When I was in college, I played in a certain notorious “marching band.” Sadly, my original instrument, French horn, doesn’t translate well to the football field – it points backwards, which is a distinct advantage in a stadium – and so I played a mellophone instead. The better ones look like this:
The worse ones we called turkey horns. They looked like this, if you can mentally add a few dents and scrapes:
Yes, this is a pretty specimen, and the term “turkey horn” might seem harsh. But here’s the problem. This horn is good and loud – a plus on the field – but chronically out of tune. Even the best of us couldn’t stop it from sucking. (At least a couple of you readers know just how epically it sucked.)
So I can’t resist comparing the vuvuzela to the mellophone: the main purpose of each is to produce a lot of woefully uncontrollable noise. Both are apt to frighten small children. As my husband observed, “The vuvuzela is a mellophone without valves.”
Here’s proof positive that he’s right. The musicians in this clip are performers at the Konzerthaus Berlin, the exact place where I met my husband nearly 19 years ago. They don’t identify what they play in “real life,” but I’m assuming they’re all brass players, because they coax a pretty nice sound from the humble vuvuzela. (The room’s acoustics don’t hurt, either.) If you don’t get the German, they’re discussing how to make the correct sound to produce a beautiful round tone on the vuvuzela. They then perform a Bach Chorale and the little-known vuvuzela solo that Ravel, as they dead-pan, “couldn’t resist” including in his “Bolero.”
Just try doing better on a turkey horn!