by Jeff Burton
orchestra owes its origins to our distant
ancestors. Small groups of hunter gatherers
scouring the shoreline for meagre food sources
would occasionally come across the enormous
skeleton of a stranded whale picked clean by sea
birds. Fascinated, they would climb all over the
bones, rapping here and there with their clubs.
The cacophony thus produced was oddly pleasing to
their ears. (It is a little known fact that whale
skeletons are tuned in F sharp.) In their
primitive tongue 'Orca' (for 'whale') gave rise
to our 'orchestra', for a group of people engaged
in making noise in a co-operative manner.
times, of course, whales have almost completely
disappeared from the orchestra having found more
lucrative employ in the opera as baritones.
Distant echoes of that time can still be seen in
the xylophone with its clear resemblance to rib
bones.The orchestra is divided into sections,
each of which pays its own cab fare. There is the
wing section, home of the ducks and geese. In
winter entire pieces must be struck from the
repertoire as this section tends to migrate. The
wind section is so named for obvious reasons.
First and second baboon are particularly prone to
punctuating Strauss waltzes with noisy blasts
owing to their all fruit diet. The smell
dissipates slowly, but not before rendering
patrons in the stalls unconscious. The percussion
section bears closest resemblance to our
ancestors on that distant shore. Often clothed in
animal skins, they continue in a tradition often
handed down from father to dog of striking
anything stationary with a stick, or possibly two.
forefront of the orchestra stands the conductor.
He wants to make sure that they have all paid
their fare and to assign sleeping compartments.
He sweeps the air majestically with his baton but
none of the orchestra see him. They are too busy
reading their music or making bets. The music
swells. The conductor swells. He had seafood and
regrets it now. Small fires break out amidst the
violins. Bravely the orchestra pushes on. The
horns sound. There is a traffic jam and they don't
want to be late for the ending of the piece. The
music is climbing to a crescendo where it can get
a better look. The triumphant final chord rings
out. It sends for a pizza. The concert is over.
The conductor bows. The orchestra bows. The
audience bows. Everyone is so polite here.
As the patrons
file out, they know they have participated in a
cultural practice as old as time, or at least
Uncle Phillip. Their duty to society paid, they
can once again face the light unashamed. They
have been to the orchestra.