Of Mutes and Trumpeters

Richard Rogers and Charles Cameron

Richard and I reconnected after many years on, of all things, a chat channel where our mutual friend the country western singer Jimmie Dale Gilmore was talking with his fans. We decided to play a round of WaterBird, and here it is...

Move 1: Richard places Swan in position 10.

As he says:

A swan is a waterbird after all.

Move 2: Charles places Song in position 7.

Since this was Richard's first game, I explained a bit as we went along...

Links made in the second move don't count in a competitive game, because obviously the first move can't make any links since there's nothing to link to. But what the heck, the swan song is an image of the final utterance of a lifetime, and if you think of the swan as hamsa, the waterbird which represents breath in hindu thought, the swan song is figuratively the last breath.

As in a poem I wrote:

The crown unfolds a possibility,
a promise of the noble man,
the perfected hero, who is himself
crown of creation.
In truth,
the crown is the halo, nimbus --
unworthily worn, it will condense,
its radiance congeal into pearl,
ruby, sapphire, mere gold,
which in turn can be bought
and sold, lost, borrowed, stolen.

Sword swallowers and those
who breathe fire are all the traces
that remain of a kingly
Breath is
the sword swallowed and breathed
out again. All life, all fire is in it.
The beat of a swan's wing is breath:
the last breath, the swan song.

The only position which has to connect with both your first and my second move is 9, but you could also play in 6 linking only to "swan" or in 5, 3 or 8 linking only to "song" -- which doesn't have to be a "swan song" incidentally, any song will do -- or in 4, 2 or 1 beginning a new thread entirely, without any links...

Move 3: Richard places Trumpeter in position 9.

He writes:

Interesting you referenced the Mythical Hansa Swan we've heard so much about. I had that in mind when beginning round 1.

In 9, I place trumpeter.

Trumpeter Swan is a link.

A trumpeter plays songs - a link.

In US military tradition a solo trumpeter plays "Taps":

Day is done,
Gone the sun, etc...

to end the day or bury a comrade, a Swan Song in either case - a link.

Further, a trumpeter uses breath to play his/her instrument linking to your hansa reference. (This one is "off the board" so I don't expect it to count.)

The grinding sounds you hear are the tektonic plates in my mind shifting. This is fun.

Move 4: Charles places Lake in position 6.

I write:

Nice move, Richard. I'd give you one link for trumpeter swan, one link for a trumpeter plays songs, two links for Taps to end the day and to bury a comrade, a swan song in either case -- since you bothered to specify both, both deserve points... and one link for a trumpeter using breath to play his/her instrument linking to your hansa reference. That's a grand total of five.

Incidentally, the "trumpeter using breath to play" link isn't "off the board" at all. The board only contains move names -- the moves themselves are very possibly more extensive, and I certainly intended you to be able to refer to the whole of my posted move, not just the word "song".

I play lake in 6, thinking both of the Tchaikovski ballet "Swan Lake", and of Tulsidas' version of the Ramayana, "Ramacharitamanasa" or "Lake of the Nectarfilled Doings of Sri Rama" -- a swan by any other name, since he is a paramhamsa or embodiment of the supreme soul...

Two points for links with swan in 10.

As for trumpeters and a lake... The combination is infectious, and I expect to see King Henry VIII appearing at any moment in a boat filled with musicians, no doubt on his way to tell Sir Thomas More that he must give up Catholicism and accept the Church of England -- but that's straight out of "A Man for All Seasons", and the lake isn't a lake, it's the river Thames... So I can't expect a point there.

But there are trumpeter swans on the Swan Lake at Swan Lake Iris Gardens...

Swan Lake Iris Gardens
Liberty St. & Alice Dr., Sumter, SC
No admission charge
Hours: 8:00 a.m.-sundown

The inky black waters of Swan lake cover forty-five acres and form the understage for the gardens. Japanese Iris grow abundantly in the moist soil and exotically colored water lilies in white, red, pink and yellow dot the lake.

