Monday, 5 April 2010

Musical Sound Associations

Whenever I hear the xylophone being played, it usually reminds me of scary skeletons with swords and shields. The picture in my mind’s eye settles on how such imaginary skeletons might move in tune with the staccato-like sounds that the old man makes with his sticks as he strikes the xylophone.

Man with xylophone in Causeway Bay




This sound association (between xylophones and skeletons) probably stems from being exposed during early childhood to the classic epic mythical adventures of Sinbad the Sailor and Jason and the Argonauts. Just take a look at these classic stop-motion animation skeleton fight scenes and listen to the accompanying music ... and all will become clear!


Sinbad VS Evil Magician's Skeleton from the 7th Voyage of




Jason And The Argonauts - Skeleton Fight




Note: Wikipedia mentions that the xylophone means "wooden sound" in Greek. It describes a little of the instrument's history, mainly its early construction using gourds and wooden bars. But I can't help wonder whether there have been tribes that have used bones as musical instruments similar to the xylophone? If true, then perhaps that might prove to be another "sound association" between the xylophone and skeletons?


Additional Note: When it comes to the erhu (the other instrument being played in the above videoclip), the sound association is of a string being pulled through a tin can! This is the reason why I cannot take the erhu seriously as a musical instrument. No matter how beautiful other people may claim erhu music to be, to me it will always sound like a "squeaky old tin can".

Funny how sound association influences our perceptions!

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