minutia press.
Hiding under the marimba

My wife was relating a story to a friend of mine the other day. At one point in the story, she said that our son was "hiding under the marimba". My friend interrupted her at that moment to point out that "hiding under the marimba" is not a phrase one usually hears in a story.

This is just the tip of the tympani.

Hello, my name is Ron, and I suffer from SLAP (somebody living amidst percussionists). Our household has two confirmed percussionists, and one of our children (the one hiding under said marimba) is most likely a latent percussionist.

Percussionists have a number of amusing habits. For example, they are fond of calling their toys "instruments". Now, a marimba could easily be mistaken for an instrument, as it cleverly resembles a keyboard. But the similarity ends there, as you hit the thing with silly sticks made with tips wrapped in yarn or plastic. Most of the other things that percussionists hit, twist, or shake resemble garden vegetables or kitchen equipment that might process garden vegetables.

In fact, the names of conventional percussion "instruments" include such oddities as the doorbell, car horn, whistle, and air raid siren. If you want some unconventional instruments, consider the broom, shopping cart, and garbage can.

When they play in groups, and sometimes even on their own, percussionists will play while looking at sheets of paper they call "music". These sheets are invariably populated with malnourished notes and performance choreography adapted from a gymnastics floor exercise routine. While percussionists may look almost as if they are playing from these sheets of paper, nobody can really tell, because as long as they don't stray too far from the beat, it doesn't matter what they play.

When percussionists aren't making noise, they have been known to collect in organizations such as the Percussive Arts Society, where they hold symposia about the eighth note and learn subtle techniques for introducing words like hemiola into party conversations.

Now, back to my son hiding under the marimba. Son, you can't stay there forever, and even if you decide to try, the thing has wheels and can easily be moved. But before you take up your mallet and join the Griot balafonists of Guinea, consider that percussive skills can be turned to productive use in worthwhile vocations such as automotive repair, nut-shelling, and massage therapy.


You forgot another habit of percussionists: incessant percussion even in in appropriate circumstances. A guy on my team at my former place of employment was a drummer, and whenever he was waiting for code to compile or a process to run he would beat a rhythm on his desk (complete with toe-tap bass drumming) without even thinking about it. I think being a percussionist must alter your DNA.

Posted by: Chris Hill Festival at September 28, 2007 4:58 PM

As one of those confirmed percussionists, I feel that stroking strings is no better.

Posted by: Your Daughter at September 28, 2007 10:27 PM

“As one of those confirmed percussionists, I feel that stroking strings is no better.” Oh, she's good. A staccato high five from an African drum player to the percussive Your Daughter.

Posted by: Dana at October 9, 2007 12:50 PM