The crown jewels of the lake are the magnificent swans. Gathered from all over the world, these royalty of the waterfowl kingdom represent England, North America, South America, and Europe. The Trumpeter Swan is vocal, while the Royal White Mute is quiet. The Black Australian Swan sports a royal red beak, and the noisy Whooper Swan is fluffy white with a bright yellow beak.

Shaded pathways lead throughout the gardens. Rustic bridges arch over the opaque waters. Markers explain the history of Swan Lake-Iris Gardens.

for one link between "trumpeter" and "lake"... thus bringing my total links claimed in move 4 to 3.

Move 5: Richard plays Miles Davis in position 8.

He writes, I'll be sure to visit the Swan Lake next time I'm in South Carolina - nice research. Ok, Ok here's the next move...

I play "Miles Davis" in 8. I've been listening to his "Sketches of Spain" all day so I must offer him a 'ride on the waterbird'.

1 link for MD - trumpeter.

Speaking of 'riding the bird' Miles Davis collaborated extensively with saxophonist Charlie Parker, known as "Bird". Is it customary to 'link-through' - in this case from 8 (MD) through 9 (trumpeter) to 10 (swan)? If so gimme 1 link for Bird-Swan. If not c'est la vie.

The Rough Guide to Jazz on CD:

Miles Davis

Trumpet, flugelhorn, keyboards, composer

b. Alton, Illinois, 26 May 1926; d. 29 Sept 1991.

Miles Dewey Davis moved to East St Louis in 1927. He had a wealthy middle-class background - his grandfather was a landowner in Arkansas and his father was a successful dentist who also owned a ranch. His mother played violin and his sister played piano. Davis got his first trumpet at the age of nine or ten and his father gave him a new and superior one for his thirteenth birthday. He had private lessons from Elwood Buchanan and played in his high school band. He also played with a St Louis r&b band, Eddie Randall's Blue Devils, while still at school. He was befriended by Clark Terry who influenced his sound and style and also met Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker when the Billy Eckstine band played in St Louis.

For More...

The Rough Guide to Jazz on CD: Miles Davis


Trumpet Player Online: Miles Davis Page

Move 6: Charles plays Mute in position 3.

I write:

I got the idea for this move from the research on swans, and your helpful reference to trumpeters. The kind of swan that is commonly found in England is the "mute" swan:

For many centuries, Mute Swans in Britain were domesticated for food, with individuals being marked by nicks on their webs (feet) or beak to indicate ownership. These marks were registered with the Crown and a Royal Swanherd was appointed. Any birds not so marked became Crown property, hence the swan becoming known as the "Royal Bird". It is quite possible that this domestication saved the swan for being hunted to extinction in Britain. The swans were rounded up at a swan-upping, and although they have not been kept as a food source since the beginning of this century, the tradition [of swan upping] is still practised by The Worshipful Companies of the Vintners and Dyers on the River Thames in London.

Swan upping is indeed one of the most interesting of the English ceremonials, and roast swan is reportedly quite a delicacy...

In any case, in position 3 I place mute.

I claim links with Trumpeter in 9 because (i) both "mute" and "trumpeter" are varieties of swan, and (ii) a trumpeter uses a mute to obtain a specific muted tone from his instrument.

No doubt Miles Davis does it, but I'd frankly rather keep the double link with "trumpeter" than use (ii) with Davis specifically -- it doesn't seem kosher to use the same argument in both cases and claim an extra link. For "Miles Davis" in 8, then, I'll simply say that though he himself is mute, his song lives after him.

Although I'll admit I'm tempted. Consider this:

Miles Davis had quite a career, one with so many innovations that his name is one of the few that can be spoken in the same sentence with Duke Ellington. As a trumpeter, Davis was never a virtuoso on the level of his idol Dizzy Gillespie but by 1947 he possessed a distinctive cool-toned sound of his own. His ballad renditions (utilizing a Harmon mute) were exquisite yet never predictable, he mastered and then stripped down the bebop vocabulary to its essentials and he generally made every note count; as with Thelonious Monk, less was more in Miles' music.

