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 }

Bold as Brass

25 September 2020








Any note you can reach, I can go higher.
I can sing anything higher than you.
No, you can't. (High)
Yes, I can. (Higher)
No, you can't. (Higher)
Yes, I can. (Higher)
No, you can't. (Higher)
Yes, I CAN! (Highest)

Any note you can hold, I can hold longer.
I can hold any note longer than you.
No, you can't.
Yes, I can
No, you can't.
Yes, I can
No, you can't.
Yes, I can....Yes, I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I CA-A-A-A-N!
Yes, you ca-a-a-an!

With thanks to Irving Berlin for some lines from one of his catchiest songs,
"Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better)"
a show tune composed by Berlin
for the 1946 Broadway musical
Annie Get Your Gun.

I think Annie Get Your Tuba
would make a great show title too.
Especially if this brass quartet played in it.
The names of these four young women are unknown.
Such that we can judge from their hair style and attire
they could be from the 1930s to the 1950s.
Their instruments are typical brass designs from central Europe,
with rotary valves instead of piston valves
(A slide trombone is a slide trombone everywhere.)
However on the back of their small photo
is a faint imprint of an address
which has only one word clear enough to guess.
It reads Th..... Strasse.
So I'm going to say these Vier Damen
are from Germany.

It looks like a German sofa too.

They look like a merry group of friends
who knew how to have fun.
I bet they sounded much like
this German brass band,
who play for us
an old German brass band standard,
Alte Kameraden.




This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where everyone's trying to have a good time
while  keeping their distance too.

We shouldn't let an opportunity
to hear a good earworm tune
go to waste.

Here is Betty Hutton and Howard Keel
singing Irving Berlin's famous song
from the 1950 film
Annie Get Your Gun





Strings of the British Isles

18 September 2020











String instruments can be plucked,

Or bowed,

or bowed and plucked at the same time. 

The multiple strings,
each tuned to a different pitch,  
gives the string instrument an ability to play chords. 

And with more strings
those chords can be strummed.
It only requires that the player
have nimble fingers
and rhythmic dexterity
on both hands.

Today I showcase five women
who clearly had that musical skill
to play a string instrument.

* * *

The first photo of a young woman holding a 5-string banjo comes from a carte de visite dating to the 1890s. Her banjo is not uncommon to find in photos of this era, but the place where the photo was taken is unusual because she is not in America where we might expect, but in England. The photographer was F. Southwell of Battersea, West Kensington, and Wandsworth in London.

The banjo became popular in the second half of the 19th century because of its use in traveling minstrel shows. By the 1890s the song styles of minstrel music, which borrowed this African-American folk instrument, were just becoming known in parts of the world far beyond the United States. This was still decades before ragtime, jazz, and even bluegrass music were invented, but the percussive thrum of the early banjo clearly attracted the interest of this woman. The fine inlay on her instrument's fret board shows that this was a banjo of quality. It's possible she might even be an American musician performing in London, but I would not describe her lacy blouse and plain skirt as a stage costume. The best part is her gentle smile.

                          * * *

The next photo of a woman with a violin is also from a cdv taken in London. It is unusual because the photographer has trimmed the image into landscape format so as to display the wide 3/4 profile of the woman in playing position. The photographer was F. W. Wood who evidently had taken over the studios of Elliot & Fry on 22 Bishops Rd. W. and 408 Edgware Rd. W.

The woman did not leave her name, but did provide a date 14/7/98, or 14 July 1898, which matches the era for her puffy sleeves and topknot hair. Mr. Wood's camera had a wonderfully clear lens and the sepia toning of the print is superb, but I still wish we could see her in color. Red hair and dress? With green eyes?

                               * * *

The third photo is another young woman posed with her violin in a similar playing position. This cdv has her posed with a 3/4 profile but the portrait format print cuts off the scroll end of her violin. However we do get to admire the black lace sleeves and filigree of her gown. She has a mature but youthful look that could be age 16 or 26. I can imagine her hair as red too. 

The photographer was the "Rembrandt" Studio of J. U. Valentine at 18 Bank Street in Teignmouth on the southwest coast of Britain. This Devonshire fishing port was also a fashionable seaside resort in the 1890s when this photo was likely made. It's not impossible that the violinist was a member of a ladies' orchestra engaged to play at a hotel restaurant.

