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Wednesday, 27 September 2006

From Talk Like a Pirate Day

The Queen

Yesterday, there was some big queen-related festival. I speak not of the makes of Bohemian Rhapsody, but rather the head of state of The Netherlands. It's a constitutional monarchy, so she actually wields power.

The capital of the country is Amsterdam. It says so in the constitution. But The Hague is the seat of government. That means that all the government buildings and meetings are in The Hague. It's where the queen lives and where parliament meets. It's as if the constitution of the United States listed New York City as the country's capital, but all the government stuff was still in DC. Except for the museums. Anyway.

So yesterday was a sort of State of the Union kind of thing, where there is a procession from the queen's residence (a palace?) to the parliament and then she addresses them and lays out her legislative agenda. She rides in a royal carriage. There were bands (and sousaphones) galore, people in uniforms on horseback. A gold-festooned carriage. A festival-like atmosphere filled the city center. I did not have a school holiday, but many elementary schools clearly did.

I thought it would be remis of me (thinking only of you, dear readers) if I didn't at least try to get a glimpse of the queen. Alas, I was standing in the crowd on the wrong side of the palace-y thing. I saw her carriage, but only from a rather far distance. I was on my way to see her get into the parliament, but it was jammed with people. I did, however, see an image of her doing a very queenly wave on a TV screen. Which is almost like being right there.

Royal Spatialization

There was a lot of music associated with the festivities. Including the aforementioned marching bands (and sousaphones!) but also calliopes. These were quite involved, featuring female figures on the front who actually beat bells. Inside, were pipes and percussion. Several years ago, I saw a MIDI controlled calliope for sale on EBay. Next time I see one, I will not hesitate. Anyway.

I was walking home from school in the evening and heard more band music. I love a march, so I walked over to the source to see what was going on. In the square in the center of town, there were a bunch of bleachers set up. All full of people. The described a large square area where the marching bands were performing field shows.

A field show is that thing that marching bands do where they go out on a field of some kind and march in patterns. In the US, this is most often done at (American) football games during the halftime break. It is also sometimes sighted at competitions. The competitive aspect is strong. I've never heard of people just doing it for fun without competition somehow involved. And yet, here in The Hague, bands are marching around, playing marches and settings of pop songs and making formations. There were a couple of high school bands, but the others were all adults. Gray haired trumpet players.

Perhaps in honor of Talk Like a Pirate Day, one of the bands had pirate flags on it's drums and did a show called legend of the seas. All in all, everybody looked like they were having more fun than I recall from my field show days. I got information about The Hague's marching band Victory. They all had matching sousaphones, all in much better shape than mine. I've failed to locate a tuba shipping case and I could really do with a playable instrument.

A year or so ago, I did some marching with the Wesleyan Pep Band for a half time show put together by Neely Bruce. He, like Charles Ives, saw marching bands as a great way to do spatialization. I was reminded of this as the different instruments moved around and faced different parts of the Plein. People doing wavefront synthesis (a spatilization technique) talk about how everybody sitting in a different place will hear a different concert. This is true, but it's also true for field shows. If the trombones are marching closer and closer to you and the saxophones are further away, you're going to hear something different (obviously) then the people who have advancing saxes and retreating bones. The wave patterns you get from moving band instruments is way more complicated. Is anybody besides Neely working now to exploit this?

19th century technology still has something to say. yarr avast.

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