bring on the noise, bring on the funny!

Music and Humor

Being a music student isn’t easy. The work and the practice always pay off in the end but sometimes it’s hard to see that from the middle. Through everything, a sense of humor is a valuable trait.

In looking for an article to link to this week, I was struck by a few such pieces written about funny music that weren’t actually funny themselves. Funny, huh? That got me thinking about the nature of humor, which is certainly culturally constructed.I’ve heard that you know you’ve truly learned another language when you understand that culture’s jokes. In certain ways, humor is just as powerful as music as they both involve humility, learning experiences, comradery, a sense of freedom, and (hopefully) good-natured laughter.

So please enjoy some funny stories from fellow music students:

“The fall of my junior year of high school, we were doing a rather unusual show in marching band (“I See a Song”),whose theme was shapes and colors and all that abstract nonsense. So we had these huge, colored shapes made of PVC pipe and plastic sheeting scattered around the field. Well one night, we were practicing a routine in which I was in the very back of the marching line, near where the giant shapes were scattered. For some reason, the line was off that night, and I was pushed farther and farther back to stay in formation. Suddenly, my heels hit PVC pipe, and BOING! I bounced right into one of the triangles like an upright trampoline! Somehow I managed to bounce off, stay in line, AND stay in step – a feat that I was kinda proud of! Thankfully, the instructor corrected the line, so trampoline jumping didn’t become a regular routine in the show!” — Maria Passarelli, University of Pennsylvania

“Fellowship of the Strings (a string quartet at Franklin and Marshall College) was playing an Easter gig at Dr. Norcross’ (instrumental music director/conductor at FMC) church and, well, to say it in the best way, they weren’t too organized. As the rehearsals continued to drag on past the appointed hour every night, as well as the constant change in music and their disappointment that a 4-string quartet didn’t sound like the friggen Philly Philharmonic our tempers were a bit high. For what felt like the millionth time changing something in my music, I hear a voice behind me “So, how’s it going?” The voice being male, I instantly assumed it was our cello player, so I growled back, “Who’s behind me?!”
A pause and then…
“Someone you know,” says the voice I now instantly recognize as our fearless, virtuous leader: Dr. Norcross.
And then he smote me with his eyebrow…” –Alexandra Moody, Ross University

“I went to England and played in ensembles there. I thought I was going insane, because I could not understand a word anyone was saying. It turns out that in England, they call whole notes “semibreves”; half notes “minims”; quarter notes “crotchets”; eighth notes “quavers”; sixteenth notes “semiquavers”; 32nd notes “demisemiquavers”; 64th notes “hemidemisemiquavers,”; and 128th notes (which DID turn up in our music) semihemidemisemiquavers…” –Eliana Rabinowitz, Franklin and Marshall College

“In my life, I’ve found that humor often finds its way into music only when you’re most comfortable with both the music and the people playing it with you. My senior year of undergrad, I was in a saxophone quartet with three graduate students, and we all got along extremely well from day one. So, after we were sufficiently comfortable with our music, we immediately began messing around with it: adding silly embellishments and quoting other music, spinning around in circles while playing, and making weird faces at each other. My favorite thing to do was to change my notes while playing in parallel harmony with the tenor saxophonist, because the other two would turn and glare at him, suspecting him of making the musical joke. I feel that these moments, which often ended in roaring laughter, would not have been possible had we not been so close and so in sync with one another while playing” — Alice Rogers, SEMSU NCC committee chair

To end on a note of musical silliness, please enjoy PDQ Bach’s commentary on Beethoven’s Fifth:

Please leave comments and share your funny musical stories with us!

Heather A. Strohschein

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