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 }

Tuba Babies

24 April 2015


Brass musicians often use mutes inserted into their instrument's bell to muffle and alter the tone. However these accessories are quite expensive for tubas due to the size, so babies are substituted in the interest of economy. While some tuba baby mutes do have a drawback due to excessive squirming which may result in a stuck mute, there can be musical advantages of adding a high descant part if the child can sing. And given enough training, they also can hold the music.  

This image of a proud father and son is taken from a glass plate negative, 108mm x 112mm in size. There are no marks for their identities, date, or place. Though the bandsman's collar does have a badge with initials, the focus is unclear. The camera lens did pick up the ornate engraving on the silver tuba. The child wiggled.
So this photo must forever remain
timeless — tempo senza tempo

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Another disadvantage to the baby tuba mute is that one size does not fit all. Inevitably the mute out grows the instrument leaving the player at a disadvantage unless he can produce more. Here we see two novel solutions for baby tuba mutes. The one on the left clearly is no longer a good fit but it seems it could double on cornet. The one on the right is smaller and has been stuffed into a helicon, sometimes nicknamed a "rain-catcher".  It is possible that the two bandsmen holding it are actually attempting to extract the baby tuba mute.

The fathers, and I think uncles and grandfathers too, are members of the Banda Verde of Sterling, Illinois. Their large format photo appeared on this blog in July 2010. The band of  17 musicians (and two young apprentices) are posed in front of Sterling's town bandstand for a patriotic event that involved the G.A.R. – The Grand Army of the Republic or Union Army veterans. 

Sterling, IL Standard
August 24, 1905

I have since uncovered more history of the band which played their first concert in 1905. I believe this photo dates from September 1906 based on several reports in the Sterling newspaper for a G.A.R. reunion.  

The musicians were union members of the American Federation of Musicians as marked A. F. of M. on the bass drum. Their uniforms were in fact dark green  with black braid trim.

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The tuba player and his son were part of several glass plate negatives found listed in the same estate sale. I acquired this extra negative of the same father and son because it is a beautiful photograph.

The location of the rowboat, the date, and the names are all unknown.
But the photographer holding the camera was mother.  She had a good eye, I think.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday.
Click the link to see how other people are bringing up baby.


Postcardy said...

Great photos for the baby theme, and your description is amusing.

Howard said...

Fascinating, but if the child, err, 'passes wind', what happens? A soprano bleat plays out of the mouthpiece? Or maybe the player gets a taste of his own medecine.

Anonymous said...

My goodness. I would ever have thought of popping baby into a tuba for a photo. But the results are good

Sharon said...

An amusing post, which made me smile.

Wendy said...

I'd like to be there when the tuba player blew really hard and shot that baby into the air.

Unknown said...

I'm still laughing! Love the one with the kid sitting on the tuba -- I've seen flowers in tuba bells, but never kids!

La Nightingail said...

I wondered how you were going to work babies into your post this week. I knew you'd do it, but you exceeded my expectations completely! Great post. And I really laughed at Howard's and Wendy's comments. Lots of fun, here.

21 Wits said...

I just adore that baby inside! How cute. You always find the best sources to relate with our theme, bravo.

Little Nell said...

What a find that last shot is; so engaging.

Rosie said...

Funny indeed, babies in a tuba, most interesting too, hope the babies had rubber panties on!!!

Brett Payne said...

I think mother had a good eye too, Mike. Great photos for this week's post, thank you Mike.

Barbara said...

Wonderful photographs and your descriptions made me smile.

Jofeath said...

The tuba player is a changed man in the boat, looking quite different. Good to see that children were not always kept out of sight, out of mind when their fathers played with their fellow bandsmen.

Unknown said...

Hilarious post! I mean, if you have a baby at the ready anyway, it would make sense to put the tot to work. Start em young!

Helen Killeen Bauch McHargue said...

Very funny. I've notified my friend with quintuplets that they have five tuba mutes as well as five babies.
They'll be pleased to know this.

Joan said...

What a fun and interesting post. And I am glad you kept that last photo --- it is very nice. Always enjoy your posts -- interesting, funny, and querky -- all in the best sense.


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