Disclaimer – this article is concerned with brass band music and if you happen to not like it please feel free to skip πŸ™‚

I’ve spent a weekend listening to brass band music. British style. In competition, nonetheless. It left me wanting more of the same. I tried to analyze why I like it, although that type of exercise may not serve much and it won’t change anything.

Brass band is, like all music, purely individual. For someone like me, who doesn’t play any instrument (yet!) it was hard to understand at the beginning. All those instruments sounded the same (sorry, my friend!) I could feel the rhythm just because of the percussion section (sorry again!) and yet it called to something in me. So I set myself the very nice task of unravelling it. I am not there yet, but after this weekend I hope I am closer. I have, for example, very clear opinions about what I like and what I don’t. What they call test pieces I usually dislike intensely, they are long winded jumbles of discordant notes intended, as the name says it, to test the various players, with rare chunks of beauty that frustrate more than enchant. I have found two test pieces that merit more attention and I have been promised a list of others. Again, I don’t play any instruments, so I don’t even have the professional interest to hook me πŸ™‚

I find I like orchestral pieces arranged for brass band, and also traditional folklore themes and certain marches. I am getting better at recognizing skill when I hear it. I am partial to the lower tones, although a soprano cornet solo can lift me to tears. I am getting better at recognizing instruments, although not on sight. That’s not bad for someone who used to be deaf when it came to the mellow, honeyed euphonium compared to the far clearer baritone.

Now for some notes:

The street march is pure pomp, ceremony and outrageously exhilarating entertainment!

Test pieces are great for sorting out stuff in your head, both with instruments (they get tested in turns so you can get a feel for the sound) but also personal (time to think about that friend who is working too much or the other friend going through a rough patch)

After a while you know who’s subbing in for whom and who plays in more than one band (allowing for uniform changes).

Brass players are in almost constant motion, especially when they are NOT playing, they constantly check and clean their instrument, move their mouths, turn the pages, drink water (I assume it’s water!) etc.

Mutes are funny πŸ™‚ The way they change the sound coming out of the instruments is incredible. I have also seen beanies, towels, egg cartons and changing the position of the player in order to achieve that ellusive note.

Cornets can be substituted for violins.

Brass players can play the other instruments in the band as well.

Probably the best thing for me is the personal touch brass bands bring to sometimes quite complicated music. Smaller by far than an orchestra, limited and in a way set free by the range of instruments, with a tradition that has kept them local and linked to their communities, they also play the grand role of teaching children to carry on in the same manner. I like that πŸ™‚


A comparison?


My friend suggested a while ago that I write about communism vs capitalism. I decided to do so today, mainly because I have a cold and can’t be bothered thinking about important things πŸ™‚ Because if you think this is going to be an objective article you need to close this page immediately, I don’t do that kind of stuff when I feel miserable and sorry for myself! πŸ™‚

So here goes: I haven’t read anything about communism or capitalism as theories, only as the opinions of people. I also grew up in a communist country until I was almost 11, then spent my teenage years assimilating a different reality and wishing for an even more different one.

I have this theory that ideas are only as good as the people who apply them, not as the people who think them up. I should know, being an idealist. πŸ™‚ As such, I regard both communism and capitalism as failures, insofar as the ideas go. Because by applying them you ignore huge swathes of humanity and that leads, as it should, to misery.

An example, maybe? Doctors – this has been done to death, but still it deserves a mention. Communism – they are people who provide a service, therefore they need to be recompensated in proportion to their needs… come again? They have spent how many years in university, elbow deep in whatever substances people’s bodies manage to scrounge up and you want to pay them how much? The needs of a doctor are, after all, not that much higher than a labourer’s… perhaps a doctor might need to preserve their hearing a bit better so they can auscultate properly. But a bed, a roof over one’s head, food on the table and clothes on one’s back should be enough, huh?

Capitalism – they are people who are providing a service and need to be recompensated according to their skills, but at the same time we can’t let just anybody use these skills, only those who can afford it, the rest are obviously not really integrated in this society!

Simplistic? You bet! But that is what I saw happening, what I have been told by innumerable people time and time again. I saw my people reach for plant medicine not only because it works, but also because sometimes they didn’t have enough money for a bribe. And the USA leads in the other direction with their user-pays system – google the results.

If one ignores the natural urge to compete, you get misery. If one ignores the natural urge to belong to a community, you get misery. And it doesn’t only have to do with the material things. The very people the system is supposed to serve are damaged, sometimes almost beyond repair. Meaning, faith, enlightment, love, what you tell your children when they go on a date, how and what you communicate, what you hope and what you despair of, what you rebel against, the battles you choose and the principles you crush under necessity…ah, but it is enough to break hearts and spirits!

They have advantages, both systems, and I am aware of some of them and have weighed the sacrifices one must make to get them. Between the two systems, if there is no other globe I could travel to, I would grit my teeth and choose capitalism. There is a difference, and it is enough that one can breathe deeply and feel some hope. Because between two extremes, one should aim for the middle… and I believe it is easier to have a capitalist system with social welfare than a communist system with freedom.



