During a concert the other night (bravo Cleveland Orchestra, currently in its annual Miami residency), I noticed a few of the brass players intermittently inserting what looked like large funnels, below, into their instruments, during a performance of Richard Strauss’ Ein Heldenleben (“A Hero’s Life”). Obviously for some sort of muting effect to color the sound, but had never picked up on this before (too focused on the strings, I guess). Indeed, they are mutes and are precisely for that purpose; it turns out that Strauss had an affinity for both muted tuba and euphonium. They’re also used with other brass instruments, in different styles. (How they work.) The musical instruction for playing is con sordino (“with the mute”); will use the phrase on some of my more windbaggy friends (adding per favore!)  So this baffle solved.

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