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      I'm So Sick of These Hipster Trombonists

      November 21, 2012
      Clive Martin

      By Clive Martin

      Writer


      Above: hipsters

      Everyone knows now, that for a long time now that we have all been living in The Age Of Irony. New York Times writer Christy Wampole helpfully reiterated this to the masses in her recent think-piece "How To Live WIthout Irony". As an article, it's not terribly written and is actually fairly articulate, but it doesn't really tell us anything we haven't been told before – you know, the usual stuff about you and I being nothing but fickle, giggling, retromaniac croutons bobbing around in a post-modern soup clinging to the wreckage of purpose and meaning, bla, bla, bla.

      But there was one thing thing in the article that stood out to me. And it arrived in the second paragraph:

      "If irony is the ethos of our age – and it is – then the hipster is our archetype of ironic living."

      "The hipster haunts every city street and university town. Manifesting a nostalgia for times he never lived himself, this contemporary urban harlequin appropriates outmoded fashions (the moustache, the tiny shorts), mechanisms (fixed-gear bicycles, portable record players) and hobbies (home brewing, playing trombone)."

      Sorry, what? Playing the trombone? Since when did anyone play the trombone ironically? I can't think of any buzz bands or moombahton remixes that use a trombone. I can't remember ever hearing anyone utter the phrase: "Fuck those hipster trombonists." I can't even think of any famous trombonists, other than that guy who played Bunk in The Wire in that film about New Orleans. And I'm not even sure that was a trombone.


      Christy Wampole Ph.D, bathing in the glow of righteous sincerity.

      As I read on, I stumbled across another paragraph that seemed to me like the crux of the article, a list of questions to help us all examine our lives so that we can become less ironic – i.e. less hipster – and more sincere:

      "Here is a start: Look around your living space. Do you surround yourself with things you really like or things you like only because they are absurd? Listen to your own speech. Ask yourself: Do I communicate primarily through inside jokes and pop culture references? What percentage of my speech is meaningful? How much hyperbolic language do I use? Do I feign indifference? Look at your clothes. What parts of your wardrobe could be described as costume-like, derivative or reminiscent of some specific style archetype (the secretary, the hobo, the flapper, yourself as a child)? In other words, do your clothes refer to something else or only to themselves? Do you attempt to look intentionally nerdy, awkward or ugly? In other words, is your style an anti-style? The most important question: How would it feel to change yourself quietly, offline, without public display, from within?"

      It's like Chicken Soup For The Soul written by Slavoj Žižek, isn't it?

      Combining these two, I decided it was time to put Christy's theory to the test. Are we all just "walking citations", trapped in a cycle of "ironic living [that] bespeaks cultural numbness, resignation and defeat" and which is littered with "a clutter of kitsch objects, an endless series of sarcastic jokes and pop references"? Are we all contestants in "a competition to see who can care the least"?

      I decided to call up the prime suspects – those fucking ironic trombonists rotting our planet's heart from the inside out – to ask them questions from Dr Wampole's self-help programme.

      Richard Debonnaire, trombonist.
      (@BromleyTrombone)

      VICE: Hi Richard. Do you surround yourself with things you really like, or things you like only because they are absurd?
      Richard Debonnaire: I have things that I like because I like them, not to make some statement.

      Okay. Now listen to your own speech. Do you communicate primarily through inside jokes and pop culture references?
      I’d say I don’t. I’m not averse to it, but as far as trombone inside jokes go, anything that’s got any kind of lubrication always gets a bit of a laugh.

      So are trombones inherently funny?
      It seems like a jokey instrument in many respects but it’s a pretty serious bit of kit to be honest, and hard to play well.

      Okay, sorry. Back to the quiz: What percentage of your speech is meaningful?
      I’m known to waffle, but whether that’s directly associated with my trombone I don’t know. That’s more of a character trait than a trombone-induced one.

      How much hyperbolic language do you use?
      Oh yes, I have been known to exaggerate. How much? I try to take care. And I do it with the full knowledge that everybody knows I’m doing it.

      Do you feign indifference?
      Yes, on occasion. I feign it sometimes to make it look like I don’t care about things. You know how it is.

      Are you accusing me of being a hipster?
      No.

      Then that's fine. What parts of your wardrobe could be described as costume-like, derivative or reminiscent of some specific style archetype?
      Not much, because all that stuff got thrown out when I got married. I used to have the old denim jacket. I used to wear it to live concerts and stuff. I still played trombone back then. If I'm honest, I was never that concerned with style, but I used to wear the jacket as a teenager. My wife threw it away without telling me though. But I don’t think I’m alone there.

      Do you attempt to look intentionally nerdy, awkward or ugly?
      No, I try to avoid looking all of those things.

      In other words, is your style an anti-style?
      I wouldn’t say I have a style. I’m just not that kind of a person. I don’t tend to particularly follow trends. I tend to plough my own furrow. I go my own way. I don’t do that to make a statement. If I was left to my own devices I’d be a sartorial nightmare, but the wife keeps me in check.

