”
The recorder is usually music to nobody’s ears. In the hands of enthusiastic toddlers, the recorder can become almost a weapon of torture. Or a very effective parental wake-up call on Saturday mornings.
I think the recorder needs better street cred. It needs to be rebranded with a social media public-relations campaign a la 2012. Instead of calling it a “recorder,” how about a new name like the “Tweeter,” the “Toot Toot” or the “Woot Woot”?
The “new” recorder needs a Facebook page and a Twitter account. Another must is a celebrity BFF like Kim Kardashian who will be photographed carrying it to and from Hollywood hotspots, or a mini-BFF like Suri Cruise. Just imagine what today’s pop superstars could do if one of them played the recorder at a concert (#justinbieberrecorder).
Famous designers or other brands could be called upon to create their own designs for the recorder. I could see Starbucks recorders sold next to coffee mugs, Ugg recorders with a lambswool-lined carrying case, or Apple recorders that come with the free iRecorder app. What about Burberry plaid recorders or a “Project Runway” recorder challenge?
Here’s another new use for the recorder — DIY teenage alarm clock. Parents, just get your handy recorder and when it’s time to wake up your teen, simply perch on the side of their bed and start playing a few classics like “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” or even better, “You Are My Sunshine.” For maximum effect, tell your teen that your spouse is recording the serenade and will post it on YouTube.
Several weeks after our daughter joined the recorder band at school, I went to pick her up after a lesson.
I expected to hear them playing something along the lines of “Three Blind Mice,” or maybe some “Hot Cross Buns.”
Instead, they launched into “Ode To Joy.”
It’s amazing what a little Beethoven can do for the recorder.
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