Rube Goldberg machine contest
Image by Argonne National Laboratory via Flickr

I love the xylophone.  Actually, I love any tuned instrument that creates sound by hitting it with something, whether that something be mallets, sticks, brushes, fingers, hands, whatever.   In a word, percussion.

In western music we hear the xylophone, or variations of it,  played in symphonies and jazz.  It’s also commonly heard in African music.  It has a wonderful clear and sharp yet gentle, resonant quality to its sound, always uplifting to hear.  It makes me want to dance.

Here’s an African Xylophone or Marimba as they call it.

Next up is a most unusual Forest Xylophone I found on Wired, playing Bach’s Cantata 147.   It’s also a very clever Rube Goldberg machine. Imagine getting all those pieces of wood tuned and in exactly the right place?

Another instrument that creates a similar sound is the vibraphone, or vibes as its commonly called.
Lionel Hampton, king of the vibes, is often credited with being the first musician to play jazz on the vibes.

When I first heard the cymbalom in Hungary I thought it was a type of xylophone.  Although all these instruments create sound by being hit with mallets, the xylophone and vibraphone’s notes come from strips of wood or  metal, while the cymbalom’s music comes from strings. Whenever I attended a concert with Lukács Miklós on cymbalom I would get there early enough to sit as close to his instrument as possible. On a few occasions, at the jazz nights at Nyitott Muhely, I was within inches of the cymbalom and could feel the vibrations of the instrument in my body.

Here’s Lukács Miklós with one of my favourite Hungarian saxophonists Dresch Mihály.

Another instrument I first heard in Hungary that produces a similar sound is the Hang.  Here’s the first musician I ever heard playing it, Horvath Kornel.  Starts slow, but once it gets going, what an amazing sound!  Kornel told me he received one of the first, if not the first Hang ever made, as a gift from its creators Felix Rohner and Sabina Schäre.  Magnificent!

Lots of music in X!  What a pleasant break from moving!

Here’s a little extra something for the keeners with time to spare: Cymbalom Legacy – The Soundscape of Miklós Lukács, Doc.Pt1

While living in Hungary, I did a recording on a compilation CD – Anima Sound System’s We Strike (TechnoToys Blues is my number) –  that also features Miklos’s playing.  I’ll see if I can hunt down a link to that as well!  

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