Whirly Tubes and Bloogles

After writing about the spinning tubes used in Brett Dean’s Moments of Bliss and being unable to secure the actual name for the tube, I posted the question to my friends on Facebook. One of them wrote back with a link to a page about the “Bloogle Resonator”, so I visited this page and found that it described pretty accurately what I was talking about. There was also a picture, but this picture seemed to be on about the same level as one my 5 year old would take with his PlaySchool camera, so I was not totally convinced it was the same instrument that I mentioned in We’re Off….

Later that day, I happened upon Ellen Primack, the Executive Director of the Cabrillo Festival. She walked up to me, and with little warning quickly beamed, “Whirly Tubes!”. This caught me off guard at first, but I quickly realized that she had read my previous post and was informing me that those little spinning tubes are in fact called “Whirly Tubes”.

Now to me, this name makes a lot more sense than “Bloogle Resonator”, and a quick Google search reveals plenty of results for Whirly Tubes, but almost nothing for Bloogle Resonator. Certainly, the name “Whirly Tube” much better fits my childhood memories — five years old, standing in front of my grandmother’s house, whirling and twirling the tube as fast as I could, trying to make the highest possible pitch emerge from the spinning blur in front of me…

But in the end, I think the best argument for this name was the instant recognition by David Heath and Avner Dorman (composers featured at this year’s festival) at Ellen’s mention of the name, “Whirly Tubes”. All three of them knew of other pieces that called for them and quickly began discussing the merits of including Whirly Tubes in a piece. As I sat and watched this discussion — two of the world’s most respected living composers discussing the role and musical merits, or lack thereof, of a little plastic toy called a “Whirly Tube” — I couldn’t help but think of what a surreal scene it was, and that really, this conversation simply could not happen anywhere else.

Santa Cruz and Cabrillo. For two jam-packed weeks in August it truly is the place to be for anyone interested in the beautiful but somewhat wacky world of contemporary music. Now, if only they let me play the Whirly Tubes!

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