Even though most of the snail mail I get nowadays comprises bills, bank statements and unwanted invitations to insure my life and chattels, I still look forward to the arrival of the postman. Once in a blue moon, perhaps three times since 1978, he brings me something special and earlier this week he did just that. Opening an unassuming padded envelope I discovered a copy of Polynesian Sound-Producing Instruments by Richard Moyle. My brother found it somewhere and thought it might interest me.
It was published in 1990 but has a very seventies look to it. The only colour photograph is the one on the cover. I'm no photographer myself but I would guess the chemicals used to develop it were last sold some time in the late 1960s. It shows four nose flautists serenading the Queen and Prince Philip at dawn on a visit to Tonga in 1953. The book is full of delights that I will share with you from time to time and describes many unusual instruments in detail.
My favourite part so far stresses the importance of avoiding bum notes. Music is the food of the Gods in Polynesia and They take a keen interest: "...any performance error was construed as an insult and therefore likely to produce some form of divinely caused misfortune to one's self, family or village." Perhaps if I practise more the Gods will reward me with more pleasant surprises in the post and fewer bills. Perhaps my performance errors, and not Christmas overspend, are the cause of all January's demands for payment. Or perhaps the local spirits in Norfolk are thicker skinned (or have learned to lower their expectations) than their Polynesian cousins.