A Glass of Chianti

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Christenings of Instruments

I was sitting in the waiting room of the car parts store waiting for the Debaucherymobile to be fitted with new and glorious tires. I can't say that I was overly interested in the lovely magazines they had sitting out for the customers to read and being underprepared for the couple of HOURS it took to fix my car and get it road-worthy, I just kind of sat there chatting with the other customers. In the midst some small talk I thought, "I should have brought Warren with me so I could have been productive."
Warren is my clarinet's name. As a major manufacturer of clarinets is Buffett, Warren is a natural choice for hundreds of girls. He's probably outnumbered 10 to 1 in the number of Jimmy Buffetts out there, but the Warren contingent is where the real power in the section is, anyway. One thing never fails, though. The clarinets that are named have all been male names. I know a Joe Clarinet, an Auguste, a Peter.... all men! Maybe it's just a crazy localized thing, but a lot of people (not just clarinetists) I met while attending my music school named their instruments. You form a relationship with your instrument. Sometimes you fight. Sometimes you seem perfect for each other. Some days it's just best to take a break after seeing one another every day for nine hours. I know that musicians are considered neurotic and this only supports the stereotype, but I think this practice is really harmless.

Brass instruments across the board are named after girls, I imagine. In the French Horn's case, it's a natural selection. What is more feminine than the way a French Horn looks?
Tubas are named after women probably for the same reason that boats are. This is not to say that the players themselves are feminine, just that the instruments just scream, "Name me after a girl!"
Flutes? Girl names, no question.
Saxes? I'm not sure. The only saxophonist I know who has named his calls her "Julie" for reasons that he won't detail. I lean toward girlie names, but that's subject to more revision after some additional thought.
Though the instruments in the battery would probably be take masculine names, I don't think any percussionist would dare name their snare. The keyboard percussion instruments, however, are just obviously girls. Mindy the Marimba. Vicki the Vibraphone.

Here’s where I get stumped, though. The clarinet and oboe, to many people from a distance, look very similar and yet I think that oboes would have girl names. Maybe it’s the logo of one of the manufacturers, Lorée, that is affecting my judgment. The L is swoopy and very feminine. Adding to this overall picture of femininity, you have an acute accent on the e. No manly name would have that. Well, Mel Tormé, but his surname started with a strong T. Look at another major clarinet manufacturer’s logo and see the difference in Ls. This builds the case, I believe, that an oboe would take a feminine name.
And the bassoon? It looks like an insect to me. I have no idea.