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Wednesday, May 19, 2010


I had no idea that the marimba would be so intriguing!
(Cellar Door: Something funky happened when I accepted your comment about the marimba, it says it's there but I can't see it. Sorry!)

Here is the marimba, crowding my desk:

The story of the marimba begins with a trip to a local Thai restaurant that Jason and I would frequent mainly because we were too tired to cook or we had no kitchen. Jason always picks up a Green Sheet, a free classified ad paper, and look through the musical instruments section while we waited for our food.
On this particular day, about two years ago, he found an ad for a marimba. I didn't think he was serious about the marimba, but then he whipped out his phone and called the number in the ad. I don't remember if he scheduled a visit right then and there or if he called later, but the next Saturday we were driving to a Dallas suburb, about 40 miles from Denton to meet Mark, the marimba owner.
The first thing we noticed when we arrived at his house was a grand piano in the living room. Now, mind that this is a typical suburban neighborhood and the house was unassuming from the outside, this will be important to the story. The piano had 92 keys, a typical piano has 88. Above the piano were two ancient pieces of sheet music, hand written by Gregorian monks in a style that is no longer used. The other walls and all available shelf spaces were covered with a variety of old instruments. It was clear that Mark collected rare and antique instruments. He had a story for just about every piece that we saw. I don't know how long we talked to him before going into the next room, but we learned that his wife had recently passed away, but he was vague on that point. We didn't ask questions, of course, out of respect, but there were plenty of other objects and stories that he was willing to talk about.
At this point we were fascinated, but then we went through the kitchen into the back room of the house. The room was huge with high ceilings. It had been added on to the original house for one reason, which we could hardly miss, the centerpiece of the room was a full sized cathedral style pipe organ. He had got the organ from an old movie theater that was closing down and had it taken apart, moved to his house, reassembled, and then built the addition around it.  I've never seen anything quite as impressive as the detail that Mark had put into building this room. It was like a museum. There were windows that looked into the inner workings of the organ, more instruments, books and sheet music everywhere, a staircase that lead to a catwalk attached to the original roof and another room behind the organ. We must have stayed for a few hours, just listening to stories about how he played organ for the church, histories of different instruments and the architecture of the room (massive cedar beams and ornately carved doors in wood that can't be bought any more).
After all that, Jason couldn't understand why someone who revered his collection like Mark had would ever sell a part of it, but he bought it anyway, and for what is apparently a good price (I'm not the musical instrument expert, he is).We joked that the marimba might be cursed, but so far nothing unusual has happened with it. I've tried playing it, and honestly, it's not too hard, even for someone as woefully unmusical as myself, it's set up just like a piano so if you can play a piano, you can play a marimba. Of course I just stated that my musical talent is nil, so my idea of success is figuring out "Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies" and "The Worms Crawl In, The Worms Crawl Out."
Perhaps someday I'll stun the world with my mad marimba skills, but for now, it sits in front of my desk until the house is finished throwing problems at us.


  1. What a very cool story. And an amazing adventure! On a more plebeian note - I just saw an episode of Ace of Cakes where Duff makes a marimba cake.

  2. That is very cool. I got to play the marimba a few times in high school.

  3. Is it different to the xylophone?

    Is Lil Z allowed on it?

  4. Wait! I'm on the wrong blog... But I do think Little Z would knock out an interesting tune or two.

  5. GVH: According to the resident music expert, the only difference is how it's tuned and the type of mallet used to play it. From the non music expert (ie: me), it's bigger. At least, it's bigger than the Fisher Price Xylophone I had as a kid. Perhaps CD may consider that as a less expensive first step for Lil'Z ;)

  6. I really enjoyed this story! I'm sorry it took me so long to read it! I must have missed it in my feed when you first posted it. This guy should get together with Uncle Buck, collector of player pianos. They could probably talk for years without interruption. I told Uncle Buck what type of piano I had, and he immediately, off the top of his head, told me the entire history of the obscure piano company that made it.

    My father has a marimba, and he gave me his xylophone, and in my opinion, the difference is mainly tone. I love the tone of the marimba. It's very deep and rich.

    I'm really getting a kick out of the spilling over of one blog into another. Thanks for posting this!