With reference to people, "mute" means unable to speak: the phrase "mute inglorious Miltons" refers to poets whose work never reached an audience, whose "song" was stilborn, if you like. In this sense, I claim a link with "song" in 7 -- "mute" and "song" as opposite extremes of the continuum of verbal expression.


You ask,

Is it customary to 'link-through' - in this case from 8 (MD) through 9 (trumpeter) to 10 (swan)? If so gimme 1 link for Bird-Swan. If not c'est la vie...

The answer is that competitive play for points doesn't admit this sort of "leapfrog" linking, but that cooperative play for aesthetic effect considers it as "indirect linking", capable of adding to the overall beauty of the game, but secondary to direct links (which are what constrain play in ways that force players into increasing leaps of creative imagination and give the game its structure). I'm certainly echoing "swan" in 10 in this way with my present move...

So no points for that one, but an appreciative grin nonetheless...

Move 7: Richard plays Monk in position 5.

He writes:

Presently a group of Tibet Monks are creating a sand mandala in Seattle. After days of preparing it, meditating and chanting, they will destroy it this Sunday. A real lesson in impermanence so...

in 5, I place "monk".

Baba Hari Dass - a yogi from India is a silent monk who has not spoken since 1952 and communicates by writing on a small chalkboard. This verbal silence is a process which gradually quiets the mind. Many monastic orders require silence, so 1 link for 'monk' - 'mute'.

The Story of the Silent Monks

There is a monastery near Aspen, Colorado, called Snowmass. All the monks have taken a vow of silence. They rarely speak. Each day begins with morning prayer. The service starts when the head abbot comes in and chants, "Good morning."

The monks chant in reply, "Good morning."

They say not another word until evening vespers, when the head abbot comes in and chants, "Good evening."

The monks all reply in unison, "Good evening." Not another word is spoken until the next morning.

Several years ago one of the monks decided he had to break up the boredom of this routine. The next morning when the head abbot chanted, "Good morning," all the other monks responded, "Good morning", except the one bored monk, who chanted, "Good evening."

Quickly, the head abbot sang in reply: "Some-one chanted evening." :)

Tibet's largest and most prestigious spiritual institution was the famed Drepung Loseling Monastery. The home of the early Dalai Lamas, it was founded in 1416 in order to collect and transmit the ancient Buddhist arts and sciences. (Until it was summarily fucked over by the Chinese.)

The fifth and current world tour of the Drepung Loseling monks will be led by H.E. Jampa Tulku, one of the monastery's foremost reincarnate teachers, a highly regarded specialist in the tradition of the mystical tantric arts. This group will again share the Drepung Loseling's ancient sacred traditions, as well as creating sand paintings and other Tibetan cultural activities. Once again, they will visit over a hundred cities and draw from their traditional temple music and dances to create an arrangement of pieces believed to generate energies conducive to world healing. They will sing in the multiphonic technique, and play their traditional instruments such as cymbals, bells, drums, long horn trumpets, and high horns.

1 link for 'monk' - 'trumpet'

Of course we have the Gregorian Chants, among other songs performed by monks.

1 link for 'monk' - 'song'.

And, Miles and Monk made glorious music = 1 link. For a total of 4 links.

Move 8: Charles plays Bitches Brew in position 1.

I write:

I thought your move 7, "monk" in 5 was a fine move, and particularly liked that final touch:

Miles and Monk made glorious music

I'm only sorry that it was into a spot I can't link to myself.

In response, I play Bitches Brew in position 1.

This move references (among other things) the album called Bitches Brew from the Inspiral Carpets. Inspiral Carpets are "Mute Liberation Technologies" artists, along with Depeche Mode, Laibach and Diamanda Galas.

I therefore claim a link with "mute" in position 3.

