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Digital Taps

20 October, 2006 (01:01) | From Home

I was listening to NPR yesterday and they were presenting a story of a recent burial in Arlington National Cemetery. Behind the reporter was the playing of “Taps”. What an incredibly haunting melody. This version was one of the sweetest made. I say made because I am sure that I heard the same version at the funeral of a relative, an incredible human being and the only war hero I knew. At the cemetery, the honor guard moved carefully through all its steps. Creating an appropriate formality to the occasion. Watching the flag folded, in person, is truly a breath taking experience as it is presented to the family. In all solemnity one of the guards presented the other with his bugle and the bugler moved slightly away from the crowd. With his back turned toward the mourners he slowly pointed his instrument skyward. After a brief moment of appropriate pause, out came the most beautiful playing of Taps I have ever heard. The sort of version that your entire body responds to involuntarily. It was slightly muted, sounding a bit further off then the bugler actually was, but every note was perfectly on pitch, no wavering of the note, and each note was held to the most final point possible. It was the perfect ending to this solemn event and a wonderful way to say good-bye to an amazing man. It was just too perfect!

In 2000, the government in an effort to keep up with all of the needs for buglers for our aging veterans and our recent war and wars passed a new regulation allowing a digital version of taps. The Department of Veterans affairs made a recording of a bugler from a service in 1999 in Arlington National Cemetery and by 2002 rolled out some tests of the new version. You can check it out on this site below.

I’ve thought about this quality of being just too perfect and its analogy to visual art forms, particularly digitally generated art. I can appreciate the quality of the visuals produced by the computer. Often times depending upon the level of talent of the artist, they can truly be quite beautiful. Yet, I still can’t get over the feeling that I am being cheated: That no one has yet blown any life into the work. They just simply put it up to their lips and pressed the button to start. I am so grateful for the artists who are continuing to push this media, to make it more than just a “make-it-and-take-it” as called in the craft world. I realize this media is just at its infancy and has been made and remade already many times over. I am also aware of the artists who are capable of the tweaks and subtleties one expects of great art using this medium. However art is made, whether by pushing a button or a brush I am hopeful that it remains infused with humanity.

(Taps played at Pres. Kennedy’s funeral:



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