We got a new piece in Symphonic Band today. It's called Asphalt Cocktail, and I'm not really a fan. Be as that may, I love to play tambourine, and when I was assigned a somewhat involved tambourine part, I was really excited.
Then we started running the piece. It's meant to sound like a taxi ride though New York, and it does a rather good job, and by that I mean that it sounds like chaos from beginning to end. It's loud, bombastic, and annoying, and it makes me want to stab myself in the ear with a machete.
However, I was determined to play this tambourine part to the best of my ability. We only have one good tambourine, so I got it out, and I was playing with all the technique I could muster in a part that consisted mostly of "forte" and "fortissimo" (loud and really loud) dynamic markings.
Partway through, the director stopped us.
"How are you playing that tambourine?" he asked me. "With your hands?"
I had to repress the urge to roll my eyes or tell him that I was actually playing the tambourine with my head, how could he have missed it?
"Yes, with my hands," I said, keeping my other thoughts to myself.
"Well, could you make it sound any less like a tambourine?" he demanded.
My first thought was to ask him if he actually had a doctorate in music. You want the tambourine to sound less like a tambourine. What else could it possibly sound like? The point of a tambourine part is that it sounds like a tambourine. I get that you played clarinet, but I'm pretty sure you have to take techniques classes... Are you even listening to this part?
"I'll do what I can," I assured him. What I meant was that I would play the part more quietly and see if he forgot.
We read through a few more lines before he stopped us again. My heart sank as I saw his eyes fixed on me again.
"Do you have a different tambourine you could play?" he asked. At this point, I was starting to feel very unappreciated. Tambourine is more complicated than it looks like, you know. But I didn't tell him that.
Before I could answer, my section leader spoke up. "We have one, but I don't think you're going to like it," he said.
"We don't," I added. The director laughed, but asked us to go get it. I acquiesced, sure that he'd hate the sound of the old tambourine and let me go back to the other one.
We started the piece again. The new tambourine had tape over the head and was missing some of the jingles. It was too thick to hold comfortably, despite the fact that most of it was extra wood that didn't need to be there. Worst of all, it didn't allow for any dynamic expression. It only had one volume, medium, and it sounded pathetic. I looked forward to being told to go back to the first one, because the other one was clearly superior in every way.
We finished the piece, and my director looked at me.
"That one sounds much better, let's stick with it."