This move also references the great Bitches Brew which is concocted by the Weird Sisters in Shakespeare's Macbeth, Act IV Scene 1:

A cavern. In the middle, a boiling cauldron.
[Thunder. Enter the three WITCHES]


Thrice the brinded cat hath mew'd.


Thrice and once the hedge-pig whined.


Harpier cries 'Tis time, 'tis time.


Round about the cauldron go;
In the poison'd entrails throw.
Toad, that under cold stone
Days and nights has thirty-one
Swelter'd venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i' the charmed pot.


Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.


Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg and owlet's wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.


Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.


Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,
Witches' mummy, maw and gulf
Of the ravin'd salt-sea shark,
Root of hemlock digg'd i' the dark,
Liver of blaspheming Jew,
Gall of goat, and slips of yew
Silver'd in the moon's eclipse,
Nose of Turk and Tartar's lips,
Finger of birth-strangled babe
Ditch-deliver'd by a drab,
Make the gruel thick and slab:
Add thereto a tiger's chaudron,
For the ingredients of our cauldron.


Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.


Cool it with a baboon's blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.

This might seem enough for one Bitches Brew, but just for the record, I'll note that a few extra ingredients are added a little later in the scene:


Pour in sow's blood, that hath eaten
Her nine farrow; grease that's sweaten
From the murderer's gibbet throw
Into the flame.

I claim a second link to "mute" in position 3: the Tartar may be able to speak without lips, wolf may howl sans teeth, but the dog who loses his tongue in the making of this brew is surely mute -- whether living or dead.

Then again, Macbeth asks the witches:


How now, you secret, black and midnight hags?
What is't you do?

and they reply in unison:


A deed without a name.

Without a name, the deed itself is "mute". I claim a third link with position 3.

Last but probably not least, Miles Davis released an album entitled Bitches Brew some time before the Inspiral Carpets offering of the same name. It caused a furor among jazz fans, some of whom felt it was a brew from hell, what with its "boiling" rhythm section, its three electric pianos, electric guitar and electric bass...

I claim a link to "Miles Davis" in position 8.

Miles recorded a second album, "Another Bitches Brew" (Jazz Door JD 1284/85).

I therefore claim a second link with "Miles" in 8, for a grand total of five links in this move.

Move 9: Richard plays Sound in position 2.

He writes:

Bravo! The Mute Liberation Technologies link is delightfully obscure. And thanks for bringing Shakespeare into the game. The witches added an air of dark mystery. I might argue that a tongueless dog could still bark as they bark with their throat but I wont quibble (in fact I remain mute) because finding mute the link within the witches' incantation was most resourceful of you.

I place sound in position 2.

Making 'sound' is opposite of being 'mute' = 1 link.

Miles Davis certainly was in the business and art of 'sound' = 1 link.

Of course a 'trumpeter' makes 'sounds' = 1 link.

A 'sound' and 'lake' are both bodies of water = 1 link. (See my photo of a rower on Puget Sound taken from the "walk-in" cottage on Vashon Island, where we lived upon our immigration from Miami. It is a healing place surrounded by water, trees, mountains, otters and eagles.)

Websters sez: "sound 1. to measure the depth of water, esp. with a weighted line." To check the depth of a 'lake' (or a sound for that matter) you would 'sound' = 1 link.

Further both a 'sound' and a 'brew' are volumes of liquid = 1 link.

A bitch (female dog), with the exception of a Besenji, will almost always bark to make a 'sound' = 1 link.

Move 10: Charles plays Gabriel in position 4.

I write:

A fine penultimate move, your "sound" with its elegant double reference to musics and waters...

In response, I place Gabriel in position 4.

I have two musicians in mind as I make this move, Peter Gabriel -- and the angel of that name. And if a further link is required between the two of them, it is probably implicit in the 1969 Genesis album title, From Genesis to Revelation... which would be enough to make any musician named Gabriel think long and hard about his angelic namesake.


