IJMC Another In the Bad Day Series

                IJMC - Another In the Bad Day Series

If you thought that poor deep-sea diver had troubles, well, read this 
story about a trombonist. Although, it could be said the poor Paolo 
brought this on himself, whereas the deep-sea diver simply sufferred from 
fate that day. Regardless, read on, and be glad it wasn't you.      -dave

    Paolo Esperanza, bass-trombonist with the Simphonica Mayor de Uruguay,
in a misplaced moment of inspiration decided to make his own contribution
to the cannon shots fired as part of the orchestra's performance of
Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture at an outdoor children's concert. In complete
seriousness he placed a large, ignited firecracker, which was equivalent
in strength to a quarter stick of dynamite, into his aluminum straight
mute and then stuck the mute into the bell of his quite new Yamaha in-line
double-valve bass trombone. 

    Later, from his hospital bed he explained to a reporter through
bandages on his mouth, "I thought that the bell of my trombone would
shield me from the explosion and, instead, would focus the energy of the
blast outward and away from me, propelling the mute high above the
orchestra, like a rocket." However, Paolo was not up on his propulsion
physics nor qualified to use high-powered artillery and in his haste to
get the horn up before the firecracker went off, he failed to raise the
bell of the horn high enough so as to give the mute enough arc to clear
the orchestra. 

    What actually happened should serve as a lesson to us all during those
delirious moments of divine inspiration. First, because he failed to
sufficiently elevate the bell of his horn, the blast propelled the mute
between rows of players in the woodwind and viola sections of the
orchestra, missing the players and straight into the stomach of the
conductor, driving him off the podium and directly into the front row of
the audience. 

    Fortunately, the audience were sitting in folding chairs and thus they
were protected from serious injury, for the chairs collapsed under them
passing the energy of the impact of the flying conductor backwards into
row of people sitting behind them, who in turn were driven back into the
people in the row behind and so on, like a row of dominos. The sound of
collapsing wooden chairs and grunts of people falling on their behinds
increased logarithmically, adding to the overall sound of brass cannons
and brass playing as constitutes the closing measures of the Overture. 

    Meanwhile, all of this unplanned choreography not withstanding, back
on stage Paolo's Waterloo was still unfolding. According to Paolo, "Just
as I heard the sound of the blast, time seemed to stand still. Everything
moved in slow motion. Just before I felt searing pain in my mouth, I could
swear I heard a voice with a Austrian accent say, "Fur every akshon zer iz
un eekvul un opposeet reakshon!" Well, this should come as no surprise,
for Paolo had set himself up for a textbook demonstration of this
fundamental law of physics. 

    Having failed to plug the lead pipe of his trombone, he allowed the
energy of the blast to send a superheated jet of gas backwards through the
mouth pipe of the trombone, which exited the mouthpiece, burning his lips
and face. The pyrotechnic ballet wasn't over yet. The force of the blast
was so great it split the bell of his shiny Yamaha right down the middle,
turning it inside out while at the same time propelling Paolo backwards
off the riser. And for the grand finale, as Paolo fell backwards he lost
his grip on the slide of the trombone allowing the pressure of the hot
gases coursing through the horn to propel the trombone's slide like a
double golden spear into the head of the 3rd clarinetist, knocking him
unconscious and fracturing his skull.

    I would think the moral of this story is, Beware the next time you
hear someone in the trombone section yell out, "Hey, y'all, watch this!" 

IJMC April 1999 Archives