The Internet is a silly place and the trombone is a silly instrument, and like all good pairs, they compliment each other well. Over the past few decades, the Internet has produced such silly gems as the flamethrower, the Mythbuster, the Sad Trombone, and the self-gratifying trombone blog. But mark the year 2013 as the start of a new kind of trombone video: the P.O.V., or the "trombone GoPro" meme.
Earlier this week, the New York Philharmonic Trombonist, David Finlayson, attached a portable GoPro video camera to the slide of his trombone and recorded himself playing the Rochut etude "No. 2." The product is a video shot from the perspective of the horn that features extreme closeups of Finlayson's face as he plays, using rapid zooms that would make Alfred Hitchcock impressed, or motion-sick. Luckily, the trombone performance was lyrical enough for the video to be watchable.
Having been inspired by the creative use of the GoPro, or perhaps by the opportunity to perform alongside the best, Craig Mulcahy, the Principal Trombonist of the National Symphony Orchestra, recorded his own video of the accompaniment to the Rochut etude and composited a duet performance within days of the original solo video. Thus, an Internet meme was born.
While virtual collaborations are nothing new, the "trombone GoPro" meme relies on both traditional and revolutionary technology to inspire others. No other musical instrument moves freely while it is being played, a technology that has been around even longer than the trombone itself. And yet the GoPro camera continues to push the envelope of where a video camera can go, as Finlayson documented in his video description on how he had to modify his trombone to attach the camera. The brilliance of the meme is that it takes a simple idea and literally gives it a new and constantly changing perspective.
However, the takeaway from these videos is that the focus is not on what is being played, but rather on how it affects what is visually presented: the human face. The slide positions required to play the music will determine the camera angle of its subject. It could be entirely possible that the most beautiful piece of music may not be an interesting GoPro video. Imagine, for instance, the static visuals for the military theme, "Taps," a hauntingly beautiful melody. It will be interesting to watch how these composition techniques learn to cooperate as musicians become more optically creative.
And just like what happened within the last week, there will only be more virtual collaborations as these portable cameras become more affordable in the years to come. Like the slide banners of a pep band trombone section, someone will have a crazy idea that everyone else can rally behind. The "trombone GoPro" virtual choir is on the horizon, and what will set it apart from previous virtual choirs will be the Busby Berkeley choreography that is ingrained within this meme.
And just remember that the GoPro is the trombone's version of the "crotch-shot" camera angle in rock music, so please be sure to wipe your nose before you start filming. Okay?