X is for Xylophone!
Wow. I canna believe it, but this is my third-from-the-last post for the #AtoZchallenge2014. That means, it’s my, erm, *counts fingers and toes*, 24th blog post this very month! I am ever ever so proud of myself and my partner-in-words, my compatriot and cheerleader, Chad Clark, for sticking with it. Words are easy to come by, but not always easy to put together coherently (hence my “H” and “V” posts).
Course, I can’t promise that this short ramble about this little musical instrument will be coherent. After all, it’s Monday, April 28 at 12:04am, after a long day of grading. And I could use a massage.
My grandparents were both very musical. My great-grandmother taught piano, and I have a few of her music books. My grandfather wooed my grandmother by giving her sheet music, something the family learned when we cleaned out her apartment last year after she had to move into assisted living. (I guess sheet music was the 1939 and 1940 equivalent of mixtapes in the 80s. I have no idea what kids today do to exchange music, or if it’s even that big of a deal anymore…)
My grandmother, ever the historian, had even typed a list called “SONGS Fred gave to Vivian”, with the day of the week, the date, and the name of the song. The ones that were birthday gifts were typed in all caps, with her birthdate underlined – “You and I” and “Song of Love” were the two that were deemed birthday-gift-worthy. The list stopped on her birthday in 1941, so I don’t know if he stopped buying her music, or if she just stopped keeping track. (My somewhat-educated guess is that he stopped, at least for a while, as they were saving for their wedding, which happened the following May, and then had ‘grown-up’ bills to attend to.)
My grandpa wrote short love notes in the music; the first a simple “bringing you some of my favorite music.” The sweetest says “Bringing you words and music expressing some of the things I want to say” for the song “Calm as the Night“, which cost grandpa a grand total of 35 cents. The lyrics start:
Calm as the night,
And deep as the sea
Should be thy love,
Should be thy love for me,
Isn’t that sweet? Now, you’re probably wondering at this point what this has to do with a xylophone. Bear with me… I’m getting there…
Obviously my grandmother could play piano, and apparently she also had a lovely singing voice (not that I ever remember hearing it, much to my sadness). However, grandfather too was quite musical, but he could play by ear, a trait that sadly I did not inherit. He also composed a little music, and they had both a piano and a pump organ in their home.
As my grandparents got older, they slowly divested themselves of many of their belongings, including the pump organ, which my grandfather gave to me before he died.
What I did not know is that grandmother had kept this xylophone. I don’t recall ever hearing either of them play it, or for that matter ever seeing it, but we found it in her apartment, and somehow it ended up with me.
I’m curious… have any of my readers had the pleasure of playing one of these fine instruments? Not the colorful pull-a-tune Fisher Price version, but a “real” one? This one has a lovely wind-chime-like sound to it.
It also looks brand-new, doesn’t it? But it’s not. Even tho the packing slip is in the box, I have no idea how old it might be, because it doesn’t include the year. And I can’t even venture a guess, although the packing slip says “Dear Customer: Despite this printed label, our service is very personal.” I assume that before then, they were hand- or type-written, tho I have no way of knowing.
The guarantee card enclosed states that my xylophone was made in the “Federal Republic of Germany”… which is the “full” name for West Germany, so it could have been made anytime between 1949 and 1990. I also googled the company that made it, “Harmony Bell”, and basically found nothing, except a hilarious post on Yahoo Answers from four years ago where a woman asked if it would be okay to name her daughter Harmony. With the last name Bell. Erm, no.
The word itself comes from the Greek words ξύλον—xylon, “wood” + φωνή—phonē, “sound, voice”, meaning “wooden sound” (in case you were wondering). Our friends at Wikipedia tell us that “The earliest evidence of a true xylophone is from the 9th century in southeast Asia.” Apparently, there are xylophones worthy enough to be used in orchestras, and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly and Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite both feature the xylophone. Who knew?
And I wonder how it will sound with my ukelele?