Tag Archives: composer

There is something about rain …

the sound of it, anyway, that is mesmerizing.

I love it.

I find myself getting lost in it.

The soft sounds or the heavy, torrential pounding that a good storm can produce.

Imagine my joy when I recently learned that there is a musical instrument that can make the sound of rain.

It is called a rainstick and, as with all things that are new to me, I had to find out more about it.

What is it?  Where does it come from?  What is it made of?  What makes it work?  How does that sound get inside?

I asked all of these questions and went in search of answers.

I found them.

I was told only that the sound of rain in a friend’s musical composition was made by a rainstick which he described as “a percussion instrument that lets pebbles cascade over small spikes”.

With that image in mind,  it was hard for me to imagine something other than plinko.  You know, drop the disk and let it bounce off spikes and hope it falls into the slot you were shooting for.  It is a game, one of pure chance, and I was not about to be satisfied with that.

After researching the rainstick, I found the history of it to be most fascinating.  So fascinating, in fact, that I almost forgot why I was looking it up to begin with.

As it turns out, the origin of the traditional South American rain stick isn’t known, not definitively, anyway.  Indian tribes in Chile, Peru and Mexico all lay claim to having invented them, and one compelling theory contends that African slaves who arrived in the New World during the Spanish occupation brought them.

The euphonious sound of the traditional rainstick were supposedly once thought to have the power to bring rain and was used in prayer ceremonies among the Aztecs as well as others.  The sound was so lovely, however, that it made its way into the making of music, something that is as old as time itself.  Music.  And, now that I think about it, rain, as well.

The rainstick is made primarily from the dried Eulychnia acida, or Capao cactus after it has lived a long and healthy sixty plus years.  The “arms” are harvested, dried, cleaned and  hollowed out.  Spines are pushed into the hard body of the cactus and many very small stones are sealed inside.  When the instrument is inverted, the stones cascade along the helically spaced spikes making the sound of rain. (There are likely other varieties of cacti that rainsticks can be fashioned from, but Capao came up consistently in my research.)


As with everything else, however,  it had to be classified, reclassified and sub-classified.  It is now known to be part of the percussion/shaken idiophone family.  The shaken part is, as any music nerd can likely tell you, a sub-category of the idiophone.  Me?  I had to look it up.

I listened to the piece that drew my attention to the instrument over and over while writing this post.  I listened to it because it is brilliantly done and pleasing to the ear.  The fact that is was written by a friend was coincidental, but he doesn’t need to know that I found such favor with it.  Don’t take my word for it, though, take a listen and judge for yourselves and then decide if you can live out the rest of your life without owning your own rainstick.

I decided that I couldn’t.  I’m expecting it in the mail by next Friday.

Power and Beauty …

a potent combination.  Today, when I came home from work after wishing for hours that I could be outside enjoying this incredibly beautiful October day, I stopped by the mailbox.  I’m a slacker in the worst way when it comes to the day-to-day things that people do on a regular basis, like checking mail.  I’m sure that the mail carrier truly believes that nobody actually lives at the address where they leave mail but that somebody just comes by every week or so to pick it up.  Not the case the last few days, though, because I have been looking for something specific.  And today, my waiting was rewarded.

It is no secret that I love music, nearly every kind, especially wordless song that can take me nowhere and everywhere all at the same time.  A few weeks ago, I was introduced to a composer that rocked my world.  Before then, I had somehow never heard of Gustav Mahler and were his name mentioned, I would simply assume that he was some dead scientist or something.  He is dead, by the way, but he wasn’t a scientist, he was a composer and even more than that, he was a genius.  I listened to one symphony and I was irrevocably hooked on the beauty, power and purity of his compositions.  I couldn’t stop listening.  Day and night, night and day, I listened to everything I could find that he had written.  It was emotionally draining and I found myself completely and wonderfully exhausted.  I heard his music played by many different orchestras, led by different conductors on different continents.  None of that was important as it was all about the sheer ability of the music to move me in ways that I never imagined.  Lots of music moves me  emotionally, but until now, I have never been moved in such a way that I felt physically weak and uninhibited.  My search for a place to hear his music played by a live orchestra became nearly an obsession.  I looked at every venue I could find within a 400 mile radius.  My motto became “have ears: will travel”.  I can’t remember the last time I was so focused on one particular composer and I was mesmerized by this latest discovery.  There are many composers that I love to listen to; after all, who doesn’t love Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, Chopin, Tchaikovsky and Brahms?  OK, so maybe many people  have not only not heard of them and certainly don’t love them as I do, but I digress;  I was no more than a quivering puddle of longing after the first movement.  I found myself openly crying during some of the pieces and realized that I would likely go insane if I couldn’t hear the soaring and intoxicating notes somewhere besides the cut-rate speakers on my computer, on my phone or in my car.

After much searching, I found that one my two favorite symphonies was being performed by the  Cleveland Orchestra in Ohio.  I could not believe my good fortune.  Not only was I finally going to hear it for real, as an added bonus, I could visit my cousins, whom I love dearly, at the same time.  I thought it over for about two seconds and then ordered the tickets. I have checked the mail every day since that time and practically jumped out of my skin when I found them in the mailbox today.

It will be a titillating four and a half months as I wait for the moment when I will travel to Ohio, but each time I find myself discouraged or disheartened, I will remember what, if the Lord is willing, I will get to hear when the time comes.  I wish I could adequately express the magnitude of being turned on to what I consider one of the greatest discoveries of my life.  The sound of life, love, beauty, praise, worship and a cacophony of other emotions that actually leave me speechless and feeling as though  I need a cigarette once it’s over is literally mesmerizing.  I don’t expect the people I know and love to understand this obsession.  I can see them, my family and friends, in my mind’s eye, shaking their head and wondering what in the world I could possibly be thinking.  I have never proclaimed to be a part of the pack and I suppose this proves it, but I don’t care.  Life has looked different since this music touched my life …  different in a wonderful kind of way.  So I will wait, patiently when I can and inexplicably juiced when I can’t, to  listen, with tears, joy and hope, to that which has made me feel whole in a way I never expected..  No, the people I love won’t understand this anymore than the hundred other things they don’t understand about me, but for some odd reason, they like me anyway.  I am blessed, so richly blessed by my Heavenly Father who loves me, and will not take a moment of it for granted.  I will sing.  I will dance.  I will rejoice … for His grace (and His song) is sufficient for me.

Psalms 95:1 ~ O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.