At first, I thought I’d have parrot for lunch. I was working from home and even through my closed office door I could hear this continual off-key screeching coming from downstairs. I hadn’t heard it before. Akane has a routine of sounds she goes through: ringing phone, microwave beep, scream, hawk cry, etc. Every so often she throws a new one in the mix. I went downstairs and discovered it wasn’t Akane, but Daniel playing the recorder.
The third graders at Meehan Elementary School are learning “recorder karate”. They earn colored belts (I’m assuming metaphorically here) as they learn new songs. Each song has more notes than the last. Daniel is a white belt and was trying to make his way through Hot Cross Buns. Hot Cross Buns has three notes. As far as I could tell, Daniel wasn’t playing any of them.
“I’m having trouble,” he said. “I play the note and it sounds like a screaming girl.” He picked up the recorder again to demonstrate, but I waved him off. I heard my mouth say something to the effect of practice makes perfect and I was slightly horrified to hear myself say I would listen and help. I made myself a sandwich and looked at the music Daniel was attempting. He peered down the end of the recorder and blew a note that reverberated in my fillings. There was an explosion of feathers and seed husks from the cage as Akane fell off her perch. I wiped a tear from my eye and we went through it slowly.
A musician controls the pitch of a recorder by holding their fingers over the holes to make various notes. However, they can raise the tone an octave by blowing harder. Daniel was using the recorder as a blunt instrument, blowing as hard as he could into the hole at the top and the recorder would respond by jumping up and down octaves in a very shrill and painful manner.
So, we practiced some breathing exercises and I whistled the notes he should be playing. Then, I tapped time so he could hear how many beats a quarter note and a half note were. By the time my sandwich was done, Daniel had managed to get through a recognizable version of Hot Cross Buns. I told him to keep up the good work. I also gave a trembling Akane a peanut for her trouble.