                                   * * *


The fourth photo is of a serious minded cellist facing the camera nearly straight on but with her instrument pulled discretely to her left. The mottled discoloring is foxing on the original albumen print, which I have tried to correct by balancing the contrast. This young lady wears pince-nez spectacles attached to a safety ribbon that gives her a mature appearance, but again like the previous girl, she could be age 16 to 26.

The photographer of this carte de visite was the studio of Guy & Co. Ltd. of Cork, Ireland. This major city on the River Lee in southwest Ireland was a university town and center for culture. It likely offered women better opportunities to get a classical musical education than most towns in Ireland in this time.

                                 * * *


The last photo is not a cdv but a cabinet card photograph. Here a young woman dressed in an elegant white gown stands with a small guitar that is resting on an upholstered chair. She is from Bornemouth, another seaside town on Britain's south coast. Her guitar is handsomely made and festooned with a bow of ribbons tied to the headstock. She is also wearing long elbow-length white gloves with the fingertips carefully removed cut to allow her to feel the strings. The intriguing part of her attire is the decorative musical staff and notes embroidered to the hem of her dress. Something for a fancy dress ball? 

The photographer was W. J. Walker of 13, Gervis Buildings in Bournemouth. The larger cardstock of cabinet photos created more space for the display of a studio's backmark. I think this one is especially artful. 



This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where making tea can be complicated work.


Auf Urlaub — On Leave

11 September 2020

"Auf Urlaub"

"Der Heimat entgegen"

Landsturmmann Feldwebel Krause
Fährt auf Urlaub heut' nach Hause;

Leichten Sinns mit frohem Blicke

Winkt noch einmal er zurüche

Nach den Gräben zu den biedern,

Braven, treuen Kamfesbrüdern.

Ja, der Heimat geht's entgegen,

Schönster Weg von allen Wegen!

Rascher nie das Herz ihm schlug ....

Krause, flink, schon pfeift der Zug.

"On Leave"
"Towards Home"

Landsturmmann Sergeant Krause
Goes home on vacation today;

A light mind with a happy look

He waves back again

At the trenches to the honest,

Good, loyal brothers of the war.

Yes, he goes toward the homeland

Most beautiful pathway of all journeys!

His heart never beat faster ...

Krause, quick, the train is already whistling.

"Erzählung von Kriegserlebnisse"

Alles lauscht den Kriegsgeschichten,
Die Held  Krause kann berichten,
Lauscht voll Spannung und verwundert,
Wie mit wen'gen Mann fast hundert
Timmies er 'mal überraschte,
Als die Band' grad' Pudding naschte.
Ja,der Pudding war vorzüglich!
Krause schnalzt und lacht vergnüglich;
Alle lachen mit ergötzt, -
Nur das Fräulein ist entsetzt..

"Tales of war experiences"

Everyone listens to the war stories
That the hero Krause can tell,
Listening full of suspense and wonder,
As with only a few men, almost a hundred
Tommies he once surprised
While the soldiers were nibbling on their pudding.
Yes, the pudding was excellent!
Krause clucks and laughs happily;
Everyone  laughs with delight,
Only the young lady is appalled.

"Stürmische Begrüßung"

Horch der Zug! - Mit Donnerschalle
Fährt er brausend in die Halle,
Wo des Vaters der Familie
Harrt schon sehnend Frau Ottile.
Krause nacht im Sturmesschritte,
Packt gleich Muttern um die Mitte
Herzlich, wie noch nie im Leben;
Bang die Kleinen zetern, beben.
Fritze nur, der kouragiert,
Stolz die Fahne präsentiert.

Stormy greeting

Listen to the train! - With a thunderclap
It drives roaring into the hall,
Where Frau Ottile waits longingly
for the father of the family.
Krause like a storm with hurrying steps,
Embraces Mother around the middle
Heartily, like never before in life;
Fearfully the little ones moan, and tremble.
Only Fritze has the courage to
Proudly present the flag.

"Gesegnete Mahlzeit".

Welche Lust, wieder bei Muttern
Richtig, tüchtig 'mal zu futtern!
Doch bei solchen lecker'n Sachen
Muß man recht bequem sich's machen.
Krause läßt es wohl sich schmecken,
Gretchen sieht's mit wahrem Schrecken,
Nein, was solch Soldatenmagen
Alles, alles kann vertragen! -
"Papi, Dabel!" Lieschen sprcht,
Krausen stört das weiter nicht.

