The Andante Project — Part 1: Reflections on What Were Meant to be Good Ideas…   Leave a comment

Yoda Raises Luke’s Fighter by Psychokinesis – Trust Me, It’s Relevant – Time to Get My Own Capture Software Tho’

So let’s see now…Andante 1

Divide $65,378.38 (the money I had April 1 2012 — April Fool’s Day — how grimly metaphorical…)

By $1,200.00… (what I think should be my average asking price of one of my rebuilt Jazz-era saxophones… aren’t they pretty?) Andante 2

Works out to 54 / 55 saxophones, and to do it in a year, about 4 / 5 per month. A scarcely taxing proposition on the face of it…

And at this point… still…

● 1 piccolo
● 7 flutes
● 1 oboe
● 2, possibly 3 clarinets, but one may be high pitch
● 1 bassoonAndante 3
● 3 alto saxes
1 tenor sax
● 1 trombone
● 1, possibly 2 euphoniums

(If I can find / contrive a mouthpipe for the second… and if it isn’t High Pitch. Raphael informs me it is in fact, an F Tuba, making the whole endeavor “an exercise in futility” as Perky Perry would have put it — But I blither, as Medea would put it…)

● And a whole buncha balalaikas handed to me by Raphael on a platter, including a contrabass.Andante 7

Andante 6At a rough guesstimate, $10,595.76. Like a politician at the bottom of the Rideau Canal: A good start.

Admittedly some of this stuff is junk … the LaFleur piccolo, the Olds Ambassador sax for example… But “junk” is to say: “A typical student model instrument”; nothing stellar, but perfectly good to start on. But also, not really worth fixing, except it’s what Ive got to work with.

But still, restored, I should be able to fairly ask $200 for the LaFleur, and $500 for the Ambassador (I’m going to be asking $175 and $350 respectivelyattention shoppers! — You’re saving 12.5% and 30%!)…

*   *   *

…. For some reason now, seems to me it was the 3rd of September, 2003… I hugged Crystal, my unhappy, tiny, Chinese porcelain doll of a wife goodbye, and got on the plane, to begin a two-year odyssey aimed at turning  my life around. 44 years old, “no age to start again” and off to Keyano College, located in beautiful Fort McMurray, Alberta (via Victoria, BC, to check on the Agéd P.’s first) to learn the art of musical instrument repair, something I was very interested in learning about, ever since I was 14. The one place in Canada and (at the time) one of only 5 places in North America to have such a course…. Now regrettably, down to 4, all in the US of A.Andante Ft Mac

Things hadn’t been going so well between us, doncha know?, since about 2001… that was the start of my mid-life crisis, realizing that, despite my best efforts, I was going to crap out of the same Linux course, conducted by the same incompetent crapulent prat for the third God-damned time in a row. Something’s very wrong with a course if you’re failing it three times over, despite your best efforts, but no college administrator will ever take your side on such an issue, much less do anything about it, and I’d been at the receiving end of this kind of garbage far too many times in my life already. It was part of a computer networking diploma offered by a local community college and I was doing it to rescue my employment situation, which was in a downward spiral from temp job to abrupt dismissal to temp job to abrupt dismissal. It’s the nature of temping: Gruesome, abusive, ugly, shit work with no security and certainly no future, at all; just look at someone wrong and you’re fired.

This factoid allayed my ex’s growing anxiety about me, not one little bit. And at the end of it, I was working part-time in the evenings for $9.50/hour in a call center doing telephone survey work.Andante 8

Thus the mid-life crisis.

Hunh. I recall another  instructor’s 14-year-old daughter working out a problem in C++ on the blackboard while he was wasting our time with Novel Netware (remember that? …nah, I didn’t think so…) and thinking… “I’m 42, this little girl is 14, and she… is going to be my competition…”

… Somewhere along the way, I recall helping Judy and Ian, would-be employment head-hunters, shredding and pitching 6 banker’s boxes stuffed full of resumes of people who were never, ever, going to get a job, in the hi-tech sector.

… And Crystal almost, but not quite, caught me attempting to mess around with Judy, and that, as they say, was that: Took the marriage 3 years to die, but die it did… How stupid can I be, you may ask? Alas, Gentle Readers: Very.

