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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Two Make Three

26 September 2014

When does two make three? When one half of a pair is doubled of course. In this case it is the two musicians and three cornets of the Esperantoj Artisto. On the left stands a woman playing a cornet while her gentleman partner holds two brass instruments to his lips. One is an ordinary cornet in his right hand while the larger instrument in his left a flugelhorn. He has a very uncommon skill to vibrate his lips simultaneously on both sides of his mouth.

The woman's elaborate embroidered dress with pearls and sequined butterflies could only be suitable for a music hall artist. This French postcard has no postmark but dates from around 1910. Google's Translate considers their name to be in the artificial language of Esperanto.


Not only could this duo play trios on cornets but they also played the cor de chasse, the true French hunting horn. This instrument has no valves so the Esperantaj Artisoj musicians demonstrate it in the traditional manner with the bell held up to both left or right.

The sound of the hunting horn is quite loud and raucous, which is appropriate for an outdoor instrument. In France it is commonly played by groups of cor de chasse players arranged with the musicians turning their backs and the horn bells towards the audience. Another copy of this image has a postmark date of 1909.


In this postcard, the duo has changed sides and Monsieur plays two cornets while his female partner holds the flugelhorn. Their name has changed to Les Gouget, Virtuoses musiciens.

Monsieur Gouget is dressed in formal white tie and tail coat, and wears a medal on his coat pocket. Perhaps it it a prize for most duets by one musician. Madame Gouget wears a longer embroidered gown, but I think her sensible stage shoes are the same as in the previous photos.

Making the fingers work six valves and buzzing a doubled sound with the lips into two brass mouthpieces is difficult but not impossible. But tonguing is another matter. It would take quite a special technique to get the right rhythmic articulation while playing two brass instruments at once. That would be real artistry!

Did Madame develop this same talent?


In this last card the duo has made yet another name change, this time to English, as:
The celebrated Gouget's Fantaisistes  9, Rue des Petites Écuries, Paris
(The Street of the Small Stables) 

Both musicians hold a cor de chasse at the ready, and evidently they considered themselves world class artists as seen by their white traveling outfits. Monsieur Gouget wears a kind of colonial officers uniform with tropical topee hat while Madame Gouget is dressed in a short skirt and jacket with a kind of automobile touring hat. And both wear very high and tight fitted boots.  

What music did the Gougets play? Did they include other instruments or more musicians?  Did they make costume changes in their act?

We may never find those answers but they surely captured the attention of any music hall audience.


This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where every couple is on a bike.

Among my family photographs, there is a photo made in the 1920s of my grandmother Blanche Dobbin that makes a match with the Sepia Saturday theme. Not yet 20 years old she sits perched on the back of her cousin's motorcycle, outside his home in Washington D.C. 

Many years later when I was in my 20s and still in college, I bought a motorcycle and once gave my grandmother a very short ride. I doubt we went any faster than 40 mph but she had quite a thrill, no doubt remembering this long ago moment with her cousin.  


21 Wits said...

I just bet they played well together for sure, and it must have been very entertaining! How fun that you got your grandmother to ride with you, although did she ride sideways like that too? Or was that just for the picture?

Postcardy said...

Amazing performers and an amazing group of cards!

Wendy said...

A guitarist once told me he can't sing and play the guitar at the same because he lacks the coordination. But it certainly sounds like it would be far easier than playing two different horns at once. And speaking of horns, I do like the sound of the French horn and would like to hear how the REAL French horn is different.

Bob Scotney said...

As I can't play one instrument, my mind boggles at two at the same time. I do like the sound of French horns.

Anonymous said...

Your photos are very educational (and enjoyable) about the wide variety of musical entertainment of days gone by. I must say I am rather partial to listening to a flugel horn.

La Nightingail said...

Now if only Blanche or her cousin were holding a cor de chasse or at least a flugel horn while seated on that motorcycle . . .

Little Nell said...

Wonderful pictures of a talented pair The lady musician’s costume must have shone and sparkled; I bet it was beautiful in colour!


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