"Blessed meal"

What pleasure, properly back to mother
again, so good to eat well!
But with such delicious things
One must make yourself comfortable.
Krause enjoys it,
Gretchen sees it with real horror,
No,  soldiers' stomachs
Can take Anything! -
"Papi, Horse!" Lieschen speaks
Which doesn't bother Krausen.

"Endlich ein Bett"

Wohlig reckt und streckt die Glieder
Krause in 'nem Better wieder.
"Bett", du Wort voll Zauberklange,
"Bett", das man entbehrt so lange!
Aber wie im Unterstande,
Steht auch schon die Piep' im Brande.
Auf dem Boden liegen lose
Kunterbunt Schuh', Strumpf und Hose.
"Ordnung, segensreiche, du ..."
Krause schmaucht in Seelenruh'.

"Finally a bed"

Gently stretching and straightening his limbs
Krause is in a bed again.
"Bed", a word full of magic sounds,
"Bed", the thing one has been deprived for so long!
But as in the dugout
His pipe is already on fire.
Lying loose on the floor are
Motley shoes, stockings and pants.
"All right, blessed one, you ..."
Krause puffs away in peace.

"Im trauten Heim"

Heimaturlaubs erster Morgen!
Bei den Seinen wohlgeborgen,
Glückerfüllt genießet Krause
Ganz die Wonne des "zu Hause",
Doch die schönste Augenweide,
Vaters Stolz und Mutters Freude
Ist der Kriegsjung' in der Wiegen;
Schmunzelnd sieht ihn Krause liegen.
Ja, ein rechter Landsturmmann
Zeigt schon, was er leisten kann!

"In the sweet home"

First morning on home leave!
Safely with his own kin,
Krause savors his happiness
Delighting at being "at home",
But the most beautiful feast for the eyes
the Father's pride and mother's joy
Is the war baby in the cradle;
Krause watches him with a grin.
Yes, the real Landsturm man
already shows what he can do!

"Unter alten Freunden".

"Hurra Krause!"  Ohne Ende
Geht der Jubel, hoch die Hände
Eilen freudig ihm entgegen
Siene Kegelklub-Kollegen.
Krause dankt nicht minder herzlich,
Mancher fühlt es etwas schmerzlich, 
Spürt in allen seinen Gliedern
Diesen Händedruck, den biedern,
Und im Stillen denkt er sich:
"Armer Feind, du dauerst mich!"

"Among old friends".

"Hurrah Krause!" Without end
The cheers go up, hands are high
Rushing to greet him joyfully
His bowling club colleagues.
Krause thanks them no less heartily,
Some feel it a little painful,
Some feel it in all their limbs
From his handshake, though an honest one,
And silently they think:
"Poor enemy, if you hurt me!"

"Der Sonntagsausflug."

Sonntags, welch' "Pläsiervergnügen",
Mit Familie auszuf;iegen!
Schon früh morgens wandert Krause
Mit den Seinen aus der Klause,
Zu genießen auch im Urlaub
Heimatlüfte und -Naturlaub.
Arm in Arm, mit frohem Singen,
Fröhlich mit die Herzen schwingen -
Geht's ins Frühlingsland hinein ...
"... Vaterland, magst ruhig sein!"

"The Sunday outing."

Sundays, what a "pleasure of pleasure"
To go out with family!
Early in the morning Krause walks 
With his family out from his hermitage,
They will enjoy a vacation too
with nature's air and woods.
Arm in arm, with happy singing,
Happy with our hearts swinging -
Let's go into the spring land ...
"... Fatherland, may you be peaceful!"

This set of eight postcards was the work of a German artist, Carl Robert Arthur Thiele (1860–1936). From the 1900s to the 1920s, Thiele produced hundreds of postcards with a distinctive lighthearted humorous style. This series which tells the story of Feldwebel Krause's return to his home on leave, was published in about 1916-17 during the Great War. A Landsturmmann was a soldier in the German Reserve Army which consisted of older men who had finished compulsory military training but did not serve in the regular army units. Because of the nature of Germany's battle lines in WW1 on the Western and Eastern fronts, it was fairly common for many soldiers to get leave and return home. Judging from the large number of Thiel's "Auf Urlaub" postcards available today on postcard dealers' websites, this series was very popular during the war. Of course the reality of this terrible war for both soldiers and civilians was very different from Thiele's whimsical portrayal of his sergeant's home leave. But at the time, the cheery sentiment of yearning for home would have a universal appeal for soldiers and families on all sides of the war.

