Withering Glance: Instruments of torture

  • Article by: RICK NELSON and CLAUDE PECK , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 28, 2014 - 12:38 PM

Rick Nelson and Claude Peck dispense unasked-for advice about clothing, etiquette, culture, relationships, grooming and more.

 

CP: Given my calamitous lack of musical talent, I sometimes marvel at how many instruments I studied as a youth. Lessons, practice, nothing. You?

 

RN: Nada. I have a faint and embarrassing memory of something called a flutophone, which I suspect was Palmer Lake Elementary School’s remedial-reading version of music education.

 

CP: Consider yourself fortunate. I have so many non-fond memories of my young life in music. There was guilt if I didn’t practice, agony if I did, a decided lack of forward progress, fingertips calloused by the steel strings of a cheap guitar. Piano, however, was the worst.

 

RN: Hey, at least you can impress strangers with a whirl through “Für Elise.” I can’t even hum it.

 

CP: What about your youthful career in the musical theater? Did you not sing and dance?

 

RN: Unfortunately, I sing like a rusty hinge. Thank goodness “Our Town” is a straight play, or I never would have been cast. When the good people of Grovers Corners sing “Blest Be the Tie That Binds” in the third act, the director would always shoot me a panicked look. But back to you. I’m picturing a support-hose-wearing piano teacher who smells of Brach’s peppermints, and Mother Peck getting on you to run your scales.

 

CP: I’m not sure she actually wanted to hear me practice. Have you spent much time in the vicinity of a badly played French horn? Both my sisters were pretty good about practicing their clarinets. The squawks. The start-overs. In decent weather, it was reason enough to vacate the house.

 

RN: My hopelessness at any kind of eye-hand coordination pretty much eliminated dreams of reading music and joining an orchestra. Which also explains why I steered clear of football, baseball or any athletic endeavor that required handling and/or propelling an object. You can imagine my popularity in gym class.

 

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