What Are Things About?

Or, What Things Are About, Or, The Identity Of Things, Or…or…or….


The Met: Musical Instruments

Sea Dragon

The Crosby Brown Collection of Musical Instruments, 1889
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/501492

This image by the Met Museum Art Collection quite attracted me. I’ve seen many marvelous and antic instruments, but this one really struck me as something more unique in its definition of form. Clearly a dragon. In fact, if you look closely at the inside of the dragon’s mouth, isn’t that a fish hook? Is that meant for us, should we dare poke a finger inside?

Is it also that clearly a musical instrument? I don’t think so. It’s there, the tube and the mouth piece, and the thumb place (the gold pad under his neck) so we know it belongs to the horn and flute family. Or does it? There are no holes from which the notes can flow, the air pulsing out from the Dragon’s spine. But maybe they are on the other side, just not visible from this angle of the photo.

In the interest of scientific research, I asked the neighbor’s visiting child—who is eight years old—what the thing was. (Age might matter in this experiment, as does music knowledge, which he has, playing in a school orchestra.)  He studied it quite seriously in a zoomed large photo of a photo. “Well,” he said, “It is a dragon for sure.” “Anything else,” I asked. “Well,” he said again, “You can see he’s still alive, even though he’s been stabbed.” “Stabbed?” I asked astounded. “Yes. See this?” He pointed to the tube extending curved, from the Dragon’s neck. “They tried to kill him with this but his hide was so thick and tough they couldn’t make it all the way through. That’s how they bent it.” He nodded, more to himself than to me. He seemed satisfied with his assessment. He didn’t even ask me if that was correct. (Kids rarely do.)

“And how do you know he is still alive?” “Well, he doesn’t have his head on the ground and he looks like he’s growling. He’s going to start shooting flames any minute.”

“How do you know he’s going to shoot flames?” “Well, see this?” He points to my fish hook. “That’s what his flames come from. When that goes all down, boy watch out! There’ll be flames for sure!”

Well, there you have it.



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