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Designers are tuning in to decorating with brass -- instruments, that is

THE 76 trombones of Broadway's ``The Music Man'' fame -- as well as the rows and rows of shiny trumpets that were also part of the colorful band ``that led the parade'' -- have probably long since been converted into lamps. So get out those old brass instruments, if no one plays them anymore, and do a little decorating with them. Brass musical instruments conjure up the sound of summer concerts and memories of high school bands that blasted out Sousa marches, patriotic celebrations on the green, grand parades, and ``old times.''

Many interior designers now view such instruments not just as beautiful pieces of hardware, but as interesting three-dimensional art. They use them as distinctive elements in wall arrangements or as sculpture that can hang alone on a wall or be placed on a shelf among other cherished objects.

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Brass horns can be rescued from attics or basements, picked up at house auctions and flea markets, or purchased from antique dealers and shops that specialize in collectibles at prices that range from $10 to $2,000, depending on the individual instrument and its size, age, and condition.

Diana Loercher Pazicky, a former art critic at the Monitor, discovered her husband's high school band trombone languishing in the family attic. ``He was far too attached to it to think of letting it go,'' she explains, ``so together we took it to Michael J. Dotzel & Son, metal repair experts in Manhattan, to have it converted into a lamp.''

In Mr. Dotzel's skillful hands, the instrument was welded, drilled, wired, and set on a base. After locating the right shade, Diana and Ed Pazicky placed their tall, unusal lamp on a round table in the foyer of their home.

``It was an immediate hit. Everyone who comes in comments on it,'' says Mrs. Pazicky. ``It is the best conversation piece in our entire house and the recycling effort was worth every penny that it cost [just under $l00]. We preserved the sentiment, and we also got something that was right for our needs. A trombone, you see, has an interesting abstract design and flowing lines, so it actually made quite a graceful and interesting lamp.''

For many years, numerous people besides the Pazickys have found their way to the Dotzel workshop at 402 East 63rd Street, toting musical instruments of various kinds to be converted into lamps or to be polished, repaired, and used as sculptures.

Mr. Dotzel warns, however, that once a horn is turned into a lamp, it can never again be used as a musical instrument. A horn that is merely polished can be played again at a later date. Although polishing and lamp conversion costs would vary considerably in different parts of the country, the Dotzels charge from $95 up, depending on size and complexity, to convert brass horns into lamps, not including the shades.

They charge about $125 to polish and lacquer a trombone. The usual lacquer finish, which eliminates the need for further polishing, lasts about four years. A more expensive baked-on lacquer finish lasting up to 10 years is also available. For those who have a feeling for the natural patina of old brass, and have the time to rub and rub, they recommend Brasso and Simichrome metal polishes.

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Barbara Plott, owner of a retail store and an architectural showroom called ``Added Oomph!'' in High Point, N.C., deals, among other things, in a variety of used horns, vintage and otherwise. Her collection includes trombones, saxophones, bugles, trumpets, French horns, tubas, and baritone and hunting horns. ``We find them in all kinds of conditions, some playable, some not, some clean and shiny, and some that need a lot of work done on them before we can offer them. I buy the horns only for their interesting shapes.''

Ms. Plott's price tags range from $40 to $50 for bugles, up to $215 for larger and more complicated instruments. ``These are not big-city prices,'' she explains, ``but happen to be right for us and for our area.''

Lillian Calpin, a New York dealer in old instruments who operates a shop out of her own apartment, speaks of the ``esthetic'' value of instruments. She finds brass ones particularly enchanting because of the many variations. ``Since the [US] Bicentennial,'' she says, ``there's been a resurgence all over the country of bands using instruments of the Civil War period and everyone wants bell-over-the-shoulder brasses.''

People instantly fall in love with the shapes, says Ms. Calpin, and quickly discover that they also look great as sculptures, on or off walls. Her prices range from $900 to $2,000.

People in other countries also have discovered the charm of old horns used decoratively. In Prague, Czechoslovakia, Ladislav and Kreta Kopecky live in an apartment in the historic Old Town section of the city. Since both husband and wife come from a village in the part of the country called Moravia, they decorated their walls with folk artifacts of the region. These included a high, black felt peasant hat, some well-worn farm tools, and an old brass horn which to them represents family celebrations and colorful festival days. Mr. Kopecky put a simple bracket on the wall to hold the horn and placed a sheet of music beside it as reminders of valued village traditions.

So be it far or near, in a sophisticated setting or a very simple one, old brass instruments are finding a new place -- and a new audience that appreciates not only the sound they make but the intrinsic art of their shape.

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