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.