They all vibrate—either by strumming, or plucking, or striking, or tapping, or rubbing, or blowing into them. And those vibrations make music. There are so many ways to create music and so many ingenious musical instruments in the world. This is just a sample of my humble yet global, intercultural collection of instruments.
I think this compulsion first hit in 1962 at the Seattle World’s Fair. I purchased a wooden flute (the one leaning to the right) at the Yugoslavian exhibit. Or was it Czechoslovakian? Ever since, I haven’t been able to stop myself from gathering musical instruments like a hen gathering chicks. In addition to the music makers around my house, I keep a drawer full of tambourines, drums, and various jingling, ringling instruments at my church. Episcopalians, among several Protestant denominations, may be known as the “frozen chosen,” but we can cut loose on a good ol’ spiritual or Gospel song when abetted by appropriate percussion.
Knowing my weakness, friends and family have added to my collection, especially those who are world travelers. Among many gifts, I received a nose flute from Africa, a Melodica from Germany, and a “piping chanter kit” from Scotland. The kit, complete with instruction tape and booklet, is a way to play the bagpipes without the bag. I have yet to master it, bag or no bag.
The photograph includes an antique (on the left) that I believe is a precursor to the more modern autoharp, the instrument Mother Maybelle Carter made famous—not to mention Brian Bowes in the Pacific Northwest. I haven’t figured out how to make the antique playable, but I have three modern, working autoharps to make up for it.
One of my favorites (and my great-grandson’s favorite) is the wooden fellow sitting so stiffly on his paddle. But when you stand him up and get his paddle bouncing, he can tap dance like nobody’s business. The cricket to his right sounds, yup, just like a cricket when you stroke his belly with a stick.
Over the years, I’ve had a succession of pianos and organs, too. Limited now by space, I have just a keyboard. It’s a good one, and I enjoy it, but it’s dependent on electricity. At least I know if the power ever goes out, I’ll still be able to make music.
(To celebrate my 75th birthday this month, I’m posting daily stories about the stuff I’ve acquired over a lifetime and can’t let go of. I invite you to consider the stories attached to the stuff you treasure—maybe even share them.)