I claim a link between Gabriel (Peter) and Miles Davis in 8 since they have both contributed to world beat -- and are often thought of together in this connection, as attested for instance by this excerpt from a 1993 Newsday piece on Shadowfax:

In the tradition of musicians like Miles Davis, Peter Gabriel and Don Cherry, Shadowfax blurs the line between genres, mixing 3rd world drums and reeds with synthesizers and jazzy saxes.

Thus Miles' band between the end of 1971 and the beginning of 1973 included (in addition to Miles himself on electric trumpet and organ), Indian instruments such as Khalil Balakrishna's electric sitar and Badal Roy's tabla -- just as Peter Gabriel's sountrack for Scorsese's Last Temptation of Christ featured the electric double violin of Shankar and the tabla of Hossam Ramzy -- along with much else besides.

Then again, Miles is sometimes referred to as a Prince of Darkness after the cut of that name on his album Sorcerer, and it's hard to determine from right here and now whether he is in fact up there and always with the angelic choir or down there and always with the dark ones -- but if he's down there, I claim a second link with 8 for the contrast between a prince of darkness (Miles) and a prince of light (Gabriel), and if he's up there as I would hope, I still claim a link, since I expect he's teaching the said angel a few new licks...


...for the angel is himself a trumpeter, as we know from Blow Your Trumpet, Gabriel (Slave Songs, ed: Jerry Silverman, Chelsea House, 1994), and is indeed named in the Anchor Bible commentary -- about the best multi-volume commentary I know of -- as one of the seven Angels of the Presence who sound their trumpets in the Book of Revelation. One link, then, with "Trumpeter" in 9.


"The trumpet shall sound", St Paul writes in his first Epistle to the Corinthians XV, 51 - 52:

Behold, I tell you a mystery: we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinlking of an eye, at the last trumpet. The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

That's a pretty explicit connection between trumpet and "sound" (in 2), and although St Paul almost certainly wrote First Corinthians before John penned his Revelation, the trumpet in question is no less clearly an apocalyptic, heavenly trumpet of the sort Gabriel carries...

So I claim one link for "The trumpet shall sound" -- quoting not only St Paul, but also the glorious bass aria of that name in Handel's *Messiah*...


Now, as for Gabriel and the Lake... I'm going to have to be a little creative with this one, but it gives me a welcome opportunity to tie us back in to your very first move, "swan" in 10, at the very end of the game.

You told me that you had the "hamsa" in mind when making that first move, and I must point out to you now that the "hamsa" can be represented as either a swan or a goose. In Heinrich Zimmer's Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization, for instance, the index entry for "Hamsa" reads, very simply, "See Gander" -- and under "Gander" one finds references to eg the story of Markandaya, the saint who was swallowed by Vishnu -- in whose gigantic body, we are told,

he remained in lonely quietude and joyfully listened to the "Song of the Immortal Gander": the at first hardly audible, secret, yet universal melody of God's life-breath, flowing in, flowing out...

The hamsa, then, is as much a goose as a swan...

You will remember also that I made use of the hamsa in my "lake" move in 6, citing Lord Rama as a "paramahamsa" -- one who is master of the supreme soul which the hamsa symbolises, and that I referred in my move to the Tulsidas version of the Ramayana, Ramacharitamanasa or Lake of the Nectarfilled Doings of Lord Rama. We might call it, for short, Hamsa Lake.

Now, the Angel Gabriel is not only a trumpeter, he also has hounds -- in fact, "Gabriel's hounds" is an expression which refers to wild geese.

From Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable:

Gabriel's hounds, called also Gabble Ratchet. Wild geese. The noise of geese in flight is like that of a pack of hounds in full cry. The legend is that they are the souls of unbaptized children wandering through the air till the Day of JUDGMENT.

From Gabriel to the Lake in 6, then, on the wings of that mysterious waterbird of the soul...

Richard Rogers and Charles Cameron

a WaterBird Game

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