I was talking with a group of colleagues about money. Although the discussion was fairly specific I (of course!) managed to generalize and pontificate on said subject πŸ™‚

Aside for pet hates of mine (reliance on banks exclusively, for example) we were touching on subjects like values, attitudes, ideals and frustrations linked to financial matters. So, being in an environment where things will be taken at face value rather than judged and found lacking, I expressed a dream of mine about the uncomfortable issue of social welfare. While I am repulsed by the idea of people as economic units and I regard a good life as a right, welfare dependency is something I struggle with. I cannot see an easy way out in real life though, so this dream of mine is so called because it has nothing to do with life in a β€œcivilized” society.

It seems to me that welfare dependency stems from a separation between the person and the society it belongs to. If you have to go to a government department to beg for your daily bread and prove to said department that you are worthy of living… well, I know I would rebel (privileged, much?). Because proving myself worthy is a personal thing, it is private, to be shown off only if I choose to do so, not as a matter of public (open plan work space) record. And proving the worthiness of one’s life seems insulting, notwithstanding β€œwhy should I pay for you to be lazy?”.

Add to this that you don’t know what you don’t know. If you are raised in an environment that has no work ethic, it takes time, patience and investment later for you to learn this. Who will teach you though? And how will you keep learning if this has never been of value to you?

So if at a family level you’re missing something and the societal level is way too alienating, then the answer seems to be somewhere in the middle.

The short of it is that I believe in the small community as the basis of society, with all of its wonderful qualities and outstandingly flexible drawbacks. As expressed in another post, community is a limited number of people living and working in the same place/area/environment. It usually includes entire families as opposed to individuals. The community feels (and I believe should be) responsible for its people. Of course, responsibility has to be matched with an equal amount of power.

So if a youngster is born in a nuclear family without much work ethic he/she may live in a community where his auntie and his cousin and his friends work hard for what they have. When this young one is of an age to work or create (and no, I don’t mean 18!) the community is responsible for offering him those opportunities and mentorship… and the payment for it, too! The community is also entitled to withhold payment while still providing a roof over the head and simple food on the table if the youngster would rather do something else than work or create – for the benefit of the community.

It is one thing for a case manager at social welfare to say β€œyour benefit will be cut because you haven’t attended enough work seminars”. It is a completely different thing for your nephew to say β€œsorry, mate, no money for you until that garden is spic and span”. Same result, if you will…

Now how are we going to clarify creativity?



The talk on the street is refugees. What to do with them: let them in or send them back to their country. How many to take: the number is either too small (we should get that number of them in a week) or too big (let’s take care of our own first). They are demanding their rights (including going to specific countries – does that make them refugees or immigrants?) which makes the receiving countries very uneasy, as they see taking in refugees as a benevolent act rather than a necessity from a human rights point of view. And once the lucky ones are in, what to do? It takes a lot to get a refugee from a clothes on their back only, jump at every noise, here on sufferance numbered body to a free, standing, proud, accomplished, adjusted human being.

Money is one thing that a country spends on refugees. The refugee centre needs to be staffed, language tuition and counselling and orientation and the like are not cheap, houses and work opportunities have to be found from an already limited pool. Not spending the money leads to problems infinitely bigger than the initial one. It is one of the reasons for limiting numbers accepted, after all. But as a woman in the know pointed out, once that money is spent then it is time for an elusive entity to take centre stage.

Community is a much written about human endeavour. We have courses teaching you how to bring a community closer, what services to think about and generally touting it as a good thing. People are proud of their communities and the term has been extended to cover people who have something in common other than location – think gender/sexual orientation. Psychologists use specific words to describe the graduated responsibility we feel towards our family, then friends, neighbours, colleagues etc. until we get to perfect strangers. Community is used as a safe haven against an unseen, sometimes unknown enemy.

We know the leaders of the community. They are rarely in the papers or on TV, but ask and you shall be eventually directed to their house. Word of mouth is a wonderful thing from this point of view. Social media is also good but not as specific. There is a reason for this: number of people. I remember reading about it in a book, about how people have evolved to live in communities of around 150. I know people who would feel lonely if they only had 150 friends on Facebook πŸ™‚

Too many people though and you spread yourself too thinly. And 150 people is a number that applies to communities where people work together (say, a middlish organization?) in the same place where they live. Suburbia broke the communities benevolently (there’s that word again!), communism broke the communities on purpose (sending new grads a world away from their family and friends).

Community also means parochialism, any way you look at it. People from the next village do things differently/wrongly. Strangers are not welcome, or if they are, they are questioned, prodded and ogled to within an inch of their lives. Twenty years later they are still regarded as strangers and odd. Consorting with strangers can make life very difficult for a person. Hierarchy is quickly established and defended. I also read that agricultural communities are more peaceful than cattle/herder communities – something to do with crime potential.

We like to believe that we can raise above these things. That we can open our arms and everything will be ok, we’ll find a way. At an individual level it may work. You may open your heart, house and wallet and take in a family of refugees. At a community level you need more than just openness.

You need leadership.