Tubatron: HOWTO make and play a flaming tuba (video)

My friend David Silverman is a director on the TV show The Simpsons, and he's helming the forthcoming Simpsons Movie. But more importantly, he designed and built a flaming tuba, and plays it beautifully in exotic locations throughout the weirdosphere. He toots out a cover of "Oops I Did It Again" in this video. I asked David to explain how the flaming tuba came to be, and he offers this explamanamation to BoingBoing readers:

I probably was thinking about this idea for a year or so before realizing it. A friend of mine, Anna Maltese, is an expert fire dancer. I'd watch her perform with her other fire and circus pals — and that's when it hit me: fire+tuba=fun. Very simple equation. The "+" was the the tricky part.

We talked about attaching fire wicking to the top of the sousaphone bell, or something with propane shooting out of the top. But I'm not a carpenter or welder.

Fortunately, she knew a terrific carpenter/tinkerer. And one with a strong knowledge of propane, so things don't go boom in the night. I was hoping for something propane based, and a system where I could manipulate the flame height. Also, because the bell of the sousaphone detaches, I needed the fuel line to be able to detach in the middle as well.

Shanan Brown took on these problems, and solved them with a simple and ingenious system. A copper pipe attached to the curve of the left side of the horn, and a trigger device attached to that, prior to where you attach the propane tank. This allows my left (free) hand to work the trigger. The pipe continues up the side of the bell, and across the top. There is had been drilled with several tiny holes to let the gas escape. And finally – after seeing it in operation – the addition of two copper slats as a wind screen.

Yes, there were a few missteps. We had the pipe soldered on at the top – and found the heat melted the solder. (It only got me on the arm and the top of my head.) So, that was replaced by mechanically attaching the pipe. The solder around the lower part got weakened by my use of the trigger — so additional hose clamps were added. The tank gets FREEZING cold. (Liquid converts into a gas, creates a sudden drop in pressure – lowering the temperature.) So, wearing a Utilikilt helps insulate from that. Also, another friend on mine, Lou Genise, is a very talented leathersmith, and we are going to devise a harness to carry the tank more comfortably.

So, now I am happily performing with Anna's fire company, Phoenix Projekt. Call me Tubatron. Here to spread joy, music, tuba flames, and pedal-tone B flats.

Link to full-size image of David as Tubatron at Burning Man. Thanks so much, David!