This is a blog about music, photography, history, and culture.
These are photographs from my collection that tell a story about lost time and forgotten music.

Mike Brubaker
{ Click on the image to expand the photo }

Ringing in the Year

01 January 2016

Prosit Neujahr!
Cheers New Year!

No musical instrument requires more patience than the triangle, an instrument of unmatched geometric simplicity. It may take only a moment of instruction to learn to play one, yet triangle mastery is only acquired after years of dedicated concentration  measuring the time before its alarm is sounded.

That was the perceptive observation of the artist who produced this caricature of an aged trianglist awaiting the precise point in the music when his instrument makes its trilling entrance.

* * *

This German postcard was posted a bit late for a timely salute in Hamburg on the 30th of January, 1905 to Fräulein Grete Vogt (?) who resided in Grindelberg, a suburb of Hamburg. The regulations of the Union Postale Universalle mandated that the upper corner of the address side should identify this postal rectangle in 13 languages:  French, German, English, Italian, Hungarian, Polish, Croatian, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese, Swedish, Dutch, and Danish.  

Though the German word for a triangle is Dreieck, the great German composer, Richard Wagner, knew this percussion instrument by its Italian name, Triangolo. In his opera Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, which typically takes 4½ hours to perform (not counting intermissions) and thereby necessitates a change of orchestras midway thru to follow the musicians union rules, Wagner gives the triangle player a generous 4 pages of music containing mostly hundreds of empty measures rests and percussion-less scenes. However there is one prominent part for a triangle that first appears at the end of the overture to the 1st Act. Wagner liked it so much that he repeated it two more times, compelling the hapless musician to stay attentive until Die Meistersinger's glorious end. Here is the last page of the trilateral percussionist's part.

And courtesy of a very capable young percussionist on YouTube
we can hear a splendid rendition of Wagner's clattering music for triangle
without the distraction of opera singers and orchestra.

Alas, that video was removed.
So here is a substitute player,
whose video is taken from an unusual angle.



So this is the lesson for 1905 and 2016.
Be patience, make life count and your time will come.
My best wishes to everyone for a prosperous new year!

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where oranges are on special at 1¢ apiece all weekend long.


Alex Daw said...

What a beautiful postcard and the You Tube video was a treat!

Postcardy said...

That triangle playing is cool, but it sure could get on your nerves fast if you had to listen to him practice.

La Nightingail said...

Love the postcard! But on viewing the triangolo music all I could think was - OMG, the time signature changes constantly happening between measures! Lord in Heaven, I wouldn't want to try counting that mess out. Whew!!! I had no idea triangle players had that much to do.

Alan Burnett said...

What a wonderful start to 2016 - the perfect Brubaker balance of great images, measured words and total fascination. I was given the triangle to play in the junior school orchestra and, until today, I have always felt a little ashamed by that memory. Now I see things differently - you have made me proud of my musical past.

kathy said...

I have a new appreciation for the triangle.

Kristin said...

I played the triangle in a piece, name unknown, when I was in kindergarten. I believe I carried it off as well as the other players but no where near as professional as the youtube youth.

Little Nell said...

I now have the greatest respect for the triangle, but I have to agree with Postcardy, as a solo instrument it could be just as wearing as those old angel chimes of mine!

Helen Bauch McHargue said...

Loved hearing it without the distraction of the opera and orchestra. You made me laugh as usual. I had no idea that they had actual musical scores to follow....pages and pages of waiting and resting. One of my New Years resolutions is to attempt to meditate. Thinking about a patiently waiting trianglist might be a good way to start.

Karen S. said...

I just happened to be listening to youtube while posting too, nice video. Just a great postcard, he's such a funny/delightful sight!

Jo Featherston said...

I imagine there is nothing worse than a solitary note from a triangulist that is played just a second too late! I always imagined that those who play the triangle must also be percussionists, but I suppose that's not always the case. Great Youtube clip!

Sharon said...

I had forgotten that I played the Triangle in primary school! While I was listening to the video, my son asked "What is that? It sounds like the worst ever alarm clock!"


  © Blogger template Shush by 2009

Back to TOP