On the back of each postcard is a lengthy poem that describes the events in each picture. The titles printed on the front differ slightly from ones printed on the back, but seemed more appropriate to tell the story so I used those. I don't think the artist Arthur Thiele is the author of the poems. The last one is marked only with (K.E.W.). The translations from the German are my adaption using Google's translation app, but I would gratefully welcome any corrections.

Several of the postcards have no postmark, but were addressed to the same person, Fraulein Klementine Hahn(?) of Oettingen in Bayern (Bavaria) with written dates from 1917. These cards, I believe, were probably included in a letter written by a soldier to his sweetheart.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where passengers are advised
that the No. 16 train
departs from platform 5 
at 07:48.

Les Gougets - The Fantastic Horn Duo

05 September 2020

The instrument that I play is the horn.
Often called the French horn, the modern horn
used in orchestras and bands comes in several varieties
of complicated tubing with numerous valves and slides.
This extra plumbing allows it to play
a range of over 4 octaves of chromatic notes.

But a predecessor of the orchestral horn
is the Trompe de Chasse,
a brass instrument that originated in France.
It is a coil of tubing about 13 feet long
with a mouthpiece and flared bell.
The simple design allows it to be played
with the bell held either to left or right
and easily carried slung around the shoulder.

The instrument is associated with the French hunting traditions
where groups of Trompe players will accompany the hunters,
following the horses and dogs while playing horn calls
that describe the different elements
of the hunter's chase after their quarry.

But as far as I know
there are no French traditions
where the Sonneur–the player,
performs on two trompes at the same time.

 Or while bending over backwards.

 * * *

The first image of a man and woman dressed in white tropical suits and holding two trompes de chasse is taken from a postcard captioned:
The celebrated Gouget's Fantaisistes

We first met them in my post of September 2014 entitled Two Make Three, where they were called the Esperantoj Artisto, an unusual name written in an invented language called Esperanto. These first postcards of the duo were never sent so I had no postmark to date them. This newly acquired postcard has a clear stamp on the front with a date of 13 June 1908. The short message is Une bonne santé A good health. Incredibly, I believe it is from Madame and Monsieur Gouget and is addressed to Monsieur Robert Despard(?) of a circus in Nancy, France.

 * * *

The second image shows the Gougets playing two trompe de chasse in the traditional one-armed manner. Because there are no valves, the instrument is ambidextrous and the bell can go on either side of the player.

The postcard has a curious caption of Esperantoj Artisto, which means Esperanto Artist. The Esperanto language was devised in 1887 by L. L. Zamenhof, a Polish ophthalmologist, as an international language. According to its Wikipedia entry, the word esperanto translates into English as "one who hopes", though you only get esperanto when you use Google Translate which offers Esperanto as a language choice. What's more curious is why the M. and Mme. Gouget used this language.

The postcard I featured in 2014 was never posted, but this second version has two nice postmarks. One postage mark is from Nice, in the Alpes-Maritimes department of France, dated 23 April 1908. And the other from the city of Bayonne on the opposite southern corner of France in the department of Pyrénées-Atlantiques, marked 25 April 1908. It is also addressed to Monsieur Despard(?), the proprietor of a circus in Bayonne and I believe is written by one of the Gougets.

 * * *

The previous postcards are typical promotional material used by French music hall entertainers at the beginning of the 20th century. The printer used photos to make the image but the method is not as clear as the next two postcards which are true photographs. With flowers in her hair, Madame Gouget is dressed in a wonderfully embroidered gown and wears a pearl choker. Her husband wears a formal white tie with tail coat and sports a medal on his lapel, presumably for some musical honor. Their trompes are suitably shiny with a leather wrapping for the hand hold.

This postcard was never mailed but has a French warning printed on the back:

Tous les pays etrangers n'acceptent pas la correspondance au recto. Se renseigner a la poste.
Not all foreign countries accept front-facing correspondence. Inquire at the post office.

 * * *


Monsieur Gouget had another photo taken at the same session. Notice that there are pin holes that match the other photo. Here he is simultaneously playing a duet on two trompes de chasse. This novelty of playing two brass instruments at once is a very specialized skill. The player's two lips have to be flexible enough to make two different vibrations into each mouthpiece. Anyone who can do it well, deserves to have a medal.

