Hurdy Gurdy

It seems that I learn more about exotic musical instruments on the subway than I ever did in all the music classes in college and high school. Kora music remains one of my favorite things to listen to while I code. Recently I’ve encountered a girl playing the weirdest instrument that looks like a mix of a guitar and a grinding organ, but sounds like a mix of bagpipes and violins. As it turns out, it’s an ancient stringed instrument called Hurdy gurdy that hasn’t been very popular since the 18th Century.

The performer, Melissa Kacalanos aka Melissa the Loud (blog), is extremely talented. I purchased her CD right there on the spot, and it was the best 15 bucks that I’ve spent in a while. I especially liked “Lucifer Goes to the Circus”, one of her original compositions. I kind of wonder, what “Stainless Steel Worm” would sound like as a song accompanied by Hurdy gurdy.

You know, being able to listen to ancient music played on ancient instruments by talented performers once in a while on a subway platform is one of reasons why people pay so much money to live in New York.

I am kind of surprized that I haven’t encountered any Chapman Stick or Theremin players yet.

Alarming Songs

A few weeks ago I walked around Brooklyn and heard a loud bird singing in a tree. Something seemed peculiar about the song pattern, and it took me a couple of minutes of listening to it to understand what. The bird went “cheeerp – cheeuuuu, cheeeerp – cheeuuuu, chirp – chirp -chirp – chirp” – emulating the complicated sounds of those “Cheap-ass go off every ten minutes car alarmsTM” that emit tones of 4 or 5 different sirens. I really wish I had a voice recorder of some kind there with me.

Apparently it’s nothing new – apparently starlings and mocking birds are known to imitate just about anything, car alarms included. Some Brooklyn “artist” even created a car alarm that emits bird songs instead of sirens, thus completing the circle of mimicry.

Kora Music In The Land Of The Stainless Steel Worm

Jaili Kandjia Cissoko, African Criot (Bard), Kora Player, Soloist Composer in NYC Subway’s Times Square station.

This is an illustration to my earlier article about Cora music. As Mr. Cissoko unfortunately doen’st have any cds of his own, your best bet of experiencing Cora music is either to seek him out in the subway or listening to one of these cds:

Djelika is my favorite, I absolutely love the title song that is based on the melody from The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.