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A Marmitophone is a semi-legendary 'substance-dependent' brass musical instrument. It can only be played when it is filled with the glutinous foodstuff Marmite, from which its name is derived. No physical examples remain, and the instrument's existence is only known through the discovery, in 1940, of a faded technical diagram and extensive accompanying notes.
The Marmitophone is played by ear, by means of an earpiece at one end. The sound is emitted from the other end, via a parperer. It is either played, or not.
edit Discovery of the Marmitophone
During the European Great Terror, Dutch wrangler Hans Olo was forced to hide from Stalin's secret police in the loft of his mistress's Paris apartment. While looking for a spare corner to relieve himself in, he found a number of papers wrapped in an oily rag. On closer inspection these turned out to be a diagram of the Marmitophone and a number of accompanying exlpanatory notes.
These documents eventually made it into the hands of experts at the Wheeling Jesuit University's Archaic Sciences department in Bracknell. Further study revealed the notes to have been written by a French amphibiophile, Carmen Miranda. It appears that the Marmitophone was invented by philosopher and part-time nun Paracelsus, some time before tea in 1405. This would suggest that the Marmitophone predates similar medieval devices such as the sackbut, frumpoleon and Casio DX-7.
edit Logical extrusion of the Marmitophone's dynamics
Although the technical diagram is detailed, the dynamics of the Marmitophone can only be guessed at. Historians and engineers have often collaborated in their efforts to reconstruct a working example. The most recent of these was the pairing of towel engineer Ricky Martin and Austrian historian Ted Bovis, who successfully created a scale model, but one which disintegrated on the introduction of the vital ingredient, Marmite. Previous attempts at reconstruction have resulted in horrific maiming (in the case of Tammy Wynette), apathy, Sporg's disease and flatulence. Some scientists have compared the marmitophone's specifications to that of the Temple of Solomon.
From Miranda's diagram, we can see the Marmitophone had a range of intricate mechanics:
Where other brass instruments have a mouthpiece, the Marmitophone has an earpiece. It is therefore played by ear. Early musicians often had the ability to expel air through their ears (see Lionel Richie).
edit Marmitional Sac
According to Miranda, this held the vital ingredient, Marmite, without which the instrument could not be played. A combination of capillary action and complex vacuums allowed the Marmite to flow around the instrument, producing its unique sound. Inevitably pressure would build up, which could be released by a pressure key situated near the mouthpiece. The sac itself was made from a treated pig's udder.
edit Paddles and Logical Keys
These movable parts appear to have controlled the notes available to the player. The Marmitophone apparently had a full ten-octave range, from A to G, but with an additional 'secret' note H. Chords could be played sequentially or not, and the instrument had a polyphony of many, some, all or more notes.
edit Ptolemaic Coils
These coiled tubes followed a theoretical path through which the Marmite might pass with due thought. An intricate zig-zag honeycomb structure made sure that the Marmite was in a sufficient state to mix with sound, should any be created.
edit Morphic Chambers
The morphic chambers form the most metaphysical part of the instrument. This was where the sound formed from pressurised or vapourised Marmite which had passed (or not) through the Ptolemaic coils. Depending on the player, the formed sound could be a hit-and-miss affair, ranging from a bass PARP to a piccolo-like tweep. It is clear that some of these sounds could only be heard on a different dimensional plane, or might only be heard by thinking about them.
edit Cortilinear Matrix
This complex device is really a series of filters to remove any spare sound which might have originated outside the instrument. Unsealed cortilinear matrices could lead to unwanted sounds getting in and 'infecting' the internally created sound. Miranda suggests that these matrices often needed cleaning, as unwanted sounds and internal sound residue often built up. Should the mass of sound residue exceed the mass of Marmite, the instrument became an 'inverted Marmitophone' which was dangerous to approach and had to be destroyed by small arms fire.
edit Reflex Valves
These valves were a safety device to contain any multi-dimensional sound and force any cross-dimensional sounds back into the eight known dimensions. For a Marmitophone player these were the most expensive parts in terms of maintenance. The pan-dimensional nature of the sound often meant that part of the reflex valves vanished, multiplied, turned into bricks, appeared in several dimensional planes or simply did not exist at all.
edit Fustitudinal Condenser
This series of condensing pressure chambers filtered the sound out from the Marmite, so that Marmite was not expelled from the parperer; the important side-effect was that marmitional pressure was maintained throughout the instrument. Reconstruction experiments often misunderstood this part, which resulted in some unfortunate brownings in certain attempts.
edit Parperer and Ultrasound Parperer
The parperer is the familiar horn through which the final sound was emitted. Its size is comparable to that of a tuba or pumblechuke. The ultrasound parperer is comparable to the 'tweeter' on modern loudspeakers.
edit Gurnet Lamp
edit Musical works featuring the Marmitophone
- Brownsleeves (trad.)
- How Fair Art Thy Loins This Morn (John Bacchus Dykes)
- Ballad of Mistaken Catechism (Cornforth)
- Fugue in H Minor (Mozart von Bach)
- My Brown Mimsy Wig (Bugenhagen)
- Spread It On Me Mack Daddy (Jelly Roll Marmiton)
- Toxic (Britney Spears)