It’s my Senior year of high school, and as always, the band room is absolutely teeming with anxiety-filled teenagers sitting around and trying to figure out something to do.
So I’m standing in there, looking very obviously like I want to do anything other than text or sit in a circle and jarble about politics, boys, or Cheese Nips, when all of a sudden I hear a loud; low hum resonate from the band closet where everyone keeps their instruments locked up in cages.
It repeats a few times, in seemingly perfect 4/4 time. I immediately think:
“Oh boy, this must be one of those modern dance numbers that gets us kids a-jumpin’!”
I was fully ready to, yet again, sit back idly whilst blaring loud beats and bass compel every girl in the room with a perceived sense of booty into not doing anything music related whatsoever. (No hard feelings, if you know what I mean.)
But then, something odd happens. The beat suddenly shifts and goes off time a few times. Knowing the nature of the material I believed the sound to be a part of, this didn’t surprise me. However, I quickly grew curious as I looked around the room and saw no one participating in their usual modern Jazzercizing routines or practicing what to do with their arms when under attack by serious just-not-caring.
Something wasn’t right, so instead of further questioning why no one was practicing our tribal rituals, I decided to investigate the source of the unorthodox bass-like resonations.
I entered to find that one of my peers was holding a large piece of PVC pipe. One that had been along with 6 or 7 others that had lay in a corner of the band-room yet unexplored by any of us. As I walked in, my glimpse of the pipe was ceased by the sudden smacking low sound that I had come looking for. The source was that PVC pipe, which had a cylindrical piece of plastic on top of it, which caved in at the opening of the pipe to form a bowl-like top.
When he dropped the pipe, the sound cooked in the pipe like a turkey, and came out just as satisfying. However I found myself much more satisfied after hearing that pipe smack than I ever have eating a turkey. Especially retroactively.
Instantaneously, imagery of one of my most beloved musical idols, The Blue Man Group, which our band had just returned from a trip to Universal Studios in Florida wherein we had the pleasure of watching them perform, came flooding into my mind like one of those chocolate fondue waterfalls.
You know the one. I was that cockatoo.
I was immediately inspired, and thrilled when they reminded me of the multiple pipes in that uncharted corner of dust and someone’s drink that they were too much of a jerk to throw away.
We had two A pipes, an F pipe, and a D pipe. We began attempting to put together the semblance of anything you could call a ‘rhythm’ to occasional avail, and then back to no avail, and then hopeful avail, and then back to the no avail once more. Like watching someone play Rhythm Heaven Fever.
Then, our band director popped into the door to blow our minds even further.
He told us that what we were doing would crack the pipes, and that we weren’t playing them right. I was shocked. In the most subtly sarcastic way one can be shocked. As it turns out, the what-in-Amelia-Earhart’s-Corn-Flakes-why-are-these-rugs-here stack of small rugs and mats that had been sitting on top of the instrument cages all the years I’ve attended this school were meant for deafening the smack of those pipes when they were dropped on their heads, and of course, to prevent damage from the cold, hard, institutional vinyl floor tiling.
It makes me wonder
what other treasures might be inside that room of instruments played by high school and middle school children alike that we have yet to uncover why I googled that.
We managed to find a C, E, and C# pipe as well, and with that I was finally able to figure out a mostly non-repetitive bass beat, and we spent the rest of that time attempting to play all 4 measures of the phrase, and all the time from the second I entered the room until we left, people watched in awe at the unique and amazing sounds of an instrument that sounds so good that it completely distracts people from the terrible senses of rhythm radiating from our Chernobyl-esque attempt at creating something powerful. When it was all done and over, one of my friends came over to me and said:
“Dude, we could totally make those things for ourselves. All we’d need is to get the measurements of the pipe, go down and buy it, build a rack and some paddles, and we’d have our own.”
However, I trailed off immediately after he said “we could totally make those”, and my mind became blocked by omnipresent serious, deep, and complex thoughts about the implications and possibilities of this.
Some friends and I plan on making music starting near the end of this school year, and this guy is one of them, with the man that spear-headed the idea also being present during the jam session.
The idea of playing PVC pipe instruments is like a dream for me. Percussion is dance in the form of an instrument, and the PVC pipes, along with the ol’ 6-bass Steel Drums, combine four of my most beloved musical meta: percussion, low tones, dance, and unique sound.
I sincerely hope that my personal-band comrades, and perhaps high school-bandmate music lover friends, are as sincerely dedicated to making some PVC pipe instruments as I know I will be once we have the time to create such a beauty.
I know they have to be just as excited about it, so I have no doubt that as long as we all remain into the idea when push comes to shove, I have the utmost faith that we’ll get it done and get it done right.
Here’s to, one day not too far away, being able to do this.
(To the guys who know I’m talking about ’em, don’t worry, I’m not really shooting for something THAT ambitious, especially considering it might be totally beyond us anyways. A simple rack with straight pipes and some octaves is fine. But hey, let’s not forget we can be as creative as we want about this!)