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
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A British Tenor Horn Bandsman

26 March 2011

Before the era of photography, only paintings or sculpture offered a way to commemorate a military man's life, but at a cost only afforded by wealthy officers. But with the advent of the inexpensive carte de visite, ordinary soldiers and seamen could now have a photographic memento of their military service too. And bandsmen with their shiny instruments and sharp uniforms made great subjects for any photographer.

Here we see a British bandsman holding a handkerchief and a Tenor Horn, an instrument in Eb derived from the saxhorn family and also known as an Alto Horn in America. This family of brass band instruments has the most confused nomenclature in all of music. Alto instruments are called  tenors, except when they are althorns; but tenors are called baritones, except in America when they are euphoniums, and let's not even discuss the cylindrical vs. conical bore. It's complicated.


This cdv from T. Smith and Sons of King's Lynn, Fakenham and Brigg dates from around 1885-1892. The bird and bamboo logo illustration was a style used by other photographers and gives a good approximation of date, as does the tiny name of the printer: Trapp & Münch, Berlin.
But who was the Highly Distinguished Patronage?

I find a lot of useful information at Roger Vaughan's website collection of Victorian photos, which I highly recommend.   It is an extraordinary  virtual museum of thousands of photographs and photographers, and has an excellent system for dating and  identifying old photos.

The label Army Musician is penciled on the back by a dealer but are there other clues?  A closer look at the buttons shows an embossed figure of a posthorn. Several Light Infantry Regiments have a similar insignia. Unfortunately the camera was not quite clear enough to be exact..

Here is an example of the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry   "French horn and White Rose" cap badge for comparison. They were established in 1881. At this time, every regiment had a band and the bandsmen were often recruited at a young age, perhaps 15 or 16, from the many orphanages and workhouse schools around Britain. The pill box hat was a common British military band headgear in contrast to the gaudy plumes of American band hats.

My contribution to Sepia Saturday

The Starbuck Cornet Band

12 March 2011

On first glance, the Starbuck Cornet Band of Starbuck, Minnesota would seem to be a band from the big city given the number of musicians. But in fact it is a very small village in central Minnesota on the western edge of Lake Minnewaska. This 1909 photo postcard of the band in a less common montage style, was produced by photographing a grouping of 7 photos mounted on a larger hand decorated display. With five tubas and nine other low brass, they must have made a pretty strong impression in concert.

In the center is the band leader, Prof. Charles A. Townsend, holding a cornet that, despite the low clarity, shows off some elegant engraving. A search of the internet produced a nearly identical montage photo of the Starbuck Band used as a promotional card for the C. G.Conn Company of Elkhart, Indiana. Prof. C.A. Townsend recommended the Conn band instruments as the best in the World. This was a popular gimmick used by the musical instrument industry to stake out new territory. It certainly worked in Starbuck, whose population in the 1910 Census was only 497.

The card was sent March? 16, 1909 to L.G. Gardner of Alexandria, MN.

How do you like the looks of this bunch? Grace says to tell you she got your card tonight. better drop her a line once in a while.
We gave a concert and dance at Lowry the 26th Cover(?) Big doing.

The writer Prof. was Charles Townsend himself. Born in 1877 in Minnesota, he married Grace Hutchins in 1898 and in the 1900 Census for Folsom, MN he records his occupation as musician. But sometime between 1900 and 1910, he moved to Villard MN, only a short distance NE of Starbuck, to work as a school teacher. Sometime in the next decade though, things change for C.A., as he remarries and relocates 130 miles west to Amherst,South Dakota where he leads another cornet band there, but dies in 1925 only 48 years old.

Today the title of "professor" would require multiple college degrees, and it seems unlikely that Charles ever had even one. But at this time in the world of music, it was enough to have talent and determination to succeed as a bandleader, and Prof. C.A. Townsend would seem a fine example of a real "Music Man".

But the real reason that the Starbuck Band has a special fascination for me is my own family history. My grandfather, Wallace R. Dobbin, was born 1906 in Glenwood, Minnesota which is at the eastern end of Lake Minnewaska, 10 miles from Starbuck.  His father - my great grandfather, William Dobbin was a rural mail carrier in Pope County for many years and I feel sure that someone in my family heard this band around 1909-10. If only I had known years ago, I might have chosen a Conn horn too, the best in the world!

My contribution to Sepia Saturday

Les Filles Françaises et Leurs Trompes de Chasse

06 March 2011

The French Girls and their Hunting Horns is a special collection of French postcards from 1905. These young ladies are playing Trompes de Chasse, an instrument that is the authentic French Horn and the ancestor of  the modern orchestral horn. It is played outdoors as the signaling component of the Hunt, an equestrian tradition that goes back to the 17th century and the time of Louis XV.  Here is an audio sample of Les Honneurs du Pied , the tune played when the quarry's foot is presented to a special guest. :

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The Trompe de Chasse is held either with the bell to the left or right and in this card you can see that the interior of the bell is painted black, supposedly to avoid upsetting the horses with flashes of the sun. The uniforms are also part of the equestrian tradition and could be in several colors like green, blue or red.  Another sample with Le Réveil :

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Players are called sonneurs or ringers, and play in groups, sometimes on horseback, but usually standing in a V-formation with their backs and bells facing the audience of hunt riders and hounds. The hand is not used in the bell for tuning as it is with the early valveless hand horn and modern valved  horn. The Trompe de Chasse is pitched in D, looped twice around, and lacks the ability to change the length with additional bits of tubing.  Another sample with Le Débuché which is used to indicate that the animal goes away from the forest :

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The traditions of the Hunt come from a time when music was more than entertainment but had practical purpose as well. There were dozens of hunting horn tunes played for every aspect of the hunt, from the departure of the horses; the mistaken scent picked up by the hounds; the standing animal brought to ground; the farewell to the guests; even probably the awarding of the special dog treats. The quarry might be a fox but could also be a deer or stag too, and of course the dogs, riders, trackers, and assorted followers would be quickly separated over hills and forest by a considerable distance, so the call of the horns would help everyone to keep with the program. More can be found at the French Wikepedia  entry for Trompe_de_chasse. Use Google translate.

Today the tradition of the Trompes de Chasse continues in France with clubs of professional  and amateur enthusiasts who love the sound of the horn but do not necessarily hunt.  More can be found a the website of the F.I.T.F.  - Fédération Internationale des Trompes de France
And there is even an American club too. Trompe USA

The samples comes from Echos de Sologne by Les Trompes de Chasse de Guy Brousseau et André Pigeat. 

Obviously the charm is in the novelty of girls playing the horn, which might actually have been the case, as unlike modern photo models, these young ladies certainly look like they know what they are doing. But the addition of the written-out musical tunes demonstrates how familiar it was at this time to have the ability to read music.

 Three of the cards were sent in 1905 to Madame and Monsieur Antoine Carriere of  Arles on the Rhone in southern France. This seems to be a common habit of the time to send multiple felicitations which may be why the postcards  were printed in series.

Was the sender on holiday attending a hunt event? Or did Monsieur Carriere play the horn too?

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday 

And for the full multimedia effect -
here is something I found on YouTube
from the Lyon-Parilly in 2009.

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