      The most important question: How would it feel to change yourself quietly, offline, without public display, from within?
      I don’t know how to answer that.

      Andrew McCoy, trombonist.
      (SoundCloud)


      VICE: Do you surround yourself with things you really like, or things you like only because they are absurd?
      Andrew: I surround myself with things I like. I don’t own anything for the sake of it being strange.

      Now listen to your own speech. Do you communicate primarily through inside jokes and pop culture references?
      Yeah, I have quite a lot of inside jokes.

      What percentage of your speech is meaningful?
      Seventy percent.

      Do you mean that?
      Yes!

      Do your clothes refer to something else, or only to themselves?
      My clothes? They don’t have any hidden meaning. They’re just clothes. No.

      Do you attempt to look intentionally nerdy, awkward or ugly?
      No.

      In other words, is your style an anti-style?
      No, no, no, no, no!

      The most important question: How would it feel to change yourself quietly, offline, without public display, from within?
      I don’t understand the question. I don’t know.

       

      Martyn Hunter, trombonist.
      (bio)


      VICE: Do you surround yourself with things you really like, or things you like only because they are absurd?
      Martyn: Because they’re absurd.

      I see. Martyn, listen to your own speech. Do you communicate primarily through inside jokes and pop culture references?
      Yeah, inside jokes make up most of the trombone banter, really. A standard one is: “What’s the note range of a bass drummer?” And the punch line is: “On or off.”

      Is that an ironic joke?
      No.

      What percentage of your speech is meaningful?
      I never thought of that really. I’d say around about 80 percent.

      How much hyperbolic language do you use?
      About 60 percent.

      How can 80 percent of your speech be meaningful when 60 percent of it is hyperbolic? You can't have 140 percent of speech.
      I don't know. Leave me alone.

      What parts of your wardrobe could be described as costume-like, derivative or reminiscent of some specific style archetype?
      Tough question. Really tough question. I’m not trying to imitate any kind of style or concept. They’re just clothes. I just have clothes.

      In other words, is your style an anti-style?
      Yeah, exactly. Yeah, that’s right.

      The most important question: How would it feel to change yourself quietly, offline, without public display, from within?
      I don’t know really. I can’t think of anything to come up with to respond to that.

      Meredith Moore, trombonist.
      (bio)


      VICE: Do you surround yourself with things you really like or things you like only because they are absurd?
      Meredith: Um, I collect old brass instruments? I have a lot of old hunting horns. They’re pink. I use them to decorate and I think they’re cool. They are a bit funny, people come over and try and play them. But of course you can’t play them!

      Listen to your own speech. Do you communicate primarily through inside jokes and pop culture references?
      Probably, yeah.

      How much hyperbolic language do you use?
      What does that mean?

      Do you use hyperbole a lot?
      I don’t know what that means.

      Do you feign indifference?
      Yes.

      Do you attempt to look intentionally nerdy, awkward or ugly?
      No, definitely not.           

      In other words, is your style an anti-style?
      No. I think my style is… it’s very "styles".           

      How would it feel to change yourself quietly, offline, without public display, from within?
      Well, I’m very careful about what I do online. A lot of what I do online is reflective of what I do and who I am. I would never say something online that I didn’t mean. I try not to put too much stuff on line. I like to maintain privacy.

       

      John Roskilly, trombonist.
      (Tutor page)


      VICE: Do you surround yourself with things you really like, or things you like only because they are absurd?
      John: Ah yeah, I suppose so. I’ve got a didgeridoo and a Japanese Shaka hat, probably the most interesting thing I have is a puppet of a nun with boxing gloves on that can punch people.

      Did you bring the didgeridoo back from a particularly memorable holiday in Australia?
      No, I just happen to have it.

      Then I'm sorry, but it's not sincere and you'll have to burn it. But before you do that, listen to your own speech. Do you communicate primarily through inside jokes and pop culture references?
      I wouldn’t say so.

      What percentage of your speech is meaningful?
      Oh… about half, maybe.

      So half of your speech is frivolous?
      Yeah, it’s a little silly.

      How much hyperbolic language do you use?
      Ah, quite a lot.

      Is there a reason why?
      It makes things more colourful.

      What parts of your wardrobe could be described as costume-like, derivative or reminiscent of some specific style archetype?
      I have a few things that could be described as costume-type things.

      The most important question: How would it feel to change yourself quietly, offline, without public display, from within?
      That would be… OK. Yeah I think that would be fun, could be a laugh.

      - - -

      So there you have it, Wampole; Trombonists aren't the arch-ironists that you have made them out to be. Maybe the next time you want to launch a public attack on a section of society who genuinely just enjoy playing a musical instrument that looks like it's been wrenched off a Model T Ford, you should do your fucking research?

      Trombonists don't fuck with irony or insincerity while rocking a totally meaningful T-shirt with super empathetic jeans, because they don't dress up their art with all that bullshit. Trombonists are proof that there are still living, breathing examples of sincerity to be hauled clear from the rubble of our culture.

      Follow Clive on Twitter: @thugclive

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      Topics: hipsters, trombones, hipster trombonists

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