The haunting sound of "Taps" is traditional at a military funeral. Typically, a bugler (or trumpet player) plays the 24 notes from a location that is a bit of a distance away from the grave site. There is only one problem: the Pentagon and the Veterans Administration are having a difficult time finding enough buglers for the 1,800 veterans who are dying each day.
Many military ceremonies in recent years have featured a portable music player, or boombox, that plays a prerecorded rendition. Relatives of deceased have commented often that a boombox is a poor substitute for the real thing.
Enter technology. A new "digital bugle" plays an authentic sounding version of taps at the push of a button. With the digital bugle -- known as a ceremonial bugle, you are guaranteed that the notes will be played perfectly every time.
Last year The Pentagon tested the method for six months before approving it for wider use, and they reported that most families were satisfied with the experience. It works using a small cone-shaped device inserted into the bugle's bell. A soldier, typically not a skilled bugler, places the digital bugle to the lips but secretly presses a button. An almost authentic bugle sound is heard without the "bugler" doing anything else. The device plays a high-quality recorded version of “Taps,” taken from the 1999 Memorial Day service at Arlington National Cemetery.
The fake bugle has been used more often than the real one in the nearly 38,000 military funerals so far this year. Military services have purchased about 4,000 bugles, said Mark Ward, the Pentagon's senior policy adviser for military funeral honors.
The $525 ceremonial bugle is available at http://www.ceremonialbugle.com.
As a former trumpet player back in high school, I can remember playing Taps at many funerals in the small town where I grew up. I guess I disapprove of this digital imitation. I doubt if a piece of silicon and associated circuitry can duplicate the emotion that a trained bugler can create. Note that the Pentagon claims that it plays an "almost authentic bugle sound." Is "almost authentic" good enough?
I'll also mention that there are thousands of bugler/trumpeters across the nation who have volunteered to play taps "live" whenever needed. Check out http://www.buglesacrossamerica.org for details.