*   *   *

Not sure why I’m mentioning all this, but this post seems to be growing in the telling…

Contrast the “Hi-Tech Sector” where everything you learn is worthless in 18 months at the most, to “Musical Instruments, Their Making and Repair”…the apotheosis of 19th-century craftsmanship; a very, very curious collage of trades altogether, combining the best skills and intuition imaginable in ingenuity, design, wood- and metalworking — and from my experience, altogether swathed in secrecy and mystification. I can recall on several occasions as a teen, asking the repair tech where they learned their stuff — and they flatly refused to tell me. First learned about instrument making from my cousin-by-marriage Fëanor, who had gotten into it during graduate work due to the exorbitant price of replica medieval and renaissance instruments. I had no idea there were schools that taught instrument making and repair, until my mid-twenties: Four schools in the US — dealing with wind instrument repair only, not making… And I didn’t have the money to go…

As for stringed instruments? Well, the London School of Furniture Making, failing that, learn Italian and go to Cremona. I’m serious. And while there’s lots of books and explanation (up to a point) out there for things like guitars, violins and banjos… even lutes… for woodwind and brass? Nah… not so much. About the only book covering wind-instrument making as such I can think of is The Amateur Wind Instrument Maker. And forgive me for this, Trevor, the emphasis is on “Amateur”.  That said, unlike computers, the major development work in woodwind instruments is done: The flute was finalized in 1847.. the oboe, 1907.. the clarinet, 1844.. the bassoon, early 20th century; the saxophone has scarcely changed since it was patented in 1837. Thus you don’t have to relearn the same things over and over and over.

The field remains very secretive and arcane. There were quite a few techniques they only alluded to at Keyano, never demonstrated, saying “You’ll learn about this in about 10 years” — The idea being apparently, that the person you worked for, would be keen to train you to be their competition. Meanwhile while at Keyano I got busy with phone directories and cold-calling across the country, found about.. Oh, 180 one- and two-person shops involved in repair…. none of them terribly interested in hiring me, thank you very much… Gary, my repairer in Toronto, was surprised I found that many.

It’s a tiny, tiny trade. For all of North America, there’s 5 major suppliers, Ferree’s, Votaw Tools, JL Smith, Kraus Music Tools (but they’re getting out of it) and Allied Supply. That’s it, folks.

*   *   *

September 2003, stopped off in Victoria first for a week, needed a bit of a vacation after the devolving fun and games with Crystal, thought to check on the Aged P.’s before I started this last ditch effort to save my marriage, which involved selling our home and liquidating my RRSP (13 years later still not replenished) to do… Margaret and Perky were tottering alonAndante - Bates Motelg, going to Church on Sunday, attending Whist at Silver Threads ‘cause Perky’s brain was no longer up to Bridge; his dilapidated mental state notwithstanding, Perky still doing all the heavy lifting, Margaret still ensconced on her cam-green La-Z-Boy Command Recliner with Siamese cat superimposed as she had been for the last 45 years, reading her worthless books of idle speculation in the hopes of once again in the afterlife, being with her brother who was killed in a training accident in 1942 at RCAFB Trenton… I am his namesake…

I wonder occasionally why they didn’t name me “Norman”.

*   *   *Andante 9

December 2014, a measure of good news: My baritone sax, AKA “The USS Constellation” finally sold. First thing I managed to sell since February — The Conn New Wonder silver-plated alto sax illustrated at the top — for about third of what it should have been worth.

Got about $1,000 for it… The baritone I mean… I didn’t take a picture of it when it arrived, with its smashed case and crushed top and bottom (hence the nickname): It was a write-off, even though I’d bought it with the notion of repairing it, somehow… It was a school horn, I guess some kid had placed the top bow against a cinderblock wall, and kicked the bell bow with a steel-toed boot; in addition to being crushed the bell bow had 4 – 5 really nasty cracks…

“Well of course the kid kicked it” opined Gordon, former music teacher now salesrep at Canada’s leading music chain, Poore, McBrutish & Shortt. “The kind of anger a teenager has in school? They’re in prison, without having committed a crime, they know it and they hate it.”

But, by some miracle I uncollapsed top and bottom bow, and welded the cracks in the bottom, and soldered the reinforcing strap back on, and… It was a Buescher “Big B”, for crying out loud, one of the Great Horns. Sort of like one of the Great Rings and equipped with a similar curse. It had all its original pad snaps, I ordered a set of pads from Music Medic.. And by the time I was finished.. Didn’t look so hot, but better than I started, and: “When 900 years old you reach, look as good, you will not, hm?” asked Yoda…

It plays however — or diAndante 4ad when it left my bench — sweetly and without cack, all the way down to the low B♭… No low “A”. Almost no-one wants a bari sax without the low A any more.Andante 5a

Fortunately for me, almost no-one.

To be continued…




Andante 10


Posted February 1, 2015 by Capt. Roy Harkness in Uncategorized

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