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The Long Path to the Devil's Instrument - Part 1

Posted by Phoeniceus on Tuesday, November 4, 2008

1970's: The Flute

I did not start out playing fiddle.

In elementary school, in the fourth grade, our music teacher interrupted our series of embarassing sing alongs and square dances to introduce us to the instruments of "The Band": trumpet, baritone, cornet, flute, clarinet, percussion, etc. At the time, I was too innocent to realize his concept of The Band did not contain a single stringed instrument.

I chose the flute. It was portable, inexpensive, and soulful. I spent four years learning to read those little dots on the paper and convert them into something pleasing to the ear.  For four years, my parents would ask, "How was your flute lesson today?" and I would answer,

"Fine."

"Did you have a good time?"

"Yeah, fine."

That was all I would tell them. My parents learned to stop asking me about it, but they began to refer to my teacher as "Mr. Fine."

In that time and place, the flute was a girl's instrument. Things were changing in the world, and a boy could play flute, or cook, or sew, or knit, but he better be good at it if he wanted to get even a little respect, and then he still better know how to fight. I wasn't very good and I didn't fight. Not for my honor or pride or even for the first chair audition, and no one ever suggested I try. So I never did. To my ears, the flute sounded beautiful, but everytime I played it in front of other people, all the saliva in my mouth would vanish only to reappear glistening on my forehead, and I could suddenly hear every wrong note and damaged tone.

After four years, it was time to enter eighth grade, which meant, in Atlanta in those days, high school. high school started at eighth grade, so if you think you suffered during your freshmen year , you can at least thank God that you were never a SUBfreshmen. There was no way I was going to carry a flute around my middle class high school. I didn't sell it, but I stopped taking lessons and I soon stopped playing altogether. For three years, i did not play any music except on a turntable.



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