19 Comments

  1. I think the idea is that, without the conductor guiding their actions, not only do musicians in an orchestra fail to keep in perfect time with each other and rise to crescendos (for instance) as a unified musical whole, but they also fail to maintain any kind of personal body coordination at all. All orchestra musicians need a boss to tell them what to do or they would naturally just be flailing about in random fashion and chucking their instruments around.

  2. I’m ignorant of music in general and especially classical music, but what the heck is on that guy’s head? Is that a three-legged drum? Why is it that dull gray color? Or are those supposed to be weirdly-colored drumsticks? Why does Mr. Stage Right have a big spoon driven entirely through his brain? (The spoon player must be not just out of control, but superhumanly strong.)

    I got the joke, but the art ruins it for me. Possibly it’s just the coloring ruining it?

    Waiiiit … is that supposed to be a single maraca?

  3. No, I think it’s a large drum beater.

    Three legs is common on certain drums, for stability. The color is weird, but so is much of the artwork.

  4. Maybe the drum is a timpani – apparently the singular as well as plural. Or a kettledrum, same thing. From googling, they appear to have three “legs” but these often end in castors for easy transport. And they generally are rounded at the bottom, not like in the cartoon.

    https://www.google.com/search?q=timpani&client

    Not sure what the spoon-thing is supposed to be, unless it is some sort of squished clarinet.

  5. Animosity between (or within) orchestra sections can be rampant, especially when there is disagreement on what exactly “poco alegretto” means. In ancient times the conductor’s baton was more like a baseball bat. 😉

  6. I’d assume when the conductor fainted, their arms flailed and this was the result of following flails.

  7. i figured that when the conductor fainted, the musicians came to help him and got all tangled up in chairs.

  8. The three-legged drum is a “floor tom,” more common in jazz music than classical music. Perhaps they were playing “L’Histoire du Soldat” by Igor Stravinsky.

    Here’s a time the conductor didn’t faint but it happened anyway: https://youtu.be/L_ua921FlKg

  9. Thanks, MiB, both for clarifying about the Tom, and for that charming bit of Lisztomania!

  10. Here is Stravinsky’s “L’histoire du Soldat”. https://youtu.be/aZrPO-1WCgQ It calls for clarinet, bassoon, cornet, trombone, violin, double bass, and percussion. Note the field drum and bass drum in measures 3 and 4. The performer may be using a floor tom in place of the bass drum. It certainly sounds more like a floor tom than a bass drum in the recording.

    There are orchestras that do not have conductors, most notably the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra in New York.

    Even though “L’histoire du Soldat” only uses 7 players, it is rhythmically very complex and therefore usually directed by a conductor. It’s a play with music and dancing, although the music is often recorded on its own. There was a notable performance at Tanglewood in 1968 conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas. Nobody fainted but a prop violin was smashed as part of the action of the play.

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