Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Musical Fart

They say you should learn something new every day.  Here's what I learned today and I thought I'd share it with y'all.
You know that funky sound that you hear at the beginning of Stevie Wonder's song, "Superstition"?  It's made with an instrument called a clavinet, which is a type of keyboard.  Have a watch of this video, an extended but very energetic performance of the song that Mr. Wonder did for Sesame Street.  If you don't want to watch the whole thing (you should, Stevie and his band rock and the kids are fun to watch, plus he throws a couple of Sesame Street references into the lyrics, which is cool), just watch the beginning to catch the sound of the clavinet:

I have to admit, I hadn't thought about what type of instrument would make this sound before tonight when I heard Q107's Dominik Diamond talking about it on the radio as I was driving home.  He was playing "Up On Cripple Creek" by The Band (featuring the recently departed Levon Helm - R.I.P.) and he was the one who said, in that heavy Scottish brogue of his, that it sounds like a musical fart.  I'm not sure that is the exact turn of phrase I might have come up with to describe the sound, but it kind of works!

In this video from "The Last Waltz", they appear to be playing the clavinet parts with their guitars in some places (although around the 1:04 minute mark, you can definitely hear something that sounds very much like a clavinet and there are a whole whack of instruments on that stage, it may very well be present).  The guitar work is good, it's just not the same to me, having heard the clavinet version - that twangy sound is so unique.

But on this vintage video version, you can actually see the clavinet being played - at about 1:40 min, right after "a drunkard's dream if I ever did see one..." (plus Levon looks extra handsome in this video!)

Of course, there are many other songs we know that feature this instrument (John Lennon's "Whatever Gets You Through the Night" and Zeppelin's "Custard Pie", to name just two) - no doubt we will all recognize that sound a little more readily after tonight.  Thanks for that, Dominik!

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