At Last! Tuned Horns

[Update 11/19] University of Michigan has a 2016 video describing the original taxi horn tones of the Gershwin score.

Reader Jan (see comment below) shares an insight into the notes used in the original recording. That lead to this article (lots of interesting details): 1929 Gershwin Taxi Horn Photo Clarifies Mystery. It would seem the mystery of the actual tones used in the original recording is solved!

A comment from Bill Schuetter today provided the missing clue to discovering a source for tuned squeeze horns. Bill provided a link to a YouTube video of the LA Philharmonic performing Gershwin’s ‘American In Paris’. There they are! and certainly orchestras around the world would need these to perform Gershwin. I found a  few sources. See links below.

Taxi Horns for Gershwin's American In Paris Attribution Some rights reserved by vxla
Taxi Horns for Gershwin’s ‘American In Paris’ – Attribution Some rights reserved by vxla

[Update 5/11/15] There you go! Owner Russ Knutson, of Chicago Percussion Rental comments below to point out that the horns in this shot came from his shop.

From  CaliforniaPercussion.com (renting at $100 a week + shipping).

George Gershwin wrote for Tuned Taxi Horns in his composition An American in Paris. These horns come in a set of 4 pitches: A, B, C, & D. We have 3 sets of tuned taxi horns in our rental department and they all sound FANTASTIC! You will have no issues with our taxi horns; no muffled or dog barkish sounds, just pure taxi horn tone! As a percussionist for 10 years in the San Francisco Symphony, Trey Wyatt has used these horns for over 50 performances without failure.

The taxi horn part is normally played by one player. Gershwin actually writes for 2 players to each play 2 horns. However, it works brilliantly for this part to by played by 1 player, the cymbal player, as the cues for all the horn parts are written in the cymbal part.

Certainly not cheap to purchase. That’s about $750. U.S. From Kolberg in Germany.
A little cheaper at around $650 (but without the stand) from Jam in the U.K.
Most orchestras rent the set of  horns. In the U.S. often from Steve Weiss Music outside of Philadelphia.
Also from LA Percussion Rentals. FSTJ Percussion in Quebec, Canada, and above-mentioned California Percussion.
I’ll be looking for a U.S. source to purchase. I’ve also emailed an Indian manufacturer to see what the thinks about custom building tuned horns.

“4-Banger” Squeeze Horn!

Don’t see many of these around. Lots of 3 reed. Notice he’s using a hose clamp to attach it to his bike. Sometimes I feel a little wary of leaving my bike locked up somewhere because I’ve just got a wing nut holding my big brass 14″ horn on. You know, maybe it’s something someone would rip off. A hose clamp would certainly slow them down at least.  There’s a 3 banger over at Amazon (affiliate link).

Squeeky Blue Schwinn Squeeze Horn

The benefits of a small, squeeky horn like this is that they feel ‘friendly’. Actually, I have 3 squeeze horns on my bike. A big 14″ honker for when I really need to get some attention. The small squeeze horn when I’m just intending to alert somebody, especially a pedestrian. And a mini squeeky horn just for fun with kids and dogs mostly. But I’m on the bike path a lot and the weekends are crazy with tourists who don’t know how it all works.

Harpo And His Trusty Squeeze Horn!

Harpo Marx! Do you know him? I got lost the other day wandering through the interwebs tracking down an old friend, Harpo Marx. I would have been a child when I first saw some of the Marx Bros. movies and I’m wondering now if Harpo first introduced me to squeeze horns way back then. Have a quick peak.

One leads to another and then some Wikipedia (where they call it a ‘bulb horn’) and then… Harpo’s Place! Harpo’s family have a tribute site where you can read all about Harpo, his family, and the whole Marx Bros. story. There are some great audio clips too. Of course I was especially interested to find pictures of Harpo’s trusty walking cane with built-in squeeze horn.

You can see it in action here…

I don’t think it would be too difficult to make one of these! Will post when I get it built.