Do you know the difference between a clarinet and a trombone?

A friend  of mine plays an instrument in a brass ensemble.  I have no lots of musical instrumentsidea what she plays but she does it very well.    Due to the efforts of my fifth grade teacher to have us learn the differences between musical instruments, I can recognize many:  all percussions and strings.  It helped  that  I played the viola for two really uncomfortable years during which I never one got the rhythm correct and usually played violawhen everyone else observed a rest.  

But while that teacher struggled to show us how they looked she didn’t do anything  to teach us how they sounded.  That would have been hard way back when she would have had to use 78 records and a record player.  Hard to pause those.

So, yes, I can tell you when a cello is being played and differentiate that from other strings.  I recognize various drums, a triangle, the glockenspiel and a piano.  But the  horns—woodwinds or brass, well, I don’t have the slightest idea.  I can listen to and enjoy a piece but don’t expect me to know what section carried the melody.  I don’t know. 

My friend plays in a musical ensemble at church—I’m thankful that we have very talented musicians who share their gifts with us.  music in church After their lovely special music one Sunday, I thanked the musicians, then said to my friend, “What instrument do you play?”  She laughed and laughed and said, “Oh, Jane, you’re so funny.”

I hadn’t realized my remark had been amusing.   Embarrassed, I asked no more, just laughed and pretended I knew exactly what instrument she was playing and how it sounded. 

The point is that  people who know stuff believe other people know bankthe same stuff.   This leads to great miscommunication.  When I attempted to take over the automatic pay at the bank after George died, I was talking with a customer service rep who was talking to an IT person,  After three hours, the IT person realized I didn’t know anything about automatic bill paying and neither did the really nice customer service guy.  What I needed to know was that the information on the auto-pay couldn’t be switched from George’s account to mine, that I had to start all over.  He told the customer service guy who didn’t understand this.  Then the customer service guy told me but we both thought this sounded stupid and duplicated payments.  It wasn’t until I went to the bank and threatened to close all my accounts (one checking, one money market, and three CDs.  They didn’t want to lose me), did we put all of our misunderstanding together so that I could finally stop $750 from disappearing from the account each month to pay bills I wanted to change. 

And oh my, do I know that this is happening in our country.  We talk past each other.  We may agree on more than we think—we just don’t know that.   Or we believe the other people hold our same beliefs.  I just learned that a conservative didn’t realize that having a mortgage means he has borrowed money and live in debt.  If we come to a debt or deficit discussion with such different understandings, how can we ever hope to find that common ground?  How can people discuss if one groups believes abortion is murder and the other believes women have the right to chose what is best for her?  Again, we talk past each other.  We assume.   We know what we know but may not know that YOU don’t know what I know.  

Which leads us to the problems caused by not knowing the difference between a clarinet and a trombone. 

4 thoughts on “Do you know the difference between a clarinet and a trombone?

  1. Jane, I’ve played the clarinet since I was 12 and if you want to see what one looks like (and heck, If you wanted to, you could try it out yourself) I’ll bring one to show you.
    But I get what you’re saying and I think part of the problem stems from our specializing/isolationism and not integrating.
    When I was in D.C., I had an opportunity to hear Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz talking about the increasing polarization in D.C. She talked to some ol’ timers on Capital Hill and they told her that many representatives no longer live in D.C. In the past, our legislatures spent perhaps half the year in D.C. and the other half in their home state.
    When they were in D.C., they may run across reps from across the aisle at the supermarket or at a kid’s ball game. But they saw each other at these informal occasions…and were forced to be civil. But you gotta take the time to get to know someone…and talk to them face-to-face.
    There is so much communication we get just from looking at someone’s face. I know I describe faces a lot in my writing.

    1. So true, Evelyn! They also used to have softball games and go away for a weekend retreat together. No more I guess all that doing stuff together engendered friendships and cooperating and perhaps, even (oh, no!) the willingness to compromise!

      And thanks for the offer but I’m okay Perhaps you could just imitate the clarinet for me.

  2. When I was in the 4th grade in Cleveland, our entire school went over to the nearby park where the Cleveland Symphany played Prokoviev’s piece that highlighted each instrument. The conductor would stop at each section, have the people playing the instrument stand up so we could see it and then return to the part of the piece that highlighted that instrument so we could hear it too. He had a running dialogue that made it very interesting for elementary students. The problem with our society is that we only listen to the media or the people that agree with us and don’t realize that there are hundreds of thousands of people who think and feel quite differently. I have trouble reconciling the fact that gays and lesbians are children of God made in his/her own image and yet fellow Christians hate and despise them and deny that God made his own creatures. How many times have we heard a true racist claim that a black person is their best friend or a homophopic person claim they love gays and lesbians. The person we are not hearing is our inner conscience.

    1. I so agree, Diane–but, then, I always agree with you. My thought is that we may need to be pushier–although not hateful–about our beliefs that we are all God’s children. AND I wish I’d gone to that orchestra performance.

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