The musical notes available for the trompe de chasse are restricted to only about 14 pitches, the acoustic overtones determined by the length of the tubing. Nonetheless quite a lot of music can be played on the trompe de chasse, but after a while the characteristic horn calls do tend to sound alike. 
This severe limitation on scales and musical keys were the principal reason that all early brass instruments like the trompe de chasse evolved into modern valved instruments which allow the instrument to instantly change length and thereby change key.

However the Gougets were clearly versatile musicians who understood the musical limits of the trompe de chasse and improved their act by including other instruments. This next image, clipped from one of their other postcards in my collection, shows how the fantastic Gouget duo could turn into a trio when Monsieur Gouget's applied his double embouchure to two cornets. Notice that one cornet has an extra piston valve on the side. I suspect this worked with a special echo attachment. Mme. Gouget is playing a flugelhorn here. Their attire matches the clothing in the two photo postcards so I think this was taken at the same time.


                                                                 Here is another postcard
                                                     of the Celebrated Gouget's Fantaisiates
                                             which I recently acquired after I wrote this post.
                                                  Madame and Monsieur Gouget are posed
                                     in their safari attire holding a flugelhorn and a cornet.
                                            Monsieur's instrument has a special attachment
                                    just below his left hand that looks like a motorcycle muffler.
                  Pressing an extra valve with his left thumb diverts the sound from the bell tubing
                       to an echo mute that gives the performer an instant effect of distant sound.

                                      UPDATE UPDATED

                                                     Here is another postcard of Monsieur Gouget
                                                         which arrived a day after my last update.
                                                 Clearly taken on the same day as the other postcards
                                                         of the Celebrated Gouget's Fantaisistes
                                                            this photo shows only Monsieur G.
                                                           holding a flugelhorn in his left hand
                                                               and the echo cornet in his right.
                                                               The position of the instrument
                                               gives us a good look at the "muffler" attachment.

 * * *

Back in August 2016 I featured the talented Gougets in a story entitled Musical Marital Arts with this postcard where they are standing in the same photographer's studio as in my first postcard of today. They are dressed in white traveling clothing suitable for an exotic tropical climate, but here M. Gouget has removed his pith helmet. Mme. Gouget holds a very short hunting horn that looks like it is actually made of animal horn, possibly rhinoceros horn. M. Gouget holds an amazing uncoiled trompe de chasse with six serpentine bends. In the picture it looks to be about 8 feet from mouthpiece to bell, though with bends it is longer still. Initially I assumed he was holding it in a playable position with the bell resting on the floor.

I was wrong.

It seems the proper position to blow an uncoiled trompe de chasse is vertical, delicately balanced on the player lips while bent over backwards. And because the instrument is limited in notes, it should be accompanied by a signal horn and the mandolin.

This illustration appears on a promotional postcard for a French circus.
It is undated but because of the dates on the previous postcards
I believe the celebrated Gouget's Fantaisistes,
the Esperantoj Artisto,
Monsieur and Madame Gouget
were a musical act for a few years around 1908.

Où allez vous?
Voir le Grand Cirque Pinder
Voir les seuls éléphants jouant aux quilles pour un diner
Ecouter les Instruments Monopole
de la Maison COUESNON, de Paris, 94, Rue d'Angouleme
Joués par les Virtuouses  et Mme Gouget
Where are you going?
See the Grand Circus Pinder
See the only elephants bowling for dinner
Listen to Monopole Instruments
of Maison COUESNON, in Paris, 94, Rue d'Angouleme
Played by the Virtuosos M. and Mme. Gouget

What the elephants thought
of the Gouget's music
we can only imagine.
But it's fun to think of them
swinging their trunks in time
to the Gouget's horn calls.

Here is a short video
to demonstrate the thrilling sound
of the trompe de chasse.
Conveniently the best duo I could find
happened to be a woman and man,
the Duo Pichon / Boitière
performing La Coursieroutdoors at a 2010 competition in Beaupuy, France.
The trompe de chasse remains even now
a popular instrument in France
and continues to be played
at formal hunts with dogs and horses
and at trompe competions.

* * *

* * *

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where the best art collectors know
that a good picture is worth a thousand words.


  © Blogger template Shush